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Guidelines for Catholics on the Evaluation and Treatment of Infertility

"On the part of the spouses, the desire for a child is natural: it expresses the vocation to fatherhood and motherhood inscribed in conjugal love. This desire can be even stronger if the couple is affected by sterility which appears incurable. Nevertheless, marriage does not confer upon the spouses the right to have a child, but only the right to perform those natural acts which are per se ordered to procreation. A true and proper right to a child would be contrary to the child's dignity and nature. The child is not an object to which one has a right, nor can he be considered as an object of ownership: rather, a child is a gift, "the supreme gift" and the most gratuitous gift of marriage, and is a living testimony of the mutual giving of his parents. For this reason, the child has the right, as already mentioned, to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents; and he also has the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception." - Donum Vitae

"How do I know when a reproductive technology is morally right?"

  • Any procedure which assists marital intercourse in reaching its procreative potential is moral.
  • Any procedure which substitutes or suppresses a need for marital intercourse is immoral.

Reproductive Technologies in Disagreement with Catholic Teachings:

  1. Obtaining a semen sample by means of masturbation
  2. Artificial insemination using sperm from a donor (AID) or even the husband (AIH) if obtained by masturbation
  3. In-vitro fertilization (IVF), zygote intra-fallopian transfer (ZIFT), and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), ovum donation, "surrogate" uterus
* excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church explaining why these are immoral
** Articles further explaining the problems with in vitro fertilization and artificial fertilization

Reproductive Technologies in Agreement with Catholic Teachings:

  1. Observation of the naturally occuring 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. General medical evaluation of both spouses for infertility.
  3. Post-coital test to assess sperm count and viability. 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 and hormonal dysfunction.
  7. Appropriate (usually surgical) correction of organic problems underlying male or female infertility.


  • Dignitatis Personae, Instruction on Bioethics, William Cardinal Levada as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
  • Donum Vitae (The Gift of Life), Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation: Replies to Certain Questions of the Day, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
  • Catechism of the Catholic Church