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I recently received an email from a reader who asked, “How can I do IVF and still honor God?” I sent her an email response and I later realized that a lot of people probably have the same question. So, I’ve decided to publish my response to her here. I’ve edited it slightly for clarity, brevity, and her privacy.
First I want to point out that my opinion on doing IVF and honoring God is just that- my opinion. I’m not a pastor or theologian and I encourage you to do your own research, prayer, and talk with your own pastor before you make your decision. Unfortunately, IVF is one of those “gray areas,” and Scripture doesn’t clearly indicate a wrong or right. We each need to seek the Holy Spirit for His guidance. I firmly believe some people are called to IVF and others aren’t.
If you haven’t already read it, check out the blog post I wrote on how I came to terms with IVF.
You might also want to check out the book, “The Infertility Companion” by Sandra Glahn and William Cutrer. I’ll tell you right now that they are against IVF for Christians. I don’t necessarily agree with all their reasons why, but I think it’s important that we familiarize ourselves with all of the ethical reasons for and against it.
Most Christians who are against IVF feel this way because of the issue of embryo creation. They are concerned about what to do with leftover embryos, if there are any. If this is a hurdle for you, I suggest you talk to your doctor about your options.
I will tell you for our first two rounds of IVF, we had lots of (poor quality) embryos, but very few survived to be transferred. We never thought we’d have to worry about having too many leftovers. But miraculously, on our third round, we transferred one high-quality embryo (which ended up being our daughter) and EIGHT more survived to be frozen. So yes, we now have eight embryos in the freezer. This is both good and bad.
We would like another child (maybe two), but we do not feel called to raise seven kids. We will likely have to make a very difficult decision about what to do with those remaining embryos in the next few years. This is something that’s very emotional and personal and is really hard for me to think about. Each of our options (discarding the embryos, donating them, or doing a compassionate transfer) seems to have its own set of ethical questions and gray areas. We still do not know what we will do and we will have to seek a lot of guidance and counsel.
I wish now that we had considered limiting the amount of eggs we fertilized. Honestly, we never even realized it was an option and something we could consider, and now I wish we had understood that. I know that limiting the amount of eggs fertilized can reduce your chances of success. And maybe it’s easy for me to wish we had done things a little differently now that things turned out how we hoped. I am not saying that I think everyone should do this; I just wish we had at least realized we needed to at least consider it.
Some Christians also believe that any treatment that requires the man to give a sample of sperm via masturbation (instead of the woman getting pregnant through the act of marital intercourse) destroys the sanctity of marriage. Also, some Christians believe that using a donor destroys the sanctity of marriage, as well. These are issues you’d need to work out with your spouse and with the Holy Spirit. I personally don’t believe either destroys the sanctity of marriage. (Tom and I both agreed, however, that he would not view pornography while giving his sample).
Anyways, I hope this has been helpful. I’m sorry I can’t give you an easy answer. If you do online research of your own, do so very prayerfully. There’s a lot of judgmental articles and they can be painful to read. There’s also a lot of misinformation about how IVF works. Many articles suggest that destroying embryos is mandatory for IVF, which is obviously untrue.
I pray that the Lord guides you about how to proceed. I know that whatever road He leads you down, He has good plans for you and your family. He will take your situation and turn it into something beautiful, even if it’s not how you imagined or hoped it would be.
If you have done IVF, I’d be interested in hearing about what you did with leftover embryos (or what you plan to do in the future). Please take the anonymous poll below.
- This blog post from Faithfully Infertile has a lot of interesting comments in it with good questions and resources.
- The Infertility Companion by Sandra Glahn and William Cutrer
- This blog post from Making Me Mom talks about the author’s plan for limiting how many eggs she fertilizes.
Please feel free to leave a comment below. Due to the sensitive nature of this post, I reserve the right to delete any comments that are inflammatory, harassing, rude, and not in the spirit of love and dialogue. If you don’t like that- too bad.
*Photo courtesy of UnSplash