Thoughts on IVF, Infertility & Miscarriage

CCL hosted a webinar where Clergy had the opportunity to ask a panel of Catholic doctors questions about NFP and fertility. The doctors answered in light of the latest medical and scientific information. Dr. Lauren Rubal shares answers to questions about IVF, infertility and miscarriage from that webinar.

Q: Catholics who have lingering difficulty with fertility seem to be turning more and more towards IVF. How can NFP be more convincingly taught and how do you journey with the IVF guilty? In your experience, what needs to be communicated to best get the attention of modern-day couples regarding interest in NFP?

A: The temptation to turn to artificial and aggressive measures to avoid or achieve pregnancy has only increased in a world and medical field that routinely promotes these interventions for infertility. However, NFP is an effective and moral alternative with a strong scientific rationale behind it. 

We are within this world but not of it. And this chasm between the world and the Faith seems so wide, both in medical matters as well as spiritual. But God in His wisdom has provided the framework for moral decision making. Thus, people need to be told that any intervention that interrupts the unitive and procreative act puts us creatures in a role that only God and the parents should occupy. Simply put, we have no right to interfere with the creation of life. This is easy to say but it is a cross for those who are suffering with infertility, especially because it seems like IVF is a highly effective fix that the rest of the world is doing. Of course, we must always love each person. As St. Francis de Sales notes, “Cook the truth in charity until it tastes sweet.”

A Team to Guide

Couples struggling with infertility need to be in communion with others who can guide them well. It is hard when you feel like you’re alone on an island. This team needs to include a Religious who can put things in a theological framework. Confirming that life begins at conception, that this unique individual is made in God’s image. You need to also have a healthcare professional who believes this and can help support the couple. That, in the end, IVF is going to harm that life and, quite frankly, harm the couple. The last part of that team is other couples, those journeying through this or who have been through the journey.

Specifically, Couple to Couple League is a great resource. They have teaching couples in many different locations and online courses. They allow couples to understand their faith, to understand why NFP is good and worthy and to be practiced. Other resources are Springs in the Desert for those dealing with infertility and Redbird Ministry for those dealing with losses.

As for what needs to be communicated best to get the attention of modern-day couples, regarding interest in NFP? That is the million dollar question. The thing to tell everyone is that this method is safe, effective, healthy, and empowering,

Safe, Effective

Safe because there is no exposure to pharmaceuticals. There are no synthetic hormones exerting the opposite effect on her body compared to her natural rhythms and hormonal cyclicity. 

NFP is effective for achieving pregnancy: studies support up to a 10% increase in per-cycle pregnancy rate when ovulation is pinpointed with FABMs. When the typical per-cycle pregnancy rate in a couple in their twenties just starting to try is around 25 percent a month – that’s a significant increase. For postponing pregnancy, studies support effectiveness, similar to contraceptive methods. We have to take care to avoid a contraceptive mindset and there needs to be regular discernment by the couple.

NFP is healthy because there are no side effects, no risks, and you are not using a contraceptive pharmaceutical that inherently has pros and cons.

Healthy, Empowering

And it’s empowering. Many teens and women have no idea their ever-changing physical, mental, and emotional life may be impacted by their hormones. They finally understand their mid-cycle cramping may be because they are ovulating or that all these cervical mucus changes that they’re noticing are normal. Being able to predict occurrences within their cycle is such an “Aha!” moment for them. They feel so empowered. They’re amazed at how little they knew about their own bodies before. NFP is really a gift that we can give people. Modern women are seeking NFP, for reasons of infertility or just to be healthier, even within the secular space. The Church can continue to lead this movement. We have been given a great opportunity.

Q: Can charting help prevent miscarriage? Can women who are new to charting learn that tracking cycles can alert them to risk of luteal phase deficiency?

A: Miscarriage is not rare and recurrent miscarriage is not uncommon. In fact, a quarter of pregnancies that are recognized can end in a miscarriage. There are multiple lifestyle techniques that help with preparing a woman’s body for conception again, in addition to medical evaluation. 

We always start with that foundation of lifestyle. You can try to be at a healthy weight and have regular exercise. There are some studies supporting that if you are considered overweight, any amount of exercise is excellent at shortening time to conception and likely will improve some of the hormonal imbalances that could predispose to miscarriage. If you are normal or underweight, lower impact, lower intensity exercise remains important. 

Pro-Fertility Diet

There is a pro-fertility diet that has been studied and associated with a shortened time to get pregnant, and that diet is essentially a Mediterranean diet. It has been associated with benefits of longevity, or a longer life, decreased cardiovascular risks, and has impacts on helping with infertility. This diet is comprised of lots of antioxidant vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, as opposed to processed carbohydrates. It includes better types of fat, like olive oil or avocados instead of butter, and full dairy. 

Why healthy fats? Because cholesterol is the first building block of all our hormones. Luteal phase deficiency is another way of saying progesterone deficiency. Progesterone is the hormone that is produced where we ovulate from, and you can never have enough in pregnancy. It is a critical hormone to sustain that pregnancy until the placenta takes over later in the first trimester. If you don’t have enough progesterone, which can be a downstream effect from lower hormone signaling, a full-fat diet, helping build those hormones, can only help, which is what the studies support. Processed Foods & Vitamins

Processed Foods & Vitamins

Decreasing processed foods, trying to eat foods as close to their natural state as possible and eating organic does make a difference – you cut about 75% of pesticide exposure by doing so. Decreasing environmental toxins, specific types of plastics and perfumes might also have an impact on fertility. 

Being on a good quality prenatal vitamin can help with issues such as mood disorders as studies show that this may be associated with vitamin deficiencies, like the B vitamins and zinc. Folic acid is critical for parts of baby’s development, and studies show that adequate consumption of this for a few months prior to conception decreases certain birth defects. 

The Spiritual Side

This isn’t just physical. There also needs to be a focus on the spiritual side and finding time daily to do something that brings you peace. We embrace our cross and praying every day is a great way to grow closer to God through our suffering. There is always hope: all of the studies overwhelmingly say that even if a couple has dealt with even a few miscarriages, the majority of time that next pregnancy is going to be a live-born baby. 

Of course, getting an evaluation to assess progesterone levels, thyroid, uterine factors, and other causes depending on a couple’s history is also important and can provide empowerment in an often-overwhelming situation. 

More about a healthy diet can be found at, a website built to nourish our culture with wholesome food, real conversation and authentic community.

Dr Lauren Rubal is a fellowship-trained infertility specialist in private medical practice in Newport Beach, California. She specializes in holistic fertility and reproductive endocrinology issues. Dr. Rubal seeks to empower women to optimize their fertility by harnessing their body’s natural cyclicity and restoring their hormonal rhythms. She makes it her mission to assist women achieve their dream of a baby through integrative and whole-body fertility methods. She is on the CCL Board of Directors.