Let’s start at the beginning, the Genesis. The term “Jew’ comes from the tribe or kingdom of Judah, originating in the ancient near east from the Israelites or Hebrews. It is a nation and ethno-religious group referring to all physical and spiritual descendants of Jacob. People can be born Jewish through a matrilineal descent or become Jewish by conversion. There are @ 13,000,000 Jews worldwide, comprising 0.2% of the population, a fairly low number considering the impact that Jews have in society as a whole!
Not all those that practice Judaism ascribe to the more stringent requirements that must accompany ART. But those that are Orthodox in their beliefs are the most strict and adhere to a religious system that retains customs and follows the Torah as the word of G_d. It is this population in general, estimated to be @ 10% of all Jews, that we address when discussing some of the restrictions necessary in the practice of Assisted Reproductive Technology.
In Orthodox Judaism, Reproduction is a holy act to result in G-d’s greatest gift…the gift of Life. This results in the ultimate protection of Human Life. By Jewish law, men are not allowed to masturbate as this would be “spilling the seed” and therefore would be a lost opportunity for conception. For this reason, the Orthodox Jewish couple may ask to do a Post Coital test instead of a semen analysis, although this is a less accurate test. Alternatively, we offer a collection condom or allow the couple time to get rabbinical approval. Sometimes, a couple will ask that any remaining sample be returned to the woman’s vagina later the same day.
This is usually related to the laws of Niddah, the time of month that a woman is menstruating and the week following the cessation of menstruation which is considered an impure time for sexual relations until the woman visits the Mikvah, a ritual immersion that signifies cleanliness and rebirth. The Sabbath or High Holy days may also interfere with scheduling issues.
Sometimes, couples can get rabbinical compensation/leniency to move forward
No work is allowed on the Sabbath/High Holy days. This means they can not drive, tie shoes, turn on light switches, etc. They may need to walk to the office and may need someone at the office to open doors. Arrangements for travel may need to be anticipated as part of the couple’s cycle timing.
Donor sperm is controversial but may be OK if all other means have been exhausted.
Judaism is relayed through the mother (matrilineal), so issues of birth and genetic mothering is critical. Couples may decide on donor egg if the donor is Jewish. Most rabbis will not accept the use of a gestational host, even if the host is Jewish.
It may be necessary to arrange for a trained third party observer to satisfy the couple’s/rabbis concerns about potential mixing of gametes for an insemination or IVF process.
For Orthodox Jews, as for many other people of various religions, cultures or beliefs; the adherence to their individual practices is a crucial component in helping them feel properly involved and comfortable with Assisted Reproductive Technology.
At Team RMI, it is our desire to deliver the finest in clinical care in a patient oriented environment that allows our patients to feel comfortable, secure and supported as a whole person with ethical, religious and moral needs.