How Should Christians View IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization)?
How Should Christians View IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization)?
Blair Parke Editor for Xulon Press
Baby shower, expecting, bundle of joy: these phrases are terms that bring smiles to the faces and hearts of several people, from the expectant parents to really anyone who loves the news of the latest member of a family. However, there are also some terms that might bring the opposite effect to couples and their friends and family: infertility, struggling to conceive, fertility treatment. The last term, fertility treatment, is one that can bring potential hope to a disappointing aspect of life.
According to research, one in every ten couples experience infertility of some kind (whether from the woman, man, or both), while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that 7.3 million women ages 15-44 have used fertility services while trying to get pregnant. One commonly used fertility treatment is that of IVF, or In-Vitro Fertilization, where a woman takes strong hormone medicine to boost up her production of eggs and then those eggs are retrieved from her body to be harvested to wait for her husband’s (or male donor’s) provided sperm. The egg and sperm are combined by a doctor in a lab and then placed back into the woman’s uterus to see, weeks later, if the procedure resulted in a pregnancy or not.1
Although it seems pretty straightforward, there are still unknowns about IVF that need to be addressed for those who are considering IVF and for those who are unsure. In the following paragraphs, we will discuss the pros and cons of IVF so you know what might be ahead if this is the route you wish to take to begin your family.
What’s Encouraging about IVF
1. For many, the biggest reason to consider IVF is that the procedure brings the opportunity to see that long-awaited dream of having your own child come true. Since its introduction into American fertility treatments in 1981, over 200,000 babies have been born using IVF and similar fertility assistance. IVF is also beneficial if the age of the parents is a factor, if there are fertility issues in the woman, man, or both, and if there is some unknown reason for why a couple can’t get pregnant.
2. Any foray into fertility treatment means meeting with a fertility specialist and going over a couple’s reproductive history. During this process, fertility issues could be discovered as part of the problem, leading to the offering of surgery and/or medication to help with whatever issue might be present. Women who have consorted with fertility doctors might learn they have PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), endometriosis, blocked fallopian tubes, and other issues. Men are also prone to fertility problems and could seek help through medicine for low sperm count, irregular sperm motility, and any other factors. Tests can also help provide information about vitamin deficiencies and the need for bad habits to stop (smoking and alcohol).
3. For couples who have gone through the IVF procedure and been successful in getting pregnant and giving birth, there is the possibility of additional eggs waiting to be used for future children. This is a plus for those in IVF, as they will be able to have future children later on, or if they decide not to use the eggs (due to a natural pregnancy or the choice not to have more children) they can adopt out any remaining eggs.
What's Discouraging about IVF
1. One major factor against IVF is that of the costs, whether financial, emotional, or even medical. One cycle, according to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine from webmd.com, is around $12,400 in the United States. This can vary depending on the medications used, how much insurance will cover, and the amount of cycles you have to have. Topped with the financial burdens of cycles is the medical risks that could happen to a woman as she has her eggs extracted from her and then implanted back into her uterus. Multiple births, slightly increased risk of miscarriage (coupled with age), and possible infections to your bowel or bladder during egg retrieval are costs a couple must weigh before considering IVF.
2. Stress is intensified between the man and woman individually, and as a couple, as an act (sexual intercourse) that is meant to be spontaneous and natural is now being calculated, monitored, and forced to comply with IVF. Struggling with infertility brings enough pressure on a married couple, but dealing with IVF can increase fights, hurt feelings, and overall disconnection over the procedure.
3. Although the statistics for IVF are promising (41 percent for under 35 to 18 percent for over 40), one cycle of IVF doesn’t guarantee that you will have a successful pregnancy to birth. Several couples will attest to having to do multiple rounds to achieve a healthy pregnancy, while many may not get to that point of success and must consider other options. With over $12,000 per cycle, this comes at a hefty cost for a couple desperate for a child of their own.
4. Even though it is not as common as one might think, couples have experienced natural pregnancy at times after undergoing an IVF cycle and having a baby (or not having a baby). So, if a couple decides they no longer want to move forward with another IVF cycle, what happens to the eggs left behind? As mentioned earlier, some embryos can be adopted out to other couples fighting infertility, but others might be donated to science or even destroyed by the clinic itself. Couples should consider, when going through the IVF cycle, how the remaining eggs should be handled.
In-Vitro Fertilization is a fertility treatment that must be strongly evaluated and prayed upon to determine if it is the best approach you and your spouse should take in welcoming a child to your home. There are also other less-invasive (and more cost-efficient) fertility treatments available to couples, such as an IUI (Intrauterine Insemination), as well as surrogacy (having another woman carry your baby in her body), and adoption.
What any couple struggling with infertility must do first, before seeing any doctor, asking any friend/family member, and even before looking up treatments online, is taking this weighty decision to the Lord in prayer. God must be involved in this situation, as He has proven before that He alone is the one to bring forth a child to a barren couple. (Just look at Sarah and Abraham, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, Hannah and Elkanah, Elizabeth and Zachariah.)
This journey isn’t easy, but it is one that will grow and shape you into the person God wants you to be, the parents you and your spouse were created to be, and the trusting believer that God knows you can be no matter what His plan is.
1. Arbo, Matthew, Walking Through Infertility; Crossway, Wheaton, Illinois, 2018.
Blair Parke is a freelance writer for BibleStudyTools.com and editor for Xulon Press. A graduate of Stetson University with a Bachelor's in Communications, Blair previously worked as a writer/editor for several local magazines in the Central Florida area, including Celebration Independent and Lake Magazine in Leesburg, Florida and currently freelances for the Southwest Orlando Bulletin.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes