You can click here for a downloadable copy of the information listed below provided through the USCCB website. Information on this page is obtained from the USCCB website and the diocese of Lansing website.
Artificial Reproductive Technology is an umbrella term used to describe different technologies that either create (outside of the womb) or assist, by intervening in the natural process of conception, in the reproduction of a new life. Artificial Technology Includes:
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
Intrauterine Insemenation (IUI)
Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT)
Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (ZIFT)
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)
IVF (In Vitro Fertilization): Conception occurs outside the body‐‐"in a glass." Ordinarily, the woman is treated with hormones to stop her natural cycle and stimulated to ripen a number of ova. The ova are harvested from the follicle with a needle under ultrasonic guidance. The needle is inserted either through the vagina or abdomen. Ova are incubated in the laboratory with a carefully washed and adjusted specimen of semen to allow fertilization. Prior to implantation in the woman's uterus, embryos are examined in order to select the "best." Sometimes, one cell is removed for genetic testing. To date, visual inspection of the embryos has been totally unrelated to their subsequent course‐‐health or otherwise. Usually at least two embryos are implanted; in some centers, as many as four are implanted with the hope of getting at least one live baby. At times, three or four embryos thrive. Some clinics then offer the mother "embryo reduction" (selective abortion) to allow only one or two fetuses to develop further. Because the endometrium is considerably changed by the stimulation of ovaries to produce eggs, it is the practice in some centers to freeze the embryos and to implant them in a subsequent natural cycle. Success rates vary considerably due to the age of the woman, the health of the uterus, the quality of semen, etc. The disposition of frozen embryos varies with the wishes of the parents. "Spare embryos" may either be preserved, donated to other women or to researchers, or destroyed. GIFT (Gamete IntraFallopian Transfer): Nearly ripe ova are obtained from the woman's follicles by ultrasonically guided aspiration techniques as for IVF. But one ovum, separated with an air bubble from a prepared seminal fluid sample, is immediately reinserted with a plastic tubing into the woman's fallopian tube so that conception will occur within the body. Pregnancy rates are similar to IVF. ZIFT (Zygote IntraFallopian Transfer): Ova and sperm are obtained analogously to IVF, but the zygote, that is the newly fertilized embryo, is immediately transferred into the woman's tube with a catheter threaded through the uterus. This does not allow examination of the embryos as it would for IVF. The live birth rate is similar to IVF. ICSI (IntraCytoplasmic Sperm Injection): When men have low sperm counts or other problems, such as blocked ducts, spermatozoa can be obtained either by masturbation or, in the absence of a normal ductal system, by needle aspiration from the epididymis or even from the testis itself. A single sperm is then injected through the membrane of the ovum and the embryo cultured in the laboratory until it reaches the 8‐16 cell stage, when it is inserted into the uterine cavity. Because the "natural selection" which occurs when sperm enter through the cervical mucus is excluded by this procedure, a number of birth defects have been recorded when conception was effected by ICSI. AIH (Artificial insemination with husband's sperm): Sperm can be placed into a cup which is placed over the cervix. This technique is also used in AID ‐ artificial insemination by donor. IUI (intrauterine insemination) of "licitly obtained" (normal intercourse) but technologically prepared semen sample. The sperm are collected from a perforated condom after normal intercourse, washed, and then injected into the uterine cavity, bypassing the cervix to avoid "hostile" mucus. Cervical mucus hostility is an immunological reaction brought about by several known, and some unknown factors. A postcoital test would find no living sperm in mucus during the fertile phase. Other treatments for cervical mucus hostility include abstinence for two years to allow the antibodies to diminish or disappear, or the use of condoms (not acceptable for Catholics). Various treatments with steroids have been tried without much success.
Reproductive Technology (Evaluation & Treatment of Infertility) -Guidelines for Catholic Couples (1)
Technologies Compatible with Catholic Teachings: 1. Observation of the naturally occurring sign(s) of fertility (Natural Family Planning). Time intercourse on the days of presumed (potential) fertility for at least six months before proceeding to medical interventions.(2) 2. General medical evaluation of both spouses for infertility. 3. Post‐coital test to assess sperm number and viability in "fertile type" mucus. These tests are undertaken after normal intercourse. 4. Appropriate evaluation and treatment of male factor deficiency. Seminal fluid samples can be obtained from a non‐lubricated, perforated condom after normal intercourse. 5. Assessment of uterine and tubal structural competence by imaging techniques (e.g., ultrasound, hysterosalpingogram, etc.). 6. Appropriate medical treatment of ovulatory dysfunction. 7. Appropriate (usually surgical) correction of mechanical blocks to tubal patency (the state of being open).
Reproductive Technologies under Discussion (neither "approved" nor "disapproved"): 1. Gamete intra‐fallopian transfer (GIFT). (The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has not yet pronounced on the subject.) 2. Intrauterine insemination (IUI) of "licitly obtained" (normal intercourse) but technologically prepared semen sample (washed, etc.).
Reproductive Technologies in Disagreement with Catholic Teachings: 1. Obtaining a sample of seminal fluid by masturbation. 2. Artificial insemination by a non‐spouse (AID), or even by the husband (AIH) if the sample is obtained and handled by non‐licit means (masturbated specimen). 3. In vitro fertilization (IVF), zygote intra‐fallopian transfer (ZIFT), and intracytoplasmic
"How do I know when a reproductive technology is morally right?" The rule of thumb is: Any procedure which assists marital intercourse in reaching its procreative potential is moral Procedures which add a "third party" into the act of conception, or which substitute a laboratory procedure for intercourse, are not acceptable. ____________________________ 1. The guidelines are drawn from the document Donum vitae (1987). See also Dignitas personae (2008). 2. Some women may have to wait longer for their fertility signs to appear due to the effects of recent use of chemical contracpetives(e.g., the pill, depo‐provera, norplant, etc.).
Catholic Teaching on IVF and Contraception Explained by Fr Mike Schmitz
What Does the Catholic Church teach about Artificial Reproductive Technologies?
"It is quite legitimate, indeed praiseworthy, to try to find ways to overcome infertility. The problem causes great pain and anguish for many married couples. Since children are a wonderful gift of marriage, it is a good thing to try to overcome the obstacles which prevent children from being conceived and born." "In our day many techniques and therapies have been developed to overcome infertility. In the United States an entire 'industry' has emerged with little or no governmental or professional regulations to protect the interests of the men, women or children who become involved. Women receive fertility drugs which can result in their conceiving four, five or six children at once, risking their own health and the health of their children. Some have several eggs fertilized in vitro (in a glass dish) without realizing that this may lead to the destruction of these embryos or their being frozen for later experimental use. The many techniques now used to overcome infertility also have profound moral implications, and couples should be aware of these before making decisions about their use. Each technique should be assessed to see if it is truly moral, that is, whether or not it promotes human good and human flourishing. All these technologies touch in some way on innocent human life." "In 1987 the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a document known as Donum Vitae ("The Gift of Life"), which addressed the morality of many modern fertility procedures. The document did not judge the use of technology to overcome infertility as wrong in itself. It concluded that some methods are moral, while others—because they do violence to the dignity of the human person and the institution of marriage—are immoral. Donum Vitae reaffirmed an obligation to protect all human life when married couples use various technologies to try to have children. Without questioning the motives of those using these techniques, Donum Vitae pointed out that people can do harm to themselves and others even as they try to do what is good, that is, overcome infertility. The fundamental principle which the Church used to assess the morality of various means of overcoming infertility was a rather simple one, even if its application is sometimes difficult. Donum Vitae teaches that if a given medical intervention helps or assists the marriage act to achieve pregnancy, it may be considered moral; if the intervention replaces the marriage act in order to engender life, it is not moral." - USCCB Website
Alternative to these artificial reproductive techniques
Is there an alternative? Does the Catholic Church approve any method of infertility management? Yes! The Catholic Church does approve NaProTECHNOLOGY. NaProTECHNOLOGY assists the couple in conceiving a child by cooperating with the natural act of intercourse. For more information you can access our page about infertility.
Why Does the Catholic Church teach that IVF is wrong?