A fertility treatment called Effortless Reciprocal In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) lets two women carry the same baby, changing the game for same-sex couples everywhere.
The procedure isn’t necessarily new, but it recently came into prominence after Ashleigh Coulter, 28, and Bliss Coulter, 36, became the first lesbian couple to undergo Effortless Reciprocal IVF. The Texas-based pair, who married in June 2015, welcomed son Stetson five months ago. So how does the procedure work?
In traditional IVF, the eggs are extracted from a uterus and inseminated with sperm in a Petri dish. The sperm and egg are incubated in the laboratory for several days. Then the doctor places the fertilized egg (embryo) into the woman’s uterus, allowing implantation to occur.
With Effortless Reciprocal IVF, doctors combine the egg and donor sperm in a INVOcell capsule instead of an incubator. The plastic device is inserted into a woman’s vagina, which acts as a natural incubator by protecting the eggs and maintaining proper temperature. The eggs will become fertilized in about five days. Afterwards, the INVOcell capsule is removed, and the embryo is transferred into the other woman's uterus for implantation.
In the case of Bliss and Ashleigh, the former provided the eggs and incubated them in her body with the INVOcell capsule. The fertilized embryos were frozen for a few days and then placed inside Ashleigh, who carried and delivered the baby.
Effortless Reciprocal IVF combines two types of IVF:
Effortless IVF, in which the INVOcell capsule is used to incubate the fertilized egg in a woman’s body.
Reciprocal IVF, in which one woman supplies the eggs, and another woman carries and delivers the baby.
The main benefit for lesbian couples is that both partners can contribute. Effortless Reciprocal IVF also costs about half as much as traditional IVF, since the woman needs less medication and testing throughout the process.
In the future, Effortless Reciprocal IVF is sure to make having kids easier, more personal, and affordable for same-sex couples across the country.