Do Amish use birth control?

Amish are against contraception, though limited use may occur

amish birth controlAmish take the “go forth and multiply” dictate to heart.  Children are seen as a blessing and large families valued by Amish.  Traditionally, Amish reject all forms of birth control.  In practice, however, some may employ natural means such as the rhythm method, and even artificial means in some cases.

Changing Amish attitudes to birth control?

A slight drop in Amish family sizes has been seen as a possible indication of increased use of birth control.  Amish access to medical care and the opinions of medical professionals may influence a couple’s attitude to birth control as well.  Some medical professionals may recommend use of some birth control, though Amish are typically reluctant to do so.

However, there have been indications of a softening stance in some quarters of Amish society towards birth control.  Donald Kraybill notes that some Amish may use natural and artificial means of birth control, and that older women may undergo sterilization.  Kraybill describes birth control as “minimal” but sees its increased use in certain cases as a “modernizing trend—a shift from fate to choice” (Riddle footnotes p 350).

amish children birth control
Amish treasure children as gifts from God

In An Amish Paradox, Hurst and McConnell cite Amish in Holmes County, Ohio, with somewhat surprising attitudes towards birth control:  ‘An Old Order woman commented, “Artificial birth control is wrong if used for selfish reasons, but it’s okay for married couples if used for health or emotional reasons, but only barrier methods.”  A New Order father agreed: “A lot of Amish use birth control even though we have a conscience against it.  But most don’t use the pill because it’s seen as taking away life.”’ (Paradox, Hurst and McConnell, p100).

A survey taken by the Amish Paradox authors, of Amish in the Holmes County community, indicates that over three-fourths of respondents “strongly disagree” or “disagree” with birth control.  Surprisingly, however, 13% “somewhat agree with” use of birth control.

Amish belief remains strongly against birth control

Regardless of what may be indications of softening attitudes among some Amish, traditional Amish teaching is strongly against the use of birth control in regulating family size.  Amish continue to see children as a gift from God, though practices may be changing in some segments of Amish society as a result of liberalizing influences.

For further information, see:

The Riddle of Amish Culture, Donald B. Kraybill

An Amish Paradox: Diversity and Change in the World’s Largest Amish Community, Charles E. Hurst and David L. McConnell

Amish Online Encyclopedia: How many children do Amish have?

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    1. linda saul

      I am inquiring more of the Mennonites. Do they use birth control. I would really like to see the difference in the Amish and Mennonites. Like with the Mennonites do the married men have beards, do they have their church meetings in others homes or do they actually have a church. We are moving to a Mennonite ares so would really like to know more of their traditions. thanks.

      1. amy weber

        I know that the Mennonites meet in churches at least in the Lancaster, PA area and are generally more “liberal” than the Amish.

    2. Hi Linda,

      I can’t comment on Mennonite use of birth control, but for some general differences between Amish and Mennonites, you might try this entry:

      Thanks for your comment!

    3. Actually, Linda I should have said that more progressive Mennonite groups are going to typically be more open to the use of artificial means of birth control, at least compared to Old Order Amish.

    4. Marilyn in New York

      do Amish use birth control?

      I was talking to my Old Order Mennonite friend,Jean about some things and birth control got brought up. I asked her if Old Order Mennonite use birth control. She said no with a little giggled and but no one knows what goes on in someone elses house. To verify she said that church rule is not to use birth control. Each of your children is a gift from God. She and her husband, David, do not use birth control. It has been God’s will that so far they only have two children and they are almost six years apart. But she said she does not know if this is held true in every homes especially with the younger newly weds. She said she hopes they are upholding the rules-but she does not know for certain.
      Marilyn from New York

    5. Katie Troyer

      My great aunt used birth control and they had only two sons. Also years ago they would drink a certain tea as a birth control, but noboody was supposed to know they did.

    6. Christina

      Interesting topic. Birth control to me is a moot point. The Lord knows our days and knows when we are to procreate or even if we are going to. His timing is always perfect even if it does not seem so to us. I have two friends that got pregnant while using some form of birth control–one has 5 kiddos (that last two were surprises while she was on some form of chemical birth control) and one has 2 kids who are almost teenagers (second one was while she was on the pill). My take on it–the Lord knew when the best time was for them to have their children and so it happened.

      1. Beverley

        Correct use of birth control.

        I would suggest thst your friend who got pregnant using birth control, was not using it properly.

        1. Well...

          Even perfect use of birth control will lead to a number of pregnancies I am afraid. I have a friend who got pregnant despite using both birth control pills and a condom (they were only a couple months into their relationship). She had never wanted kids but once she got pregnant despite using two forms of birth control she decided it was faith that had intervened and had the baby and about 2 years later she had another one. She and the guy she got pregnant by are still a couple and happy together despite starting their relationship with a baby less than a year after meeting.

    7. Lissy

      My conservative Mennonite friends dress like the Amish (but can use designs on the material and plaid colored dresses and shirts) They are not allowed to use birth control either. Don’t know if it a church rule, tho’. Most Mennonite families are large, 6 or more children. I know a few families who have 9 or more children.

    8. Marlene

      Mennonite Birth Control

      My parents came up in conservative Mennonite households. Both my grandparents and my parents used condoms. I agree with the original article, barrier methods are permitted. I have other relatives with up to 14 kids, so it is definitely a choice amongst the people I know.

      1. lissy

        well, all my mennonite friends are either eastern PA, or Nationwide. Are those more conservative fellowship’s than most conservative mennonites?

    9. Daniel Griego

      birth control

      Interesting subject but my personal thought is nobody asks about me and my wife’s Birth control or sexual behavior so I’m not going to ask about theirs. What happens in ones bedroom should stay private

      1. Stephanie Rollins
    10. Dan

      birth control is not a moot point

      There was only one person that used birth control in the Bible, that was Onan, in Gen 38, whom God killed. Of course, there was more to the situation: Onan was supposed to raise up children for his brother. Mal 2:15 says the reason God makes us one in marriage is so we can raise up a godly seed for Him.

      All through the Bible, we see people waiting on God to see if He will bless them with children or not. When Rachel came to Jacob saying, Give me children or I die!, he replied, Am I in the place of God? This is the question for us, because there is something very presumptuous about trying to take charge of the whole process.

    11. David

      This is just another example of American secularism creeping into our culture.

    12. Beverley


      The world is starving due to various religions dictating that no one should use contraception. It is wrong. We are over populated and causing global warming.

      1. Erin


        I think I would have to disagree with your comment. The WORLD is not starving because “religions” dictate contraception use. There are those in third world countries that are starving, not because it’s against their religion to use birth control but because they don’t have the resources. I do know of some Catholics that use birth control even though “it’s wrong,” in their doctrine. Another point. Since the Amish do not qualify for Social Security and state benefits such as Medicare (and most likely foodstamps), I have to disagree with starving part there too. Even though some of the more “progressive” Amish may use Wal-Mart or other stores, and may not grow all of their own food, for the most part they are self sufficient. I have yet to see a “starving” Amish child, or family. People in developed countries are starving not necessarily from “overpopulation,” but from families living beyond their means, and the resources of the community. The world, in general, is overpopulated because too many people want to live in the big cities, and stretch the resources of country/community. I don’t think there is a problem with resources in the Amish communities.

        One last comment/question. If a person wants to adhere to what the religious doctrine says (we still have free choice you know), why is that wrong?

      2. Nicole

        Amish people are quite self sufficient and a large family is very helpful in self sufficiency. As far as global warming and other environmental issues are concerned, any comparison with the general population is ludicrous. Amish use little to none of disposable paper products, most don’t drive cars. I don’t know of any that use air conditioning (AC largest contributor to global warming). Amish people cook wholesome food, as opposed to packaged processed “food”. Nuclear power plants ar NOT built to serve the Amish communities. Because they are off-grid Amish people are the most environmentally friendly existing today.

      3. Hayley

        the world is dying because of overpopulation?

        Here’s the thing, Beverley.
        If a man and woman have 1 child and teach that child that it’s ok to be wasteful, negligent, oblivious, and unconcerned with the care of the environment, that one child is the cause of the world “starving” as you put it. If a man and woman have 13 kids and teach each one of them to be resourceful, not wasteful, careful of how they treat the earth, and wise in the choices they make, those 13 kids will make a big impact on the world for the better.
        So no. Just no.
        Saying that because the Amish (or any sort of person against birth control) is killing the beauty of the world because they have a lot of kids is ridiculous. The good, wise people (like the Amish for the most part) are the ones that need to have the most kids, and it’s good that they’re doing it. Because, guess what, Beverley, if the Amish weren’t around making all of their babies on their pristine farms, that land would be torn up by someone who is probably an only child and turned into a strip mall where other siblingless people will buy stuff they don’t need.

      4. sk population of the US is aging.

      5. MKJ

        Agreed re: overpopulation


    13. catholic woman


      What about Natural Family Planning?

    14. Jesus Christ

      The Truth

    15. German

      They wear protection to help prevent the spread of ABES

    16. Dave C

      This is a very good thread. It was made better by discussion of underlying Amish culture.

    17. Joyce

      Teach the younger women

      I disagree wholeheartedly that no one should discuss what goes on in another private relationship. Of course, I am not talking about juicy details, but in my experience, it’s the gynecologists who are informing the young women about so called birth control methods. The same doctors who are making a living off of prescribing pharmaceuticals. Not once did I ever have anyone encourage me to research fertility awareness or teach me that there is a short fertile stage and how to navigate this. Not until I badgered a Catholic nurse for options that she suggested the book Take Charge of your Fertility. And you would be amazed, that like me, almost every young woman is completely unaware of the different stages of her cycle. I have been preaching it ever since. Why should we stuff our bodies full of chemicals and the man does not have any responsibility in his own procreation, its not right. There is almost always a season when a married couple is looking to not conceive, like directly after a pregnancy , etc. I encourage you older folk to TALK to the younger ones, impart wisdom to them, inform them, don’t deprive them and let them wander into decisions blindly. It may be awkward, but loving and parental nonetheless. Cheers.

      1. Stephanie Berkey

        Very well put, Joyce. I agree. Young women (& and young men) need to know how to help preserve her future health and well being with natural family planning as you’ve described. It’s vital to an enduring happy family.

    18. Mkj

      Family planning is necessary and responsible

      Any community of people needs to balance their numbers to their resources. I doubt the Amish would be running puppy mills or other unethical practices if they weren’t trying to support too many kids on too little land. There are highly effective NFP / FAM practices (natural family planning, fertility awareness method) that can help a woman to plan and avoid pregnancy on her own timeline.
      Because of population growth, many young Amish cannot farm, they don’t have land, they punch a time clock and are hemmed by their salary, cost of living, etc. Most young couples in that situation, it would be disastrous to have children at the wrong time, especially if they’re trying to save up for land, equipment, etc.

    19. Ricky JACKSON

      Amish are they allowed to marry out side of the Amish

      Amish are they allowed to marry out side of the Amish