What is Infertility?
Infertility has been defined medically as the inability of a couple to achieve pregnancy after one year of “trying” through non-contracepted intercourse.
How can couples best deal with infertility?
Many couples who struggle with infertility are eventually successful in having biological children. Yet, no couple can predict the outcome of their situation. Even those who do not end up pregnant still have other choices about becoming parents such as adoption.
Emotionally healthy couples abstain from shaming, blaming, or individualizing the problem and handle the infertility of one mate as an issue to be solved together with love and support.
The process of diagnosing the causes of infertility is often long, hard and frustrating. It may also entail painful tests, long waits and uncertain results. When a diagnosis is made, the future decisions are difficult and require prayer and discernment.
When pairs choose to share their struggle for parenthood, they may encounter awkward or insensitive comments by well-meaning friends who are unskilled in responding appropriately to the couple trying to conceive a child. Realize that intention of what was said, and do not hold on to the negative feelings.
Infertile couples can help each other by:
- Viewing infertility as a couple’s issue and dealing with it as a team. As hard as this time is, many pairs become closer and more bonded through this crisis.
- Affirming for each other that it is a medical condition, not a punishment for any wrongdoings.
- Making decisions and being together for as many of the treatments as possible, advocating for the treated party with medical personnel and being positive and supportive despite personal fears and doubts.
- Talking to each other about your feelings, concerns, hopes and moods as they occur. Your partner truly understands your emotions and is best suited to empathize with your feelings.
- Decide together how much and with whom you choose to socialize and how to handle insensitive questions or reactions of others. Prepare a few retorts to use in face of callous comments.
- Realize that your chances of giving birth with treatment are good and that the objective of becoming parents is always open to you in other ways. Adapted from an article published by the Santa Cruz Sentinel
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church
2374—Couples who discover that they are sterile suffer greatly. “What will you give me,” asks Abraham of God, “for I continue childless?” And Rachel cries to her husband Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!”
2375—Research aimed at reducing human sterility is to be encouraged, on condition that it is placed “at the service of the human person, of his inalienable rights, and his true and integral good according to the design and will of God.” 165
2376—Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral. These techniques (heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization) infringe the child’s right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage. They betray the spouses’ “right to become a father and a mother only through each other.”
2377—Techniques involving only the married couple (homologous artificial insemination and fertilization) are perhaps less reprehensible, yet remain morally unacceptable. They dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that “entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children.” “Under the moral aspect procreation is deprived of its proper perfection when it is not willed as the fruit of the conjugal act, that is to say, of the specific act of the spouses’ union … Only respect for the link between the meanings of the conjugal act and respect for the unity of the human being make possible procreation in conformity with the dignity of the person.”
2378—A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift. The “supreme gift of marriage” is a human person. A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged “right to a child” would lead. In this area, only the child possesses genuine rights: the right “to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents,” and “the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.”
2379—The Gospel shows that physical sterility is not an absolute evil. Spouses who still suffer from infertility after exhausting legitimate medical procedures should unite themselves with the Lord’s Cross, the source of all spiritual fecundity. They can give expression to their generosity by adopting abandoned children or performing demanding services for others.