Reciprocal IVF: Is it Right for You?

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Assisted reproductive technology (ART) has historically been a game changer for hopeful parents in same-sex partnerships. ART allows unique ways to build their families, from intended fathers utilizing an egg donor and gestational surrogate to carry their baby, to intended mothers using a sperm donor to help create embryos. How do you know if reciprocal IVF is an option for you?

What is reciprocal IVF?

Reciprocal IVF, sometimes referred to as partner IVF, co-IVF, shared motherhood or ROPA (reception of oocytes from partner), is exactly as it sounds: both partners have equal participation in the IVF process. One partner takes the first steps, undergoing all the necessary testing to harvest their eggs for retrieval. The second partner then has the fertilized embryo transferred to their uterus to carry and give birth to the baby.

Is reciprocal IVF exclusive for lesbian couples? Not necessarily; it also allows trans men who have functioning ovaries or a uterus to participate.

How long is the reciprocal IVF process?

Reciprocal IVF is very similar to third party IVF, which is when an egg donor or surrogate is involved. One person spends several weeks undergoing genetic testing, a medical workup, and injectable fertility medication leading up to the first major milestone: the egg retrieval.

Meanwhile, the second person is getting prepped for another milestone: the embryo transfer. Once the eggs have been retrieved, they are combined with sperm – either from an anonymous or known donor, in this case – to create embryos. The reproductive endocrinologist will then select the healthiest embryo to transfer.

The entire process can vary in length depending on unforeseen medical issues, but it typically takes about two to three months.

How much does reciprocal IVF cost?

Again, reciprocal IVF costs are relatively similar to IVF with an egg donor. Depending on your state, you may have insurance coverage for all or part of the medical aspects. Some insurance carriers, however, do not cover the cost of reciprocal IVF unless it is a medical necessity. In those cases, the individual who is having their eggs retrieved is also expected to carry the baby. Including injectable medications, an IVF cycle with a fresh transfer typically costs between $15,000 and $20,000.

Because these costs can vary widely from clinic to clinic, it’s important to understand all potential expenses and if you will have any insurance coverage.

What are the legal implications of reciprocal IVF?

As with any IVF procedure that does not involve two biological parents, reciprocal IVF legal implications can vary from state to state. You will want to ensure both partners have parental rights and that both parents appear on the baby’s birth certificate, and that may require one of you to legally adopt the child.

It’s always best to consult with an attorney well versed in reproductive law to help you determine the best course of action.

What is the future of reciprocal IVF?

In the past, same sex couples were limited to standard IUI or IVF; only one parent could be genetically related to the baby. Thanks to reciprocal IVF, both parents can play a crucial role in the creation and development of their child. While only one parent, with the help of donor sperm, is providing the genetic material, the other is able to experience a connection through pregnancy and childbirth. Studies actually show that cells can cross the placental barrier and introduce the carrying mother’s DNA to the baby, and vice versa. While it doesn’t impact the baby’s genetic makeup, it’s still a special link that the two can share.

Technological advancements have many wondering: can two female eggs “mix” to create an embryo? While we’re still a long way off from that reality, the concept of creating egg or sperm from stem cells is something scientists are exploring. In theory, the cell from one woman could be used to produce sperm, which would then fertilize her partner’s egg.

It’s truly fascinating to consider all the ways technology helps people realize their dreams of parenthood. To learn more about how you can build your family through egg donation and surrogacy, contact our team.