Egg retrieval on Shabbat
15 January, 2019
I’m undergoing an IVF cycle. I have had numerous complications along the way, but it seems as though things are stabilizing and I can undergo the egg retrieval process. The only problem is that it falls on Shabbat. According to my doctor, delaying the procedure is not possible, as the eggs will be too big and it will endanger my ovaries. Doing it a day early will result in eggs that are too small, and possibly a failed cycle. Can I still undergo the procedure on Shabbat? I can walk to my doctor’s office, and take stairs, but on the way back I’ll be sedated so I may need to have a taxi take me home. Is this ok?
I’ve been through 14 days of injections, and major ovarian pain, and would hate to have this be cancelled due to it falling on Shabbat. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
We appreciate the sensitive nature of this question. Generally speaking, if there is a way to schedule or move a procedure so that it does not fall out on Shabbat, that is the preferred course of action.
However, when a procedure cannot be moved, it may be performed on Shabbat under certain conditions. This is because a woman undergoing fertility treatments has the halachic status of one who is ill, which means that non-Jews may perform labor for the purpose of her treatment on Shabbat as necessary.
If it is determined that this retrieval should go ahead as scheduled, you would ideally make arrangements to stay at the medical facility through the end of Shabbat or until you are strong enough to walk home safely.
If arranging to stay proves impossible, you could hire a non-Jewish driver to take you home. You would make all arrangements prior to Shabbat: the driver would wait for you at a specified time, open and close doors for you without your prompting, know in advance where to go and how to get there, and receive payment in advance.
Because of the complexity of this question and the serious considerations involved regarding your health and safety, the success of the procedure, and the halachot of Shabbat, we recommend a personal consultation with a Nishmat Fertility Counselor, a Yoetzet Halacha who has completed additional specialized training in this area. Consultations are free and can take place in person, by phone, or via internet conference.
Matters to discuss include: whether this specific procedure would be permissible as planned on Shabbat, how to schedule future procedures, which activities the medical team may perform on your behalf, and how to address Shabbat concerns.
We wish you success in your treatment.
This response was updated on 13 April, 2021.
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