There is some discussion among the Rabbis as to the halachic status of couples experiencing fertility issues. Some rabbis are of the opinion that such couples are considered slightly ill, since they are not actually suffering from a specific medical condition. However, most Rabbis do consider them to be ill, even though their lives are not in danger.
It is essential to note that a sick person suffering from a non-life threatening condition is
In light of this most authorities will permit certain tests and treatments on the Sabbath or festivals.
There are three basic methods to test ovulation
In light of the above, it is preferable not to administer injections unless this is absolutely necessary on Shabbat. When possible they should be administered before and after Shabbat. If this is impossible, it is preferable for a non-Jew to give the injection. In a case where no other possibility exists, the injections may be given by a Jew on Shabbat as described above.
Chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) injections need to be given at a particular time. In the case where the injection must be given on Shabbat. As above, it is preferable that this should be done by a non-Jew, but when this is impossible even a Jew may do so as described above.
Receiving an injection on Yom Kippur appears to be permitted and is not considered in the category of eating.
Sperm preparation for intrauterine insemination involves a number of actions that are forbidden on Shabbat such as the use of electricity and the separation of the sperm. It is preferable not to undergo such treatment on Shabbat. Therefore, when embarking on treatment the couple must inform their doctor that he must schedule their treatment such that it will not fall on Shabbat.
However, since an IUI must be performed to coincide with ovulation this cannot always be avoided. In such a case the couple must consult their Rabbi or a Puah counselor.
All fertility treatments involving processing eggs, sperm or embryos require close rabbinic supervision. The supervisor must be available to come to the laboratory on Shabbat. In places where the clinic is not near a residential Jewish area, this may create extremely grave, and even insurmountable, difficulties.
The halachic issues and solutions regarding IVF are similar to those of IUI. IVF involves days that the couple need to be in the clinic and days when the medical staff work on the embryos but the couple need not be in attendance. While all efforts should be made to avoid a retrieval or implantation on Shabbat, it is permissible for a non-Jew to check embryos on Shabbat.
The couple must inform the doctor of these limitations and urge him not to schedule a Thursday, Friday or Shabbat retrieval. When retrieval does fall on Shabbat the couple must consult their Rabbi or a Puah counselor.
When egg transfers fall on Shabbat it can often be pushed off until after Shabbat, or brought forward to a Friday.
Supervision is required for an IVF and this may present problems if the procedure falls on the weekend, since the supervisor must be in attendance throughout the procedure.
In the rare cases, such as in a case of ovarian hyperstimulation, where delaying treatment is potentially life-threatening, a woman may travel to the hospital by car on the Sabbath. However, with regard to all other types of fertility treatment that may be permitted on the Sabbath, many authorities do not permit traveling by car. In such cases the couple should stay within walking distance of the hospital or clinic over the Shabbat.
Some rabbis hold that it is permitted for a non-Jew to drive a woman to hospital on the Sabbath in order to undergo fertility treatment. It is preferable to make this arrangement with the non-Jew before the Sabbath and the non-Jew should open and close the door of the car if this causes the light to turn on and off.
The laws of Shabbat are applicable to all the festivals. One should bear this in mind when scheduling treatment and avoid the times in the year when the festivals occur wherever possible.