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Does IUD prevent implantation?

26 February, 2009

Question:

I have 7 children, thank G-d, but having gone through the last 2 difficult birth experiences, and with my physical health weaker in the last few years, I have considered using a birth control method. I am considering the IUD, as I've had experience with hormone and barrier methods and they either don't appeal to me, aren't permitted, or have serious side effects I cannot tolerate.

I've read that the chance that an IUD would cause the abortion of an embryo is very slim and perhaps not even proven. The theoretical aborted embryo would be only about a  week after fertilization and only a cell mass at that.

My questions:

1) How halachically problematic is the abortion of a week-old embryo?

2) What would ultimately be the verdict of most poskim if this was proven to happen some of the time with the IUD?

3) Given a choice between IUD and tubal ligation, which method would be preferred by most poskim?


Answer:

1) While the Talmud describes an embryo at less than 40 days as "mere water", this does not give us free rein to abort all such embryos.  However, since the exact mechanism of the IUD is not completely understood, most poskim allow the IUD despite the minute possibility that it could prevent implantation of such a young embryo.

2) The current medical consensus is that in 99% of cases, the IUD prevents conception rather than implantation. In only about 1% of the cases does conception take place and pregnancy is avoided by preventing implantation. As we indicated, despite this possibility, most poskim do allow the use of an IUD. 

You can read our article on the IUD for more information.

3) Tubal ligation can only be considered when there are no other contraceptive options available. Tubal ligation is a permanent form of sterilization and there is a separate commandment, based on Leviticus 22:24, forbidding sterilization of animals as well as people. This is considered a biblical commandment for men and a rabbinic decree for women. Thus, a vasectomy is absolutely forbidden.  But, in times of great need such as very serious health risks, after rabbinic consultation, a tubal ligation would sometimes be permitted for women.

We suggest you discuss all available options with your physician before deciding. You can read our article on choosing a contraceptive method for more details.


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