Former IVF doctor blows whistle on practice: ‘I felt my soul was at stake’

Dr. Lauren Rubal is a reproductive endocrinology and infertility physician who focuses on fertility, recurrent miscarriage, women’s cycles, and menopause through an integrative lens.

Rather than deferring to the latest technology to solve women’s fertility issues, Rubal believes in finding the root cause of reproductive disorders.

But she wasn’t always this way. Rubal started her career in conventional medicine — and even practiced IVF. However, what she learned turned her away from the practice.

“There’s over one million embryos estimated to be frozen in the United States right now, indefinitely potentially. And I think these couples struggle so much with what to do with these embryos,” Rubal tells Allie Beth Stuckey.

“I think that’s because they inherently realize that this is my child, and so I don’t know if I feel comfortable giving away this embryo for adoption, for example, or donating this embryo to research where the embryo will be destroyed, or just undergoing frank destruction,” she explains.

When Rubal decided to leave, she felt that her “soul was at stake.”

“This embryo is a human being, and that human being has inherent dignity and should be protected as the most vulnerable of all,” she explains, adding, “All of these technologies, just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should.”

There are also greater risks to mothers who use IVF and the babies who are born through it. One of the maternal risks is an increased risk of 26% for preterm birth, which according to Rubal “can be devastating.”

“If the babies are born early, they can have problems with every organ system, including cerebral palsy or even death.”

The risk of hypertensive issues in pregnancies more than doubles, as well as a condition called severe maternal morbidity. Rubal explains this as when the “mom gets so sick she may die, she’s close to death.”

“That could be life-threatening hemorrhage, or what’s called preeclampsia which is high blood pressure of pregnancy where they can even have eclamptic seizures, or sepsis, which is an infection of the body,” Rubal says, noting that those are just the risks to the mom.

“For the babies, there is up to a 40% increase in non-chromosomal birth defects that may be present, there is an increase in autism, as well as a four-time increased risk of stillbirth,” she says, adding, “Thankfully these numbers are overall low.”

Meanwhile, doctors are trained to use this practice as a Band-Aid rather than seek out the deeper issues that could potentially be wreaking havoc on a woman’s fertility.

“I realized after I started digging deeper into fertility awareness-based methods that I was learning some things for the first time,” Rubal explains. “In fact, only, I believe, about 6% of OBGYN and family medicine physicians were able to answer correctly regarding fertility awareness-based methods and their efficacy in both achieving pregnancy and avoiding this.”

As someone who opposes IVF, Stuckey is impressed.

“The body just really works together, and everything affects something else. And so often we have such an isolated approach to how all of these little things work together,” she says, adding, “The fact that you are giving couples that power and that knowledge and also just helping us get healthy in the process really is amazing.”

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