IVF: Infertility and Morality

March 3rd, 2019

John was asked by an acquaintance:  “How do you feel about the interference of medical doctors and others in the birth process and in providing prenatal care? Two of our grandkids were conceived via in vitro fertilization.”

John’s response:  Thanks for asking. My “feeling” is great sympathy for married couples who have an infertility problem.  “Feeling” has an immediate emotional response.  “Thinking” is different.  My thinking about in vitro fertilization is based on the facts available to me.

“Interference” is a somewhat generic word; “birth process” can mean different things; to me it means the actual process of giving birth.  “Pre-natal care” means the care that ought to be given to support both the baby and the mother from the time of conception to birth.

In the typical in vitro fertilization process, the woman is stimulated to produce multiple ova which are then mixed with the man’s semen obtained via masturbation.  Several embryos will be created in this way.  One or two are implanted in the uterus for further development.  The others are either discarded or frozen for possible later use.  Human embryos are human persons at the first stage of development.  They are not just biological material.  They have the right to life until natural death, and it is the duty of parents and others to provide loving care for them.  Discarding or freezing them is not loving care for them.  So I think that it is morally wrong to seek pregnancy through in vitro fertilization.

For fifty years we have been providing practical positive help for couples of both normal fertility and marginal fertility.  We persuaded a mother with a sound scientific background to write a book titled Fertility, Cycles and Nutrition which has been very helpful for many women with all sorts of menstrual irregularities including marginal infertility.  I define marginal infertility as infertility that is capable of being overcome in natural, moral ways.  A woman with no ovaries would be, quite obviously, a woman with infertility that cannot be overcome in natural ways.  The fact that spouses have medical backgrounds is no guarantee at all that they have adequate knowledge about their mutual fertility.  It is truly amazing how many doctors are ignorant about natural family planning with fertility awareness, and they are generally even more ignorant about the style of breastfeeding that actually does delay the return of fertility for 14 to 15 months, on the average.

I wish that your relatives had made use of what we have to offer.  We can also refer to doctors who specialize in treating infertility in ways, including surgery, that are compatible with Catholic teaching and the natural law.

I would not be surprised if my mention of Catholic teaching on these matter brings out a certain spirit of skepticism.  My faith that the Catholic Church is guided in these teachings by the Holy Spirit is based on my prior belief that Jesus keeps his promises.  At the Last Supper, he promised three times that He would send the Holy Spirit to guide the Church in its teaching.  You can find the quotes in the Seven Day Bible Rosary booklet.  See the Mysteries of the Last Supper.  I believe that Jesus is truly risen from the dead and will come again to judge the living and the dead, and I live by that and I am willing to die for that belief.  I think it is a reasoned faith based upon the historical fact of His resurrection.  As St. Paul put it plainly, “If Christ is not risen from the dead, your faith is in vain and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor 15:17).

On the other hand, I am convinced that it is an act of mere opinion or misplaced faith to “believe” that the human life in the zygote is only an animal cell that can be killed or mistreated— a reversion to the old pagan days of the father-dictator.  To state or think that the zygote and then embryo and then fetus achieves the right to be respected as a human person at some particular stage of development is to make an act of faith either in one’s opinion or the opinion of some erring philosopher.  The stage-names in the previous sentence are merely human inventions to describe a human being at different stages in development; but he or she is the same person from conception onward.

The message of Lent is to have a change of heart and to accept the Lord Jesus as the King and Center of our lives, and to live accordingly in preparation for our personal meeting with Him upon death.

A blessed Lent to you and your family.

John K.


Natural Family Planning: Breastfeeding Research published in Oct.-Dec. 2018

February 24th, 2019

Crohn’s Disease
Breastfeeding can limit Crohn’s progression in children.  “The Effect of Early-Life Environmental Exposures on Disease Phenotype and Clinical Course of Crohn’s Disease in Children,” The American Journal o9f Gastroenterology,” September 28, 2018.

Role of pediatricians
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about six months and continued breastfeeding after the introduction of complementary solids for at least the first year of life and as long thereafter as desired by mother and child. Pediatricians play a key role in helping parents understand not only what is recommended, but why.  In this article, a list was given of the breastfeeding benefits published for the years 2005, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.  In 2018, 128 studies and 10 sytematic reviews produced evidence “that breastfeeding is associated with  reduced maternal risk of breast and ovarian cancer, hypertension and type 2 diabetes.  “Evidence can help pediatricians explain why moms should breastfeed,” American Academy of Pediatrics, October 10, 2018.

Reduced stress
Breastfeeding can cause genetic changes in babies resulting in reduced stress compared to those who were not breastfed. “Epigenetic Programming by Maternal Behavior in the Human Infant,” Journal of Pediatrics, October 2018.

Smaller waist circumference
Breastfeeding for more than six months is associated with smaller maternal waist circumference. “Breastfeeding Greater Than 6 Months is Associated with Smaller Maternal Waist Circumference Up to One Decade After Delivery,” Journal of Women’s Health, November 2018.

Lives saved
Improving breastfeeding rates around the world could save the lives of more than 820,000 children under age 5 and prevent 20,000 maternal deaths from breast cancer every year. Despite this, breastfeeding rates worldwide remain low, particularly in high-income countries – more than 1 in 5 babies in high-income countries are never breastfed, compared to 1 in 25 in low- and middle-income countries. UNICEF, United Nations Children Fund, 2018.  “Breastfeeding: A Mother’s Gift, for Every Child,” November 29, 2018.

To reduce stunting
Nigerian babies get the needed nutrients and grow very well from breast milk.  Breastfeeding can be life-saving.  Nigeria has the second highest stunting burden in the world, with over 11 million stunted children. Preliminary data from Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey showed stunting has increased to 44 per cent in 2016. Severe stunting increased to 22 per cent.  Early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding of babies with no additional food, water or other fluids for six months is important to stem increasing cases of stunting in children.  Alive and Thrive workshop, November 30, 2018.

Benefits for second year of life
The World Health Organization (WHO) highlights the importance of safeguarding breastfeeding and ending inappropriate marketing and distribution of breastmilk substitutes for children up to three years of age.  Why?  Because there are so many advantages for breastfeeding the child during the second year of life.  Children who are not breastfed at 12-23 months of age are about twice as likely to die as those who are breastfed in the second year of life. Breastfeeding for more than 12 months reduces breast cancer by 26%. Breastfeeding longer than 12 months reduces ovarian cancer by 37%.  In a large study among low-income children in the United States, those breastfed for at least 12 months were 28% less likely to be overweight at four years of age than those never breastfed; Each additional month of breastfeeding reduced the risk of childhood obesity by 4%. Each additional year of lifetime duration of breastfeeding is associated with a 9% protection against type 2 diabetes.  The WHO recommendation:  Mothers should breastfeed for two years or beyond because breastfeeding “saves lives and promotes the health of both the mother and baby.” WHO International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, December 6, 2018.






Natural Family Planning: Breastfeeding Research published July-Sept. 2018

February 17th, 2019

Obesity protection
A large national study has shown exclusive breastfeeding in the first three months of life provides protection against infants becoming overweight at one year of age.  Researchers in Canada studied ovdr 1000 babies and found a 63% increased risk of becoming overweight among infnats who were partially (versus exclusively) breastfed at three months of age, and a 102% increased risk among exclusively formula-fed infants.  As one researcher said: “Breastfeeding is one of the most influential factors in shaping the infant gut microbiome.” JAMA Pediatrics, online only, July 2, 2018.

Importance of the first year
The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition of England reported their recommendation on feeding in the first year of life due to the many benefits of breastfeeding.  The recommendations were 1) exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, 2) continued breastfeeding for the first year of life, and 3) wait until six months before introducing solid foods.  July 17, 2018.

First hour
Three in five babies, mostly born in low- and middle-income countries, are not breastfed within the first hour of life, placing them at higher risk of death and disease.  “When it comes to the start of breastfeeding, timing is everything.  In many countries, it can even be a matter of life or death,” said Henrietta Fore, the UNICEF Executive Director.  UNICEF and WHO note that newborns who breastfeed in the first hour of life are significantly more likely to survive.  They estimate that 78 million newborns are excluded.  United Nations report, July 31, 2018.

Fewer maternal strokes
Postmenopausal women who report ever having breastfed have a 23% reduced risk for a stroke later in life compared with those who had children but never breastfed, a new observational study suggests. For non-Hispanic black women, that risk is as much as 48% lower after adjustment for other stroke risk factors, the researchers note. “Breastfeeding History and Risk of Stroke Among Parous Postmenopausal Women in the Women’s Health Initiative,” Jounral of the American Heart Association, August 22, 2018.

Antibiotic use in pregnancy was a risk factor for childhood asthma. However, this risk may be reduced by exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life, especially among high-risk children. “The effect of breastfeeding on the risk of asthma in high-risk children: a case control study in Shanghai, China,” BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, August 23, 2018.

Mrs Chimay Thompson, the Assistant Director, Nutrition Division, Family Health Department, Federal Ministry of Health, has said improving the nation’s breastfeeding practices could save 100,000 lives in Nigeria yearly.  Interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, September 8, 2018.

Donor human milk helped
WHO recommends donor human milk for infant feeding when mother’s milk is not available.  Although detailed medical records were not always available, the case studies provide anecdotal evidence of the protective effects of donor human milk against failure to thrive, diarrhoea, atopic dermatitis, and opportunistic infections. “Using donor human milk to feed vulnerable term infants: a case series in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa,” International Breastfeeding Journal, September 10, 2018.

Premature babies
Premature babies born before 33 weeks gestation showed better brain development when fed breast milk rather than formula milk. Babies who exclusively received breast milk for at least three-quarters of the days they spent in the hospital showed improved brain connectivity compared with others.  “Breast milk may be best for premature babies’ brain development,” NeuroImage, September 22, 2018.

Resistant bacteria
A new study has found that babies who are breastfed for six months have fewer antibiotic resistant bacteria in their guts.  What is antibiotic-resistant bacteria? Antibiotic resistant bacteria are bacteria that are not controlled or killed by antibiotics. They are able to survive and even multiply in the presence of an antibiotic. Most infection-causing bacteria can become resistant to at least some antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance is a serious public health problem. The biggest concern with antibiotic resistance is that some bacteria that can cause serious diseases have already become resistant to almost all of the easily available antibiotics.  Although breast milk does contain bacteria that’s resistant to antibiotics, it’s the sugar in the milk that is  beneficial. These sugars, like Bifidobacteria, provide sustenance to “good” gut bacteria, which work like probiotics for babies. “Maternal gut and breast milk microbiota affect gut antibiotic resistome and mobile genetic elements,” Nature Communications, September 24, 2018.