Halachic intervention for early ovulation

Editor: The question below was submitted to www.yoatzot.org, Nishmat's Women's Health and Halacha (Jewish Law) website for the lay public.

"My letter is more of a cry from the heart than a question. I want to share my personal story and to help others avoid what I went through.

"For the past seven years my periods have been getting steadily shorter with ovulation getting earlier and earlier. My four children were born without intervention as the problem was still marginal at the time of the 4th child. However, a year and a half ago we decided to try and have another baby. I had one halachically fertile cycle soon after that, and conceived immediately. Ten weeks later I miscarried that long yearned for pregnancy. Working through the heartache of that loss was a challenge to the whole family. Compounding the pain ten fold was the growing realization that my chances of having another child were very low with my ovulation consistently happening between days 10-12 in a 23 day cycle.

"I thought of myself at the time as a well educated Jewish woman, with a good knowledge of the laws of niddah. Over the years I had been sending my bedikah [internal self examination] cloths to a rabbi when I was in doubt, and reading what I could about "early ovulation". After the miscarriage, my doctor wanted me to go on hormones (to postpone ovulation), which have a negative effect on my health. I tried it anyway, and found that my fertile signs were compromised by the treatment. Then I broke down and contacted a yoetzet, and through her the rabbi, to ask permission for artificial insemination from my husband.

"Our rabbi then led me to take a much closer look at my bedikah cloths. He had me send him a cloth on day four of my period and, to my astonishment and disbelief, said it was valid. Together with a few more leniencies, I made it to the mikveh on day 11, and am now expecting a child.

"I have found out the hard way that I was making a hefsek taharah [the internal examination that initiates the seven clean days] very late. I had always asked a question when in doubt, and the cloths I sent were always cleared. My problem was that IT HAD NEVER OCCURRED TO ME to send an earlier attempt at a hefsek! I was SO sure that they were not OK!

"I think, and my Rabbi agreed with me, that women are taught to expect a totally white hefsek and raise a question only if there is any slight divergence from that. But a cloth with significant brown staining - which could be ruled valid - just gets thrown out.

"I have spoken to well educated friends since then, of the five I talked to two were experiencing early ovulation!! How many more women are suffering this ache?

"I am writing this to ask for your help as educators. Tell women with short cycles, very clearly, that they should be questioning their examinations even very early in the cycle. Tell them, DON'T throw away a fifth day examination, even if you are sure it won't be approved. Better ask, because it may well be cleared!!

"DON'T ask women if they are sure they are making the earliest possible examination. OF COURSE they are sure. They have no idea that they are not asking the right question. Instead, send them to a rabbi with a fifth day examination, no matter what it looks like. They may find out, as I did, that there is hope for them without medical intervention.

"Thank you for being part of a very important project, and thank you for lending an ear."

This letter speaks for itself. Before undertaking any medical intervention for early ovulation, the woman should be encouraged to speak to her rabbi to make sure that there is no halachic intervention that can be tried first.

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