Christian Living

Premarital Counseling Needs to Include This

Author Alan Shlemon Published on 03/31/2015

Before you tie the knot, pastors and counselors try to tell you what you need to know for a healthy and successful marriage. I remember being advised about communication styles, conflict resolution, birth control, personality, etc. It felt comprehensive.

There’s one thing, though, that needs to be added to the list of topics discussed before marriage: infertility counseling. I realize that subject sounds like a bummer to talk about just before a couple marries and goes off to be fruitful and multiply. Based on the situations couples face these days, however, waiting to talk about it until after a couple is facing infertility is far too late.

Here’s why. Once a husband and wife find out they can’t get pregnant, things change. They, understandably, get very emotional about the fact they can’t have children. People in their life stage are popping out kids left and right. Every friend’s pregnancy announcement is another bittersweet ordeal.

In an attempt to fix the problem, the couple pursues the help of fertility doctors. Sometimes they consider procedures that may be ethically questionable because they are passionately committed to the end result of having kids.

Not only have couples told me they felt this way, but I know firsthand as well. My wife and I also dealt with infertility. I remember how I felt, how my wife felt, and how hard we tried to get pregnant. We went through counseling. It was a long and tumultuous time. We met with infertility specialists, took numerous tests, and even had surgery in an attempt to increase our chances of getting pregnant. For a time, it felt like our decisions were largely driven by our emotions.

Thankfully, by God’s grace, we got pregnant naturally after four years of infertility. In retrospect, though, it seemed like we were willing to try anything to get pregnant. I’m not saying we would have done something medically unethical, but I was afraid we might.

I’ve now spoken with several couples who faced a similar situation. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to get pregnant naturally. Instead, they used fertility treatments that put them in a moral dilemma. For example, one couple I recently spoke with used in vitro fertilization. They had multiple eggs fertilized, and then the embryos were implanted in the wife’s womb. The problem was that the wife was now pregnant with five children. Their doctor advised them to abort three of them. He said to attempt to carry all five children would likely result in a premature delivery that would take the lives of all their kids. What should they do?

My advice is to never create more embryos than you’re willing to implant and never implant more embryos than you’re willing to carry. But it was too late for that advice.

Once you’re married and facing infertility, your judgment can become clouded. I’m not saying every couple loses all rationality. Many, though, act before they think or seek good advice because they’re desperate to have kids.

Couples need to be counseled about fertility treatments before they get married and find themselves deep in a moral dilemma where lives are at stake. That way they can reason through the decision-making process prior to an emotional ordeal that jeopardizes clear thinking.