Abraham and Sarah

The Hospitality of Abraham.1


What is infertility?

There is no globally agreed upon definition of “infertility.” The definition remains inconsistent in medical and scientific literature. The word “infertility” is used synonymously with sterility, infecundity, childlessness, and subfertility.

The World Health Organization has changed its definition of infertility multiple times in the last 30 years:
• 1975: 2 years
• 1985: 12 months
• 2001: 2 years
• 2009: 12 months
• 2012: 2 years (current website - http://www.who.int/topics/infertility/en/)

In the United Kingdom, a couple is defined as infertile if after two years of unprotected intercourse the woman has not become pregnant.
In 2004 the National Institutes of Health defined couples as being infertile if after two-years of unprotected sex the woman had not become pregnant.
Clinicians often define infertility after one year of unprotected sex two to three times a week that does not result in a pregnancy. The timeframe is reduced to six months after the age of 35.
In 2008, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine changed its definition of infertility to one year of unprotected sex for couples younger than thirty-five and six months for couples older than thirty-five.1


There are many options available to couples who have difficulty conceiving. However, not all available means of dealing with infertility are compatible with the dignity of the human person or with God's gift of sexuality in the context of marriage. Also, many of these methods may seem to solve the problem of infertility for some couples but raise other serious moral dilemmas or have other potentially serious unintended effects. For example, there are hundreds of thousands of frozen embryos "on ice" that are the end result of In Vitro Fertilization and, although "Most of the children conceived after ART are normal. However, there is increasing evidence that ART-conceived children are at higher risk of poor perinatal outcome, birth defects, and epigenetic disorders, and the mechanism(s) leading to these changes have not been elucidated.2




1. This beautiful and intricate mosaic is from the basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. This scene depicts the Biblical story of the apparition at Mamre where Yahweh apears to Abraham and Sarah in the form of three men. There Abraham is told that Sarah, who is well past her child bearing years and who never had any children will have a son in the next year. It dates to the 6th-century. Fr. Lawrence Lew, OP Flickr
2. Miriam Zoll. Fertility Facts