Reciprocal IVF (also called shared IVF, shared maternity, or co-IVF) allows two people with ovaries and uteruses to share the experience of biological family building. In reciprocal IVF, one partner provides the eggs while the other partner carries the pregnancy and gives birth. To understand the specifics of this type of assisted reproduction, let’s discuss the process of IVF itself first.
How Does IVF Work?
During in vitro fertilization (IVF), an embryologist combines eggs and sperm in a lab to develop embryos. Once an embryo has matured enough, a fertility doctor transfers it into a uterus, to hopefully implant and develop into a pregnancy.
In standard IVF, the person carrying the pregnancy uses their own eggs for fertilization. In contrast, donor egg IVF uses eggs from one person and then transfers the embryo to another person. Donor egg IVF has similar success rates to IVF after properly preparing the recipient for the embryo transfer and implantation with hormonal medications. Reciprocal IVF uses the same principle as donor egg IVF.
How Does Reciprocal IVF Work?
In reciprocal IVF, one partner provides the eggs for fertilization. The other partner then receives the embryo, carries the pregnancy, and gives birth. Reciprocal IVF is unique in that both partners can share a biological connection to their child. The partner providing eggs shares a genetic relationship with their child. Meanwhile, the other partner nurtures the developing pregnancy and creates a physical connection. Regardless of biology and genetics, both partners are full parents because of their commitment to raising and loving the child. After all, that’s what truly makes a family.
The Reciprocal IVF Process
As a first step, both partners will undergo a fertility evaluation and testing. This provides information on chances of success and identifies any fertility challenges that may be present. It also can help inform which role each partner will have, if you have not already chosen.
Next, you will need to choose a sperm donor. You can choose from a donor bank, or ask a friend or family member to donate. There are different considerations for each option, and it’s important to be clear on your priorities. Start with our guide to donor sperm, then ask us about additional resources to assist you in this decision.
To begin the process itself, the partner providing the egg goes through ovarian stimulation and an egg retrieval. This involves taking hormones regularly for a few weeks and a minor surgical procedure to remove the mature eggs.
After the retrieval, the eggs and donor sperm are combined to develop embryos, which are often frozen before transfer. If you wish to have the embryos genetically tested, that happens just before freezing.
After fertilization, the partner receiving the embryos will take hormonal medications to prepare their body and uterine lining. They then go through an embryo transfer, a brief procedure that places the embryo in the uterus to hopefully implant and grow into a pregnancy.
The steps in reciprocal IVF are safe, tested, relatively simple. Reciprocal IVF has high success rates, particularly for healthy partners under 35 years old with no fertility-related challenges.
Why Does PNWF Use the Term Shared IVF?
At PNWF, we refer to the process of reciprocal IVF as “shared IVF” or, if it resonates with the couple, “shared maternity.” We feel that the term “reciprocal IVF” can seem clinical, and that the idea of a shared experience better reflects the emotional intent of both parents. We strive to celebrate and support both parents in this process. To this end, your personal preferences and comfort matters most, so we will happily adjust our terms to uplift your lived experience.
Legal Considerations for Reciprocal IVF
We strongly recommend that you consult with a fertility lawyer to ensure that both parents have legal parental rights. Depending on your location, the partner carrying the pregnancy may be legally considered a surrogate, while the partner providing the eggs might be considered an egg donor or the exclusive legal, genetic parent. We have created specific documents for reciprocal IVF that view both partners as legal parents during treatment. However, other clinics may have different policies, and each state has their own laws. Make sure you find a fertility lawyer experienced in helping LGBTQ+ parents establish full legal parental rights.
PNWF Leads the Field in Shared IVF
PNWF has proudly served our LGBGTQ+ community for decades, and we support everyone’s fundamental right to build a family. Our Center for LGBTQ+ Fertility offers specialized services and resources, including reciprocal IVF. To learn more, contact us to schedule an appointment today.