Reciprocal IVF – What Is It?
Reciprocal IVF is a type of IVF (in vitro fertilization) treatment that allows lesbian couples who do not have infertility to have a baby of their own. The definition of reciprocal IVF is the same as regular IVF, however in this procedure eggs are retrieved from one partner and used to fertilize with a qualified donor sperm which is taken from a sperm bank, then fertilized embryos are transferred into the other partner’s uterus. Eggs are then fertilized, and the other female partner carries the pregnancy. Also called two-mom IVF or partner IVF, the procedure is highly appealing for many lesbian couples as it allows both partners to have physically and biologically connection with their baby.
Reciprocal IVF – How Is It Performed?
First of all, a known or unknown (clinic-recruited) sperm donor is chosen. When the sperm donor is chosen, it undergoes certain semen analysis, medical tests and detailed screening in case of the risk of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV, syphilis, hepatitis, and gonorrhea. Meanwhile, both female partners start to synchronize their menstrual cycle according to their own timelines by using a combination of contraceptive pills and Lupron. The partner who is providing the eggs will start an ovarian stimulation cycle and the egg retrieval procedure.
Then, the eggs are fertilized by the donor sperm, and the embryo is created. This fertilization process is called egg insemination. When the controlled stimulation of the ovaries end, the other partner who will carry the pregnancy (surrogate mother) takes preparatory medications for the transfer of the embryo. Finally, the surrogacy process begins by transferring the embryos to the partner who is to carry the baby. However, some of these embryos can be frozen if the couple considers having a future pregnancy. Another type of same-sex couple IVF is called effortless IVF which is a procedure that uses an FDA approved device called the INVOcell to assist in fertilization. Different from Reciprocal IVF, effortless IVF is meaning that the same female provides the egg and carries the embryo.
Deciding on Reciprocal IVF Roles – Who Will Be the Surrogate?
Before a lesbian couple starts to have reciprocal IVF, choosing the one who will provide the egg and who will be the surrogate is the main concern. Although there are no strict rules to be able to be either of them, some factors play an extremely important role in choosing between. First of all, age is a very important factor in deciding who will be the egg provider. Women at younger ages are more likely to have a successful pregnancy because of the quality level of their eggs.
And the more the quality of the eggs are high, the more the chance of pregnancy is high. Fertility status is also another important factor. Because, when choosing the surrogate, sometimes one of the partner’s uterus may be more suitable for egg retrieval or pregnancy than the other partner.
Reciprocal IVF Legal Issues
The legal issues with reciprocal IVF are complex and vary by country to country. Unfortunately, same-sex parenting is legal only in a couple of countries such as Denmark, Belgium, Latvia, Finland, UK, Spain, and the U.S.A. But reciprocal IVF is not totally legal in the U.S.A and legality varies from state to state. For example, same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting are not legal in Louisiana. Reciprocal IVF in Greece is also legal. Depending on the local laws in each state, there may be some complex legal issues to settle before beginning the process.
In case of any disagreement or divorcement, courts may rule in favor of the surrogate mother if she wants to have the baby’s custody. So, you should have a legal agreement with your partner beforehand.
Reciprocal IVF Success Rates
The success rates of lesbian IVF treatment depend greatly on the age of the woman providing the eggs. If she is under 35, the chance for pregnancy is likely to be high. Because using the eggs of a healthy and young woman increases the success rates of IVF treatments. Although the partner who will provide the eggs should undergo certain pre-screening in case of any potential health problems and hereditary diseases, the younger she is, the more the chance of pregnancy is.
According to a clinical study comprised 121 consecutive lesbian couples treated between 2011 and 2016, the cumulative live birth rate per receiver was 60 %, and the twins delivery rate was 14 %. The oldest donor achieving a live birth was 40 years old.
The typical success rates of reciprocal IVF are as the following:
49% for women aged under 35
36% for women aged under 35-37
23% for women aged 38-39
16% for women aged 40-42
9% for women aged 43-44
2% for women aged 45 and over.
Reciprocal IVF Cost – Is It Covered by Insurance?
Reciprocal IVF insurance coverage is a big concern for lesbian couples. Most health insurances do not generally cover the cost of reciprocal IVF if there is not a medical necessity. Only a small percentage of the expenses of consultation, diagnostic tests doctor visits and medications for the surrogate may be covered.
Generally, the cost of lesbian IVF is almost equal to IVF cost both are almost identical procedures. So how much does reciprocal IVF cost? Although Reciprocal IVF cost may vary widely among IVF centers, the price is around €20.000 on average, and this cost may even reach € 50.000 when consultation and fertility medication expenses add.
This content is edited by Flymedi Medical Editors in April 2019.