Lesbian Couple Shares the Experience of Pregnancy Through 'Shared Motherhood': Here's What That Means
In 2018, a Texas couple named Ashleigh and Bliss Coulter underwent a fertility treatment called Effortless Reciprocal In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), which allows lets two women to carry the same baby, changing the game for same-sex couples everywhere. Now, a couple from the U.K. is celebrating the birth of their two-month-old who was born through a similar treatment called "shared motherhood" or intra-partner egg donation.
Jasmine Francis-Smith, 28, and Donna Francis-Smith, 30, of Nottinghamshire, England, conceived their son Otis via The AneVivo process, which is offered by The London Women's Clinic, according to The Telegraph. Pioneered by the Swiss technology company Anecova, the procedure was carried out at the London Women’s Clinic. It involved the eggs being fertilized with donor sperm then incubated in Donna's body (rather than externally, as they would be in traditional IVF). The embryo were then taken out of Donna’s womb and placed into the womb of Jasmine, who carried the baby to term.
Donna explained to The Telegraph, "It’s my egg, and then they did the egg collection from me and then put it back into my body for 18 hours before being put into Jasmine’s body, and she became pregnant."
This makes Donna Otis' biological mother and Jasmine is his gestational mother.
Similar procedures are referred to as partner assisted reproduction, inter-spousal egg donation, ROPA, or, as in the case of the Coulters, reciprocal IVF. Most procedure are available at private fertility clinics and prices vary, although estimates for the shared motherhood process is £6,000 or nearly $8K.
No matter what it's called, the ability for both parents to participate is huge, because, as Donna explained to The Telegraph, "you get a lot of same-sex couples where one person is doing the whole thing, and the one person is getting pregnant and giving birth, whereas with this we’re both involved in a massive way." She noted, "It’s definitely brought us closer together emotionally. We’re a close couple anyway, but we both have a special bond with Otis as well, which was helped by the way we’ve done it."
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Jasmine agreed say that the procedure made the couple feel "equal in the whole process."
In a post written for U.K. site Female First, the Clinic's medical director Nick Macklon echoed that sentiment, writing, "Shared motherhood comes with a number of social, emotional, and psychological benefits to both partners. It allows both women to experience motherhood, and allows both women to feel 'equally related' and build a bond with the child, something that, while a common experience of heterosexual couples, hasn’t previously been possible for lesbian couples."
The couple is currently equally focused on musing about their son's future. "Jasmine said he’s going to be an astronaut, but he can be whatever he wants to be," Donna told The Telegraph. "We’ll always support him in whatever he wants to do. We’re just happy that it’s worked so well and the information is out there. It will help people in the future—it brings you closer together rather than feeling one has a bond more than the other."