Should Christians Choose IVF?

April 21, 2016

should christians choose ivfEver since I was a little girl, I’ve been obsessed with “doing the right thing.” I wanted black and white, straight lines to divide the world because I wanted to be perfect and having rules meant knowing I was on the correct path.

When it came to infertility and the subject of IVF, I wanted someone to tell me what to do, but all I found in my research was half baked answers, guilt, and confusion. In this area, we have little guidance, other than God’s spirit and our own intuition. That can be frustrating.

But more and more in my walk with God He doesn’t give me right and wrong and absolutes, He gives me space to ask the question: What does your heart desire? 

Because my relationship with Him flows out of being connected to my heart.

There are 85,000 women in the U.S. annually who undergo in-vitro fertilization (IVF) as a way to create a family. IVF is the process of fertilization by manually combining an egg and sperm and transferring the embryo to the uterus.

Many Christians don’t talk about it because they are afraid of what people might think. I admit I spent four long years avoiding IVF in my infertility journey because I wasn’t sure how to grapple with it from a faith perspective. I wanted to just spontaneously get pregnant. But I’m starting to understand there must be a reason that’s not my journey.

On the brink of starting our first IVF cycle in May, I’ve made some realizations along the way that have helped me find my peace.

1. No one can decide this for you

Choosing the right path to begin your family is really a matter of conviction. This is a decision so singularly felt, that no individual can tell another, what is right and what is wrong. You must trust your intuition and God’s spirit to guide you. God is a good Father who gave you free will and preference for a reason. He wants you to trust yourself and His voice inside you enough to lead you through life.

When I had my first ectopic pregnancy, I thought it was a fluke, when I had my second, I knew there was something wrong and I had to figure out what it was.

But all around me there seemed to be Christian women who seemed content with not having answers, or who labeled their losses as God’s sovereignty, waiting on God’s timing, or mentioned “just adopting” like it was akin to taking a trip to the grocery store.

I began to realize I wanted something different.

I wanted answers. In the beginning I didn’t feel IVF was right for me, but as time passed, I became more open to it as I understood my reproductive immunology issues and how they could be addressed by a specialist. I had surgery in October to remove silent endometriosis before IVF.

2. There are ethical ways to do IVF

When I first contemplated IVF, I did a Google search looking for answers but most of what I found was judgment. The reality is, the Bible doesn’t say anything about IVF because this is a relatively new technology. God has given us intelligence and science to cure diseases. I spent four years waiting for God to help me conceive naturally, which I knew He could do, but that didn’t happen. Instead of letting that make me bitter, because I know God wants to give me the desires of my heart, I knew there must be another way. Would I have preferred God give me a miracle baby? Yes.

But I know if I conceive a baby through IVF that will still be a miracle.

Science will be putting the physical elements together, but God will be giving the baby spirit and life, protecting him through conception and birth, and that is still extraordinary.

One of the biggest concerns is what happens to the embryos? But there are now embryo donation options to infertile couples, and you can choose if you want fewer eggs fertilized. For me, it’s come down to wanting my husband’s DNA in the world, wanting to be pregnant, and wanting to give every possible chance for our babies to exist.

3. Infertility is a disease

Infertility is defined as “a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.”

My particular kind is an autoimmune condition called endometriosis coupled with diminished ovarian reserve. And like any other disease, there is a treatment protocol. IVF is one treatment to the disease of infertility. I started thinking, if someone diagnosed me with cancer, would I simply go home and “wait on God” or would I see a specialized professional and pursue treatment?

I felt in my gut that I needed to learn more and I found a specialist in New York who deals with multiple losses and after fifteen vials of blood, he figured out what was wrong with me and gave me hope for my own child.

I still believe for a miracle. I just believe that with God and with science there are many different ways this can take shape.

4. It’s not any more spiritual to adopt than it is to have faith that God has promised you a biological child.

I love adoption. I spent six years living in Africa taking care of orphans, and helped other families adopt children. I believe in the beauty and redemption around adoption and applaud all parents who choose this path. After watching a difficult adoption process in Uganda, we decided it wasn’t the best choice for us right now. I believe it is something you are called to. And we each have to figure out what that looks like for us.

We may still adopt some day, as God is still writing our story, but right now, my having faith and fighting for the biological child I believe God has promised me, is the bravest, most spiritual thing I can do.

I used to think it was selfish to want my own child. But God gave me a picture of my child many years ago and that baby had my husband’s eyes and hair. While I’m open to having a child another way, I want to fight for the existence of the biological children I’ve seen in my dreams.

5. But isn’t it a waste of money when so many kids need parents?

The American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) lists the average price of an IVF cycle in the U.S. to be around $12,400. Granted with medications or with no insurance, it could be closer to $20,000. The good news is, success rate have risen to over 40% on average for women under 35. A baby, like a home, is an investment and will require sacrifice and saving. What shocked me is the average cost for an international adoption is around $36,000. There are risks to both, including multiple IVF cycles, to adoptive mothers pulling out. If you plan for it, IVF can be done responsibly. This is not to sway anyone from foster care or adoption. Both paths are incredibly difficult and require constant surrender. In the end, when you have that precious child in your arms, it will all be worth it.

The question is what feels right to you as a couple and how is God speaking to your heart?

It’s important to realize that IVF is a delicate decision that requires a lot of prayer and thought and shouldn’t be rushed into. It isn’t right for everyone, but no one has the right to make you feel guilty if you make that choice. Ultimately, infertility and even IVF is a process of surrender, growth, and transformation if you allow God to be a part of the journey.

While I have grown so much through my infertility and have seen so much of God’s heart through my suffering, I do believe God desires for me have children. It will be difficult and stressful yes, but this is another area where I can exercise my trust in Him. And hopefully through giving voice to these issues other women can know they are not alone. Perhaps the most important thing is that we don’t judge each other’s choices.

**If you’re considering IVF or have gone through it, I’d love to hear from you including how you’re processing, tips, and sage advice. We’d also really appreciate your prayers and support as we go through this. 

  • Hi Sarita! I appreciate this honest and raw post. I’m sure there are so many that have struggled with the same thoughts. I’m in a similar position and after trying five years to adopt with multiple disappointments and lots of money, time, energy lost, we still don’t have kids in our home. It’s so hard. We’ve prayed through a lot of options, and we’ve come to a place of considering and pursuing embryo adoption. It’s a very interesting take on IVF – “adopting” embryos – and giving birth to “adopted” kids. It’s crazy and awesome – but for a long time I wondered if it was “OK” for me to even consider this when there are so many kids out there already. I believe God has different paths for all of us and sometimes it is about trusting Him and moving forward in faith even when others might not agree. Thanks for writing this and sharing your journey in an authentic way that gives permission to others to do the same. God bless you on your journey- now to Him who IS ABLE!

    • Thanks so much for your kind words, I so appreciate them. I can imagine how difficult that whole process has been on your heart. Yes, we’ve looked into embryo adoption as well. I know, it can be so hard to trust yourself and God speaking to you in the process. I’m glad you are finding your way through. Hugs

  • Crystal McKinley

    Thank you for that message. I needed that. God definitely used you voice.

  • Kelli Schollard-Sincock

    Dear Sarita, I am a Christian woman who suffered with unexplained infertility for 12 years. We tried everything we could before we started considering IVF. I struggled enormously with my feelings and confusion over what God wanted for me. I too dreamed of having children and used to tell people that I wanted ten kids! When we began considering IVF I had very mixed feelings especially when it came to the concept/reality that we might be faced with the decision as to whether we would want any frozen fertilized eggs destroyed should finish our efforts. Or, a harder decision of whether we could handle the risk to my life should I become pregnant with multiples. There are so many variables to be considered and as someone who tries so hard to hear God’s voice and follow His will, I really really struggled with this. But my will to have a child of our own was bigger than anything my mind could reason.

    We went on to go through two IVF procedures with the leading IVF doctor in our region. The process was horrifying. The shots were extremely painful and the meds messed with my mind and body. I’m not going to lie and say the process wasn’t awful. It was. The process is incredibly daunting on the female body. It has now been 6 years since we took on this challenge and my body has not fully recovered.

    Both of our efforts were unsuccessful. The pain of the loss each time was almost unbearable. Our doctor wanted to try again, but I had to say no. My body could not take further chemical abuse. I was SO devasted and I qadoptiond God endlessly. But I KNEW in my heart I was meant to be a mom. That sense was more real than anything else in my life.

    A few years later my husband and I started down the path of adoption. Again we were met with interruption after interruption and I was starting to wonder if God was punishing me! I just didn’t get it! After three years of frustration I finally gave up. Completely. I gave up my will. I gave up my dream. I told God that what I had was enough and I would learn to love my life as a wife with no children.

    It was not too long after that that I recieved an email from our adoption counselor. She was hosting a little boy from China for one month. She said, “I really think you need to meet this little boy.” I was hesitant due to our past experience, but I also felt this deep seated calm. Something said this was different. We went to meet Kang Nian and knew within 3 minutes he was for us! He was 9 years old and born blind in his right eye. Other than that, he was perfect. He had been abandoned as an infant (likely due to his eye deformity) and had lived for 4 years in an orphanage and 6 years with foster families. We had to start our adoption efforts all over with a focus on China and this little boy.

    The adotpion effort was insanely hard. So challenging. Again, so many roadblocks!!! But we made it through! Thank you God. Gregory Kang Nian has been with us now for almost 9 months and is doing amazingly well! He is so much like us it blows my mind. God really does know what he is doing. And His timing is perfect. I can look back in my life and see ALL the clues He provided along the way. He has sent me many many Asian friends over the years. He also put a passion for Asian art and design in my heart. My house is filled with Asian art and home accessories that I accumulated for years long before Gregory came along. God was tailoring ME for this little boy! I just couldn’t see it.

    I cannot answer for others what their correct path is. I know people who have successfully gone through IVF and are thrilled. But looking back I wish I hadn’t pushed so hard. I wish I had loosened my reigns and just let God take over. The minute I finally let go God arrived in the most unusual and amazing way. Gregory’s arrival has not only meant the world to us, it has also touched the hearts of SO MANY OTHERS. Especially people who have very hard and unfair feelings towards China and Chinese people. God is working through us to break barriers and soften hearts. It is amazing. None of this was expected or even considered. We just wanted a child.

    The advice I can give is to let go and tell God to lead. Trust Him. His plan is WAY better than ours. There are things I can look back on and regret, especially the damage to my body, but then again that path all led us to Gregory, so I can’t really complain.

    I hope for the best for you and your husband. May God light the way and make it clear!!!

  • Sarah Opper

    I’m a missionary who does life coaching for other missionaries and has lived with infertility and gone through IVF AND I also have a girl-crush on Brene Brown…was a very strange thing to come across you blog and find some many common points here! I’m picking up what you’re putting down :)