Bioethics,  Catholics Do What?,  Contraception,  infertility,  IVF,  NFP

It’s Infertility Awareness Week: Did you know the Catholic Church Cares Deeply?

In honor of this year’s National Infertility Awareness week (April 19-25), I wanted to spend a few days recognizing the struggle and the heartache and the sometimes silent suffering of couples who are bearing the cross of infertility in their marriages.

And I wanted to highlight some of the hopeful, heartfelt efforts to help and to heal which the Catholic Church is making (yep, you read that right) and, in fact, has been making, for quite some time now.

I also wanted to bring a few new voices into the mix, stories that you won’t hear from my perspective, because so far I have nothing but empathy and a view from the sidelines on this issue, for which I’m incredibly grateful (yes, grateful, in spite of the craziness of raising tiny humans and the difficulties of pregnancy). So for the next couple days I’m delighted to have some women coming into this space to share their stories of infertility, and their journeys toward building the family God has called them to, in cooperation with His will, not in spite of it.

So much of what we hear about infertility has to do with economics and technological “advancements” and is far, far too often dismissive of the pain and the frustration couples who find themselves in this place are facing.

Just save up and get the materials collected to have some embryos created.

Have you thought about surrogacy?

Well at least you can adopt.

Relax, you’re not getting pregnant because you’re trying too hard!

Hey, you’ve already got your (one, two, insert number) perfect kid, be happy with what you have!

And other illuminating nuggets of cultural wisdom along those lines.

Rarely, if ever, are the underlying medical condition(s) of either spouse considered until well into the process. Most (not all, but most) fertility MDs are eager to proscribe pills and procedures with an eye towards conception, not stopping first to consider the related systems and potential deficiencies of a body – or bodies – that isn’t working properly to begin with.

That’s where the Catholic Church blows the rest of the reproductive medicine and technology field out of the water. Because not only does she champion NaPro technology and other reproductive medicines that respect the dignity of the lives (and potential lives) of all parties involved, but these methods are actually the most effective of all other Assisted Reproductive Technologies out there.

Yep, NaPro is more successful than IVF. And it has the primary benefit of being completely moral and completely in line with the profound dignity of sex and the human person. No disposable embryos, no illicit sperm collection, no chance at forgetting – or simply denying – the human dignity of the persons involved. Just good science and ongoing research that asks the why of a couple’s struggles with infertility instead of jumping right to the how can we fix this, at any cost?

Now, NaPro isn’t perfect, and it’s not a guaranteed catch all for couples who are struggling to get – or to stay – pregnant. But it still stands apart as the best option for infertility treatment in a sea of murky and immoral avenues and an immense amount of money.

(Important disclaimer: many people – even Christians – are woefully uneducated about the nature and the methods of traditional infertility treatments and ARTs. For them, the culpability of cooperating in evil is greatly reduced. And always, always, the dignity of the human person stands, no matter if they were conceived in rape, incest, or a million dollar laboratory.

All persons are created equal, but not all methods of creation are permissible – because they do not honor or recognize that innate human dignity, first, and second because they circumvent or bypass entirely the marital act, which is sacred in and of itself. End disclaimer.)

So I hope you’ll stick around this week because I have some wonderful stories to share with you. Not my own, but dear to me because they are my sisters’ stories, and because we are all members of the suffering body of Christ.

And if you know someone who is struggling with infertility right now? I’ll have some great advice from another mama in the trenches about how you can love them best. Even if it’s only (only!) through prayer and unwavering emotional support.

We’re all in this together, after all. And we’ll each of us be asked at some point to carry crosses whose weight would crush us, should we attempt to go it alone.

That’s what this week is hopefully about: dispelling the myth that any of us, no matter what we’re facing, is going it alone.

infertility awareness week


    • Nicky

      Medical Doctors receive merely 19.5 hours of education of nutrition. And these schools are heavily funded by Pharma companies. So you can bet they are pushed about using drugs and expensive IVF drugs.

      I’ve come across plenty of people that went to basics. Their doctors either didn’t bother to test basic things, didn’t see the connections to health issues or could not properly interpret what is a deficiency/imbalance/or not optimal. Frequently it’s an issue with progesterone or estrogen or the ratio (and only bio-identical hormones are safe on the body — though as Catholics, used to regulate or support levels, not as birth control.). Or an issue with early insulin resistance or PCOS (need to eat low-carb and low-sugar / high protein and veggies. “Vitex” herb helps to balance out.). Vitamin D (actually a major hormone) needs to be up in high optimal range, as it supports hormones and insulin. And healthy fats (esp coconut oil, grass-fed butter, advocado) are required for hormone production.

      Do your research and eat healthy, as in nutrient-rich, home-made, no or little processed, without chemicals and garbage thrown it. Again, do your own research. Yue doc knows 19.5 hours of nutrition. Pathetic.

  • Rose G.

    Thank you for acknowledging this week! My husband and I suffered from infertility for the first three years of our marriage, and I heard all of those non-helpful comments that you mentioned, plus many more. Thanks to Napro medications, surgery, and a wonderful Catholic OBGYN, we finally were able to conceive our perfect little daughter. Now I just found out a few days ago that I’m pregnant with number 2! As someone who dealt with infertility in the past, and will never forget the sorrow of it, I want to tell you that it makes a huge, huge difference when people (especially Catholics with lots of children) acknowledge our pain. Infertility is very isolating, especially in Catholic circles.

  • Diana

    My husband and I have gone through infertility (eventually leading us to adoption) and I didn’t even realize there was a whole week for awareness about it! Looking forward to this series!

  • Ellen

    Thank you for doing this series. A relatively short struggle with this beast did more than anything to increase my empathy for those that still suffer. By far the hardest part is being asked by well-intentioned (though sometimes just nosy) fellow Christians when we were going to start having children, and then feeling inferior as witnesses to a culture of life with our one sweet child. I know, Eleanor Roosevelt, no one can make me feel inferior, but my goodness! Fellow Catholics, can we stop talking about big catholic families as the real deal, the ones who are really doing it right?

  • Maria

    I am so happy you are celebrating this week and sharing stories from women in the trenches and about Napro technology. I’ve been trying to spread the word about this amazing highly effective (compared to other methods) science based fertility treatment program, which often times is much more economical in cost, with family and friends for some time now. I truly believe it’s our church’s best kept secret! However, what I’d like to know, and maybe your guest bloggers will address this, is how to effectively share this information with others. Fertility is such an emotional topic it is even difficult to discuss with your close friends. Thanks again for this great topic and week of discussion. Sharing every post on my FB page as well!!!

  • Patricia

    So gratifying to know that a complete week is dedicated for parents still hopeful of the blessing of the fruits of the womb. I hope our home parishes will integrate this in the parish events. My husband and I had a 3 year waiting and was blessed with our wonderful son; surprisingly 7 years after his birth I still hope for more children. I love children my husband and I decided even before our son came to adopt two children and now my amazing daughters one is already in the university and the second will enter the university the next session. I know and understand the enormity of this cross and I believe the church will play a tremendous role is giving reasons for these couples to smile in the midst of these challenges. May our Mother Mary intercede for all waiting couples. Amen

  • Anna

    As a lifelong Catholic and someone who suffered infertility for 15 years before I had to have a hysterectomy, ending all chances of conceiving, I honestly felt abandoned by my church and actually stopped going for a long time because of it. I lost faith in my church and in God. I never heard of a Napro, but we did virtually everything short of IVF and nothing worked. We actually went in to see if we were candidates for IVF when the doctors found tumors that resulted in the hysterectomy. Yes, I know IVF is against Catholic teaching, but when you are suffering through something like infertility for that long, and nothing, I mean NOTHING, worked, you get despirate. It was only after we were chosen to be adoptive parents for the first time that I realized that it wasn’t how I became a mother, but that I had become one that really mattered. I have been twice blessed, but again, not through the Catholic church …. they abandoned us again and told us we were too old to adopt at age 40 and 47. We are today raising our children Catholic, and I still have faith thanks to a new priest at the time who helped us grow back in our faith, but I also feel that the Catholic Church can do much more in helping couples suffering infertility as well as those that want to adopt. I look forward to reading your blog this week to see other perspectives on this difficult subject. My oldest is nearly 9 and it has been almost 11 years since my hysterectomy, but the pain of infertility still hurts.

    • Jenny Uebbing

      God bless you for your faithfulness, it’s my hope that the Church continues to practice better pastoral care and more vocal outreach to couples in their struggle, and to all Catholics really, so we can all be equipped to defend the teachings on the dignity of the human person and offer the best possible support when our loved ones are suffering – oftentimes in isolating silence.

      I am so, so sorry you didn’t have the support you needed during your time of greatest need, and you have my prayers of gratitude for opening your hearts to your children and continuing to practice the Faith even in such painful circumstances. He sees you.

    • Rose G.

      Yes, absolutely! The best thing to do would be to call a Napro doctor. Look up FertilityCare Venters of America. Even if you don’t have one close to you, they can often consult over the phone. My first pregnancy I was considered high risk for miscarriage because of my low progesterone levels. They put me on supplemental progesterone immediately when I found out I was pregnant, and I was able to carry a healthy baby to full term. Contacting a Napro doctor was one of the best decisions in my entire life!

    • Mandi

      Rose, I’ve had four miscarriages and then through NaPro, with progesterone support and a surgery to remove endometriosis, I am 11 weeks pregnant. Many of the same issues that cause infertility also cause recurrent miscarriage, so NaPro doctors are well versed there (and do have some training on just recurrent pregnancy loss). I would highly recommend a NaPro doctor simply because they were the only ones who took my issues seriously.

    • Jenny Uebbing

      From what I understand, yes, it can be helpful in determining the underlying cause of repeated miscarriage, especially through evaluating (and adjusting, if necessary) hormone levels. We have a wonderful new ob/gyn practice in our area where they’re seeing incredible results for couples who are having a more holistic picture of their fertility examined by their doctor and addressing underlying causes of illness; maybe they could recommend a local practitioner to you if you got in contact with them?

  • Cami

    I was introduced to Creighton Model NFP while single. I had some cycle issues for several years. My cousin Christina, a Catholic pro-life Nurse Practitioner, was flying from Southern California to Omaha to train in Napro. She took me on as one of her first cases. I found out I had low progesterone (very common these days and an easy fix) and with some knowledge, intuition, and a good Catholic Napro doctor, discovered I had endometriosis, which was treated. When I married my husband, we hoped for children and began to pray as we were already into our 30s. We recently welcomed our third baby. NFP has been invaluable. I doubt I would be fertile without the troubleshooting using the Creighton Method. Let’s spread the news of this great way to know more about our God-given cycles and how to correct any problems within our power.

    • Maria

      Cami, can I ask what were the signs in your cycle that made her think low progesterone? Just wondering what I should be looking for when charting. Thanks.

  • JS

    I’m happy that this topic is getting more attention. As wonderful as NaPro is, that’s like saying it is the Church’s IVF answer. It is insufficient and too many parishes/dioceses do not know, support, or advocate for it anyway.
    My wife and I suffered through 10 years (and still cope) with the impact of infertility. With nearly every option tried including adoption, we endured without or with little support from our local parish/diocese. When we tried adoption via Catholic Charities, the Church failed us again. The machine that is the fertility and adoption processes of both the secular medical industry and the Church took over as paperwork replaced people. We now focus on being the best aunt and uncle to our nephews.
    If I could offer one bit of advice…infertility shouldn’t be primarily about “making” or “getting” a baby. The suffering of infertility isn’t resolved by one’s “perfect child.” Infertility is like being handicapped; you are disabled at the most basic level of your gender.
    The beauty of the Church’s theology of the body can help but not easily. If the gift of the conjugal act of love is about both bonding and babies (intimately connected), then consider the consequences on the bonding when you loose your baby or there can be no baby. So we pray that God gives us and others the strength to bear this cross.

    • Lisa

      Thank you for this attention on such an important & overlooked topic!!

      When my husband & I tried adoption through Catholic Social Services years ago, the Church failed us as well. (That was after fertility treatments had failed us. We tried everything – except IVF. No doctor truly found the root cause/culprit of our infertility struggles. I sincerely believe NaPro would have!) Catholic Social Services, at the time, turned us away stating that we hadn’t been married long enough. We weren’t allowed to fill out an application, start a Home Study or anything. They literally showed us the door. We are still married and are now adoptive parents to an amazing & beautiful child – but not because of Catholic Social Services. CSS also told us it isn’t advisable to try to adopt while trying to work on our fertility issues. Zero compassion from my beloved lifelong church! They didn’t even care to know our names. It left a bad taste in our mouths & pain in our hearts but we still remain faithful members of our Church.

    • Jenny Uebbing

      You’re absolutely right, and while I didn’t mean to present NaPro as the solution for everyone’s infertility struggle, it definitely is one answer (and a reportedly effective and morally sound one, at that) to IVF. We live in a very technologically centered culture, so it’s important to dispel the myth of the Church being “anti science” and show that, actually, the real science is digging into a particular woman/couple’s medical history and unique physiology and seeing if something can be done to correct any systemic malfunction or damage that is preventing procreation. That’s one big win for NaPro (and other licit forms of ART) over IVF; it begins with the whole person as a unique individual.

      Many, many prayers for all those who are suffering the weight of this cross, and for your willingness to share your perspective here. I’m so grateful. And I’m so grieved by your experiences of difficulty with adoption, especially within the Church. We need to fight to demand (and practice) person-centered health care and social work, always. I think that’s the heart of Pope Francis’ call for us now, to see the other, to see the person, and to cut out the bureaucracy and the mechanization that threatens to depersonalize the other.

  • Lisha Epperson

    Hi Jenny! I’m a 14 year infertility warrior and by God’s grace, a mother of 5 (through marriage, adoption and birth) I’m grateful for the encouraging perspective you share here and I’m excited about this all important dialogue – happening. I launched an ebook on infertility prayer this week that may be encouraging to your readers. Find it on Amazon Kindle here -

  • Jennifer

    Thank you so much for acknowledging this week. My husband and I suffered from infertility for seven years. Our first OB/GYN told us there was nothing wrong, that 83%o of infertile couples have unexplained infertility. They offered us only fertility drugs, IUI and IVF as a possible solution. We had no idea there was any other option for us. Thank goodness I happened to be working for a Catholic school at the time. They sent me to Dr Hilgers. He was the only one that was willing to look for the reason for our infertility. It was a long road, several surgeries and trying different types of hormone support. Our first child was born exactly 8 years and 7 months from the day we got married. We have been blessed with two more children since. Thanks to Dr Hilgers, I am now a happy, healthy, whole woman. People do not realize how crushing this cross is to bear. People say the strangest things to you. At one time I even got, “Are you sure you are doing it right?” I am sure the person did not mean to hurt me, but did not realize that infertility itself is an evil, evil thing. It makes you believe the worst lies about yourself…because after all, you cannot do the one thing your body was meant to do, so you start living in fear…you begin to see yourself as a failure because you failed at this one simple thing. It destroys every vision you had for your future, it can destroy to connection you have with your spouse (thankfully not mine, but at one point I offered him a divorce because I did not believe that he should not suffer the fate I had been sentenced to.) It truly destroys your ability to be happy because you find yourself in a constant state of grief for the children you should have known, for the life you should have had. There is no way I could ever have made it through all of that without God by my side every day. Today, I can be extremely grateful for the struggle I went though. I am a much stronger person and I choose to live in the Light, because I know what it is to live in the dark. I know that I have an unbreakable bond with God, my relationship with Him is so much stronger than it ever would have been without those trials. I am forever blessed.

  • Arthur Kooyman

    I am sincerely grateful for your text. It is an example that you can be a catholic and modern. I find the spirit that speaks from your words admirable and a great example for myself. I believe with this new pope things begin to change too. Pope Frances is a great example of evangelical virtures. KEEP IT UP!
    My sincere gratitude, from Holland,

  • Leigh

    I really appreciate this series and hope it will cover the emotional and spiritual dimensions of infertility as well. NApro is great, but it does not eliminate the immense pain and sadnes that a long wait can bring. Also, Napro is cheaper than IVF, sure, but it’s not free…between doctors visits, blood tests, and other tests, we’ve spent over $1,000 and we’ve barely begun finding the root cause.

  • graceofadoption

    Thanks for educating and raising awareness. After 5.5 years of infertility, we are one of the couples who will probably never conceive, even with NaPro treatment which weve tried. IF is a difficult oftentimes lonely struggle.

  • Teri

    My story:
    I have many disjointed memories of growing up, memories that have become more faded with time, yet some of these memories stand out because they seemed as much a part of me as my long, dark hair or crinkled eyes. In particular, I envision sitting in a pew at the military chapel on Ft. Bliss. Maybe I was 7ish. Sitting next to me in her pink and white dress was my dolly, my baby. And I was her mommy, carefully fussing over her ruffless, brushing her hair, cuddling her, giving her a bottle. It helped pass the time of that unbearable hour we called Mass (I love it now), but more than that, I was doing what I felt made to do–mommying. It’s the only thing I ever knew I wanted.

    I held onto that dream, more like white-knuckled it, through puberty, adolescence, and college. I even bought my first new car with the consideration of whether it would be a good family vehicle fit to cradle a carseat. I didn’t actually have any prospects for a spouse, but I always was a planner.

    I held onto it after an encouter with God at a retreat at which he invited me to be a Religious Sister. I held onto it with every tortured prayer, every passing relationship, every visit to a convent (that usually occurred after the passing relationship), until desperation and time backed me into a corner. Thank you, Lord, but no thank you. I can’t let this go. I choose marriage.

    I was naive. I believed the stories my friends and family delivered about how a woman they knew had a baby in her 40’s, another was told she would never have kids until she went to an acupuncuturist and voila!-3 kids later (I’ve been going four months now), my mom had my little brother at 41, and look at Holly Berry, for goodness’ sake. She was 46! The doctors are all naysayers. God will answer my prayers. Etc, etc, etc.

    A year later, and I’m faced with the reality that, no matter how hard I grasp, my dream is slipping through my fingers. I try to hold on to hope by controlling whatever I can-the foods I eat, the supplements I take, and the tests I subject myself to. More lab draws, more ultrasounds. I torture myself with website after website about conceiving in your forties. If I do the right yoga pose or give up sugar (that lasted 2 days), it could happen. If only, if only, if only…If God won’t give it to me, then I’ll take it! Absurd, I know.

    What is most turturous is that I know God is real, He is the author of life, and He could grant me this miracle if he wanted to. I think with anger of all the women He blesses with the gift of pregnancy who don’t want their babies. I stand outside the abortion clinic praying, tempted to hold up a sign that says, “I can’t have kids, so I’ll take yours.” Maybe I will.

    I allow myself to be led down the dark, spiral staircase of despair, a place where God’s love is a faint echo and barely a pinpoint of light penetrates that darkness. I allow myself to believe the lies that God is punishing me for being disobedient in choosing my vocation, or for my past sins, or because I haven’t surrendered my dream of motherhood. I know these are lies, yet they still get the best of me.

    Yesterday, my husband and I visited a new doctor who was sympathetic and honest. We’ll know more later, but here is what you’re probably looking at-little egg reserve left, with a low percentage of conception. We were up front with her as well. We are devout Catholics who agree with the Church’s wisdom about the immorality of IVF. Call it grace, but I have peace in surrendering that to God. I won’t defy God’s plan for fertility to achieve a selfish end. Having children is not a right, but a gift.

    What am I left with? Limited options, oscillating from hope to despair with each passing month. I’m left with an all powerful God who I push away out of anger one minute, and beg for the grace to see marriage apart from motherhood in the next. I’m left with a husband who feels like a sperm donor, who is trying to deal with the mood swings and despondency, who I feel can’t empathize because he already has three children, three children who already have a mother.

    So I come here humbly, sharing what little I have to give. Maybe God can use this so someone else doesn’t feel so alone or so people will appreciate what they have. Maybe someone who is considering abortion will instead consider adoption. I don’t know. I do know I have wonderful friends and family who would be willing to pray for me. And so I beg for your prayers that I can surrender this completely to God and accept His Will. Thank you for listening.

    • Sarah

      Maybe you should stand outside the abortion clinic with a sign “I can’t have kids, so I’ll take yours.” My mother and father conceived their first child outside of marriage, my father cowardly left, and my sister was adopted the day she was born. Long story short: my parents got back together and are happily celebrating their 33rd anniversary this year, I am one of 5 children to have been raised under their roof, and my sister-who-was-adopted is still alive and was raised by a loving couple. My sister-who-was-adopted reached out to meet her birth mother (my mom) and I was able to meet her. She was a blessing for the couple who chose to receive her into their family. My mother and father have regrets from the time and it pains my mother that she didn’t raise my sister, but still, mom chose life for her. May you and others like you bless unwanted children by choosing life for them by offering to adopt.

  • OrganicForLife

    Why is sperm collection “illicit”? If we want to see a change in the continuing slide, worldwide, into infertility we need to clean up the environment before it is too late to turn back. What will we do when the only option for procreation is in a test tube? We won’t be able to pray our way out. Wonder what new way the Church will find to subtly blame women for their infertility and chastise them for not choosing the “correct” option? The best option is the one that works. And if you are going to bring up the sanctity of life then you better explain why so many children go to bed hungry in this country, why we can’t educate them, and why so many Catholics dislike Pope Francis (hint, he makes us uncomfortable). We are very comfortable in our acceptance that the “poor are always with us” as long as we are not the hungry ones.

    • Jenny Uebbing

      Sperm collection via masturbation is illicit because the Church condemns the practice as sexually disordered, selfish, and fundamentally sterile because, well, it ain’t going nowhere, is it? (Hint: it’s the same reason contraception is off the table. Closed to life, closed to God, and contrary to His design for sex.)

      I’m not sure what you mean about “our only option for procreation” being a test tube, because, well, what? And the Church is by no means “subtly blaming women for infertility and chastising them for not choosing the correct option.” Could not be further from the truth.

      Infertility is a symptom of a diseased or disordered bodily system, a reality that far too many medical doctors dismiss in favor of a more one-size-fits-all approach of drugs+procedures+whatever means necessary to achieve the desired “product:” a new human person. The Church recognizes, perhaps in a way that no one else does, the immense dignity of the couple who are struggling with infertility AND the dignity of the sexual act itself and any children which may result from their union. That’s why IVF can never be considered; it is ultimate commoditization of the child and the perfect example of “by any means necessary, so long as I get what I want.”

      As for your assumption that “so many Catholics dislike Pope Francis” … um, again, kind of a head scratching non-sequiter. I don’t know what Catholics you’ve been chatting up, but for the most part I’d say he’s about as popular as any other Pope in recent history (which matters exactly zero, by the way.) The liberal media is certainly having a love affair with their caricature of him, though, if that’s what you mean.

      And I can’t even with the last sentence. God bless the poor, and I hope you’ve done something tangible today to alleviate someone’s suffering in your immediate community, because what else can we do but love one another here and now, where we are, and work always to alleviate the burden of poverty.

      I hope that’s what you’re aiming towards, I know I am.

    • Rose G.

      To answer your question, sperm collection is “illicit” if it is obtained through an act of masturbation (as most sperm collection is). This is because of the Catholic teaching against masturbation as an act which separates sexual activity from marital intimacy. There is a “licit” means of sperm collection, in which sperm is collected in a perforated condom during a normal act of marital intercourse. This is the collection technique used in Napro Technology. Hope that helps 🙂

  • Conceiving Hope

    Two years deep in infertility here, but loving this post and the entire series you wrote this week. Thank you so much for this! I also wrote a companion series on Infertility from a Catholic Perspective, if anyone would like to read it. Anchor post is located HERE

  • Cecilia

    Me and husband have been married, going on 34 yrs this year. For 11 yrs we tried, and tried but I couldn’t get pregnant. I found out I have tumor. Then two yrs later again. I was in so much pain and I was loosing so much blood I couldn’t even walk anymore. Then I found out that I had a big mass but this time it was really bad. It was the size of a little bigger than a basketball. It got all over my inside. The Dr did everything to help me but she couldn’t save nothing. I had to have a total hysterectomy for my own health. But before the last surgery happened, I was pregnant, 2 1/2 months I didn’t even know I was. We found out that we had a son. I lost him. I never got pregnant again due to my illness. We love children, we wanted 8. Yes we both come from BIG FAMILY. We tried to adopt 8 times. We be there signing the papers and they come and tell us, the mother change her mine. Also we did have a babygirl for a year and the mother came to visit her on Christmas eve and took her away. Cps told us that she had the right because it was under 2 yrs. We were very heart broken. And still are. We do have 8 God children but what hurts us the most is, when we try to teach them and show them God way. Their parents came out saying how can you say this or that to my child, when you don’t even have kids of your own. That is like a knife to our hearts. Just the other day a woman told me how many kids do you have and grandchildren. I don’t have any. She made a remark, well are you married by the church? Yes ma’am we are. I was uncomfortable with what she was asking. But the blow she said, really hit hard. Well you married by the church and no children. Then you are not blessed and your marriage is not complete. I looked at her. I got so upset and told her I’m sorry but you don’t know what I’ve been through, so God bless you and forgive you for such hurtful remarks you made. Some even say your not a good woman because you don’t have no children. You were not worthy of such blessings. Please forgive me if this is so long. But I have been looking for someone to help me with this issue. Someone help with the scriptures and prayers with understanding for I feel all this is my fault. Thank you for opening this issue.

  • Robert

    The church cares, unless, of course, you’re a soldier who left his testicles on the battlefield. No marriage for you!

    They will let a post-menopausal female have a marriage, but not a man who lost his balls in an accident, war or birth defect?


    • Jenny Uebbing

      Robert, that’s really heartbreaking, and I’m sorry if that has been presented to you as the case, however, the impediment to marriage you are referring to is the case where a couple is physically unable to consummate the marriage. So no, infertility or loss of testicles would not be a sufficient impediment to make marriage impossible. Loss of the entire male reproductive system, however, would be a different case.

      Again, it’s critical to keep in mind the Church isn’t desiring to prevent marriages here, it’s a matter of not being able to physically “do” marriage, much along the lines of a blind person being unable to drive a car. It’s not that they’re being denied a right, but that they’re physically incapable of carrying it out.

  • Maria A.

    it feels so good to find out about infertility Awareness Week knowing that I’m not alone . I for one been suffering from the stress of all kinds pertaining to infertility,been married for almost 8 years now and tried almost all kind of tx. Except or IVF for financial reason. But I’m not familiar with NaPro just so lucky that this article popped in my newsfeed .so might be spending my night browsing at your archives.thanks

  • Serendipity

    The comparison between IVF success rates and Napro success rates is a little misleading. I see this “stat” trumpeted everywhere, but…

    Few of the couples presenting at an infertility clinic will wind up having IVF. The vast majority will have their issues addressed through medication, surgery, etc just like Napro does. By the time you look at IVF success rates, you are looking at a patient population that already has failed the standard interventions. Of course their success rates wind up being lower. While there are some who try at a mainstream clinic only to have success with Napro, they’re the exception.

    Napro doctors are great but they don’t have a secret formula or magic bullet for infertility. There is no procedure or medicine combo they can offer that a mainstream doctor doesn’t. It’s basically a way to pursue treatment knowing the doctor is not going to wind up suggesting IVF. Which is definitely a blessing and comforting for some couples, but sometimes in Catholic World we make this stuff out to be something it’s not.

    I’ve always been a very traditional Catholic but many of the church’s teachings no longer make sense to me in this area. The “masturbating to obtain a sperm sample is selfish and closed to life” thing is an example. No one does such a thing for the selfish pleasure of it; they do it in hopes of finding out why their openness hasn’t been blessed. If they were closed to life they wouldn’t have the partner tested, period! And I know the Theology of the Body and all that, but in real life discussing with infertile couples and explaining the need for confession falls flat. One guy told me he’d been involved in impurity, masturbating and selfish sex before, and this was nowhere near it. I didn’t have a response.

    Then the Catholic solution is to have sex with a condom on. But wait, the condom needs to have a tiny hole in it as sort of a ritual gesture that it’s not a contraceptive act. Of course the couples intention in all of this is the opposite of contraception, but intention counts for nothing. Everything revolves around the mechanical act of sex. I know good Catholic women who have burst into tears of frustration and anger trying to conform to these very legalistic details of our faith.

    In the end I never know what to say to them, because their frustration rings true.

    • Jenny Uebbing

      I don’t think it’s true that few couples presenting with infertility will end up at IVF clinics – it’s increasingly popular, particularly in countries where socialized medicine is the norm.

      The areas of Catholic teaching you’re struggling with are understandable, because these ARE hard teachings…so hard. But it’s so important to keep in mind the larger picture, that they’re not arbitrary or disconnected from the larger picture of God’s plan for sex and marriage: that it be open to life, exclusive to one man and one woman, and a lifelong commitment.

      Arguing from the perspective that “I’ve been in sexually selfish/disordered relationships in the past and this feels different, therefore it isn’t either” isn’t sufficient to alter the reality that yes, masturbation is essentially disordered, even if the “ends” are noble, i.e. the conception of a child. And the Church doesn’t permit masturbatory sperm collection for the purpose of insemination/IVF precisely because it separates the unitive and procreative aspects of sex and wounds the dignity of any potential child’s conception, along with the sacred privacy of the couple’s sexual union. Hence the perforated condom for the purpose of sperm collection for medical analysis and diagnosis – to address a potential underlying illness or condition in the man, and to obtain it in a way that is in keeping with the dignity of both partners and the sexual act itself. Again, this would only be for diagnostic purposes (so not messing the whole procreative aspect), never to collect for artificial insemination or IVF.

      If you don’t have the big picture view of the Church’s teaching that sex is incredibly sacred and profoundly dignified, it’s difficult to accept. Our culture has normalized sex under any circumstances, masturbation, assisted reproduction and all the rest, and it has permeated our collective mindset to a certain degree, so that for the Church to suggest anything contrary seems almost ludicrous to the modern mind.

      Comprehending and internalizing these truths requires an ongoing conversion of heart and continual study and prayer for each of us. It’s never going to be enough to just slap it up on a powerpoint and expect miracles. That’s the real crux of the New Evangelization: ongoing conversion for every Christian, and continuous discipleship throughout a lifetime.

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