But the phone interview that made my coworkers raise their eyebrows the most was the one I conducted with Mark McGlothlin, the San Diego-based condom manufacturer whose prophylactics are favored by ultra-Orthodox families with fertility problems.
Orthodox women who are “halakhically infertile” cannot conceive because they adhere to Jewish laws about when they can and can’t have sex with their husbands. These women abstain from sex for five days during their periods and then another seven additional days, after which they visit a mikveh, or ritual bath, and rejoin their husbands. Most Orthodox women have no trouble getting pregnant with these restrictions—as evidenced by the high Orthodox fertility rates.
But for women with shorter cycles, ovulation occurs before they go to the mikveh, and they can’t conceive. Even though they’re technically healthy, Jewish law has rendered these women “halakhically infertile.”
According to the doctors I spoke with, ultra-Orthodox rabbis almost never give “halakhically infertile” women a dispensation to visit the mikveh early. Instead, the doctors prescribe these women hormones to shift their cycles so that they can get pregnant without violating religious law. But for women who are hormone averse, there’s another option: pre-mikveh artificial insemination.