A Medico-Religious Explanation to Childlessness in Marriages


Childlessness has shattered many marriages. Couples often find it difficult to accept this reality. This is especially because of the enormous pressure from friends and family members. So, in their desire to come to terms with their incapacity to bear children, they raise a lot of pertinent questions:

Where is my problem coming from? How long do I have to wait?

When exactly will God give me the children of my own?

Who would take care of me when I become old?

What would become of my wealth when I finally die?

Confused about how best to address these questions, many couples resort to solutions that jeopardize their marriages. But, this article underlines and elucidates a two-fold possible cause of childlessness: medical and religious. It will also, in the end, endorse one solution to the problem of childlessness.

Childlessness is, to a very large extent, a medical condition. So, for married partners to have children, it is necessary that both partners be medically whole. Nonetheless, many couples do not enjoy the medical wholeness that ascertains fertility – either or both couples are infertile. Infertility or sterility has been defined as a medical condition whereby a man is unable to produce active sperm that could make a woman pregnant or whereby a woman’s ova (egg) is not matured enough to receive active sperm and thus cannot be fertilized. Sterility may be primary (the woman has never been pregnant) or secondary (sterility that is heralded by one or more pregnancies).

Consequently, a number of medical conditions have been identified as major impediments to fertility in marriages: For instance, the following are causes of infertility: Ovulationary Dysfunction: This is a condition whereby a woman experiences ovulationary difficulty. It is sometimes caused by: abnormalities of the thyroid gland, over production of prolactin, psychological and physical stress, just to mention but these. Impotency, also referred to as erectile dysfunction, is an inability, on the part of the male partner, to sustain an erection for coitus. Cervical Factors: It has been observed that when there is a cervical damage, the sperm finds it difficult to pass through the uterus. This problem emerges as a result of: infections of the cervix with common sexually transmitted diseases (gonorrhoea for example), inadequate or hospitable cervical mucous, cervical narrowing, and sperm allergy. In addition, there is also Low Sperm Count: which occurs when the number of sperm in a man’s semen is low – it decreases the possibility that one of his sperm will fertilize the egg of his partner. A man experiences a low sperm count when the sperm in his semen is fewer than 15 million per millilitre of semen. Contraceptive: It has been observed that there are some contraceptives that can infect the woman’s womb thus, making it eternally less conducive for conception.

Additionally, Induced Abortion could be a major cause of childlessness. The aftermath of abortion is usually very severe than the process of abortion itself. It is not news that a good number of women who have once aborted, have their uterus perforated, their cervix damaged – these decreases her possibility of conception. Also, we cannot deny that the trauma brought about by abortion does not easily leave the woman. St. John Paul II, first of all, acknowledges abortion as a grave sin against God. However, he adds: “leaving aside its moral aspect, the act of artificially terminating pregnancy is in itself highly ‘traumatic’ and in every respect comparable with those experiments which are designed to produce neuroses.” We would not leave out the Menstrual Cycle Disorders: These disorders occur due to excess production of male hormones (androgens) thus preventing the women from getting pregnant. These hormones are mostly secreted by the ovaries and the adrenal cortex.

Besides the necessity of medical wholeness, there is also a need for the couple to conform themselves to some divine dictates regarding childbearing. As Christians, we do not doubt that all that we have received comes from God (James 1:17). Thus, the Psalmist advances that God is the giver of children (127: 3-5). But, many marriages (especially Christians marriages) do not remember this truth; so, out of fear of possible future infertility, begin with the “test-run” method (sex before marriage) – a method that is used to “ascertain” the fertility of both partners. This is not praiseworthy – it breaks the seventh commandment: “you shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20: 14). Therefore, it is an offense against reason and God (CCC 1849-1850). A couple once bore witness to this truth when they shared their experience regarding this “test-running” method. According to this couple, the “test-running” brought about conception. However, after their wedding which took place three months after the conception, there was a miscarriage. Nonetheless, another conception occurred ten years after the miscarriage. We cannot outmanoeuvre God – His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8).

As Christians, we are invited by our Lord Jesus Christ to take up our crosses and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). Childlessness in marriage might be one of those crosses. Notwithstanding, as human beings, we cannot deny the fact that often times, pressure from family, friends and the fear of what the future holds, push us to do some regrettable things. What then must we do in order to get it right? Is there any solution to the problem of childlessness? The answer to this question is in the affirmative. Adoption is the solution. It aids us to wait patiently for the Lord. However, it should be underlined that when couples adopt, they are not doing something contrary to the law of God. Rather, they are actively continuing the work of Christ, through whom we are now adopted sons and daughters of God (Ephesians 1:5). Hence, the option of adoption should not fright us. The Code of Canon Law 110 encourages adoption when it underscores: children who have been adopted in accordance with the civil law are considered the children of that person or those parents who have adopted them. As a result, we must note: neither the adopted children nor their parents must feel less the children of their parents or their parents, less parents respectively.

Author: Bro Samuel Akalite