This Catholic’s musings on NaPro Technology and the morality of IVF

11 10 2012

I’m having some distress and don’t know what else to do with it besides blog about it.  If you’re not Catholic (and even if you are) then some of what I say may might seem weird… *shrug*– I’m not putting this out here to debate my faith, though you’re certainly welcome to ask questions.  I don’t know that I’ll have answers!

This whole infertility thing has been a blessing in disguise, for bringing me back to the faith I was born into and have often wandered away from.  I’ve been reading and praying and thinking and learning a lot lately.  This is a great thing because I want a closer relationship with God, and it feels fantastic to be back home.

But it’s also not a great thing because the Catholic Church teaches that IVF is a mortal sin (it removes conception from the procreative and unitive act of marital union between husband and wife.  Also because every embryo created is a human being regardless of its chromosomal normality or lack thereof, and if you don’t transfer every one, you commit murder.)

And dang-nabbit I had to go read that and realize it before finishing IVF.  (It’s not a mortal sin if you do it ignorantly.)  So now I have a dilemma… confess with true contrition, meaning I won’t “do it again”– and be back in good graces and relationship with God… or don’t confess, because I don’t plan on refraining from doing it again… which means I can’t receive communion until I can truly confess and sincerely mean I won’t do it again.

If you’re not Catholic you might think, shoot, just don’t receive communion.  But I truly have felt so much peace from participating in the Sacrament.  Only now, I know I can’t in good conscience.  (If I do, I won’t feel the same, and it will be a mortal sin too, for not repenting of sin.)

On the other hand, I don’t want to “not” do IVF.  I want to complete the process, go through another ER, and I will put back whatever embryos exist.  (I *know* that the ones which arrest on day 4 or 5 aren’t really “babies” or human beings, they would have died in me.  But the Church teaches otherwise and we’re not permitted to disagree. So I guess technically I am committing murder by creating embryos which die.  Danged if I do and danged if I don’t!)


I posted about this on a Catholic forum and got a lot of static for committing the sin of presumption– willfully sinning because I knew I would be absolved later.  When you put it that way, it does sound awful.  I’m pretty torn… but not torn enough to stop in my tracks.

The Catholic Church teaches that “NaPro Technology” (which stands for Natural Procreation) is the way to go, morally.  Because it focuses on the hormonal changes throughout the cycle, it allows many causes of infertility to be addressed, but it doesn’t do any fertilization outside the body.   I saw a NaPro Tech doctor here in Austin for a full cycle last February and initially was impressed.  They rely on the Creighton Method of charting BBT (basal body temp) and a very ornate, thorough examination and charting of the cervical mucus.  I also had near-daily blood draws and ultrasounds.

From this, my doctor learned that I ovulate on CD 21, my follicle gets a little big (26mm) and my luteal phase is a touch short at 10 days.  Sadly, I didn’t learn anything from his very expensive monitoring that I didn’t already know from my own charting on (even though insurance covered it as “diagnostic” I was still paying plenty of copays) except for the exact measurement of my follicle prior to ovulation.  He didn’t know anything about immunology and didn’t have any suggestions to help me get pregnant aside from “take progesterone suppositories every luteal phase to make it last longer.”  Sadly, this wouldn’t really help (my understanding is that a short luteal phase is caused by an inadequate ovulation, so the egg quality is the underlying culprit and progesterone to extend the LP is just a bandaid over the barndoor after the horse has run free… to mangle a metaphor.)

Anyhoo… on a medical level I concluded that the Catholic Church was not going to address my issues to my full satisfaction.

I don’t really know how to address my concerns, but I guess I will talk to my priest (dear Father Oliver, I really adore him) and see what he suggests.  I probably will not like his answer.  Which will put me right back here– frustrated and sad and presuming that God’s grace will cover me for my IVF.  Which I am most probably going right ahead with.



6 responses

11 10 2012

Just some initial thoughts… I am not Catholic, but am a Protestant Christian. My first thought was, “What does the Bible say?” It may be vastly different from what your church says or the (man made) rules they have applied. It comes down to you and God. Not your priest. Your priest is just a man. The ultimate say should come from the Word of God and what God has impressed upon your heart.
Pray about it and ask for guidance…
Psalm 119:105 (NLT): Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.

11 10 2012

Hey Kboo 🙂 So nice to see you here!
Yeah, I totally get you.. but that’s a difference between Catholicism and Protestantism. We believe that the Bible is not the only source of doctrine… the Church interprets God’s law and so we are bound by its expressions and explanations as much as by the Bible. It is frustrating to me and I am pretty confident that God has much bigger fish to fry than some IVF-action on my part. But the Catholic Church teaches we aren’t to look inside ourselves for what “feels” right and instead we should put God first and what the Church teaches about God’s law ahead of emotion and instinct. *sigh*

Thank you for contributing, it did make me feel better 🙂

12 10 2012

So here’s my question – how do the Catholics know that the embryos that arrest at day 4 or 5 wouldn’t have done the same thing in your body? In that case you miscarry, and in this case you commit murder?

12 10 2012

Keeping in mind I’m not a theologian so I’m not necessarily correct! but my understanding is that in the Catholic faith, if the embryos were created by the marital act (sex) and the embryo didn’t implant, that is not murder. But if the embryo dies outside the woman because of the woman’s choice (to create it in the lab, presumably not putting it back in fast enough?) then she murdered it. The problem is, the VAST majority of theological discussions I’ve read about IVF and the Catholic Church’s position on it are terribly ignorant about what actually happens in IVF and the actual biology of the situation. The basic rule I keep reading is “any embryo is a human being.” However, old hands at IVF like many of us know this just isn’t so. You can inject a sperm into an egg and technically it becomes an embryo— but if the egg wasn’t ripe, or if the sperm was bad, then it won’t fertilize and it’s NOT an embryo. Or you can fertilize the egg but it arrests on day 1… that’s NOT an embryo. Not even getting into the whole “is an embryo a human being or just a potential human” debate.

23 05 2014
Run To Mary

Disclaimer: I’ve only read this post and a few of your most up-to-date posts. I know this post is old and all, but I thought it would be worth a shot to mention to you that not all NaPro doctors are equally experienced and knowledgable. I think it would be worth your time to reach out to Dr. Hilgers (the founder of NaPro) to get his opinion. With just one cycle of NaPro, you barely entered into what NaProtechnology can do. It sounds like your NaPro doctor sucked.

With regard to your other comments, I am a Catholic as well, and I know it’s hard when the truth smacks you in face. I remember learning that sex before marriage was a mortal sin and I was in the thick of it. I thought I would lose my boyfriend (now husband) at the time and how could I change my ways? Sometimes I see people so happy with their IVF kids and I think, Lord, I am following your rules, why can’t you give me children for being faithful to you? But the truth is that our rewards await us in heaven and as much of a struggle as life is, following God’s will should be our first priority. Please know I write this comment in love and be assured of my prayers.

23 05 2014

Hi Mary 🙂 Thank you! So… yes, not all NaPro doctors are equally good. I recognize that. However, I was also eager to get results as quickly as possible given my age then– and as it turned out, my problem was not hormonal, but related to cutting-edge reproductive immunology that basically four doctors in the world are up on. Two in the US, one in NY was my doctor and one in Chicago. So, basically, in my particular circumstance, not a single NaPro doctor could have helped me… however, they probably COULD help “ordinary” cases of infertility much more effectively than this example did.

But ultimately, I gave up the fight for having my own biological child (though I still have two blasts on ice, I’m about to go through an amicable divorce) and I am moving forwards to mother other people and other children in other ways 🙂 And I am now grateful, strangely, that I didn’t have a child, because it would make this marriage inescapable and my life more miserable. I know, I’m Catholic, I shouldn’t divorce either. I appreciate your love and prayers, I definitely can use them. And thank you for your kindness 🙂 Wishing you the best and all God’s blessings! 🙂

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