A guide to shared IVF/co-IVF/reciprocal IVF/shared maternity
“Shared IVF” (also called reciprocal IVF, co-IVF, or shared maternity) is a meaningful way for two people born with ovaries and uteruses to participate together in biological family building.
How Does Standard IVF Work?
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is the process of combining an egg and sperm in a lab to develop an embryo. We transfer the resulting embryo into a uterus, where it hopefully implants and becomes a pregnancy. Often, the embryos are first biopsied for testing and then immediately frozen. The healthiest embryo can be thawed and selected for a frozen embryo transfer
In the most standard version of IVF, the person carrying the pregnancy provides the egg as well. However, through our experience with donor egg IVF, we know that we can transfer embryos developed using one person’s eggs into another person’s uterus, after appropriate hormone preparation. This is how shared IVF works; it allows two people born with ovaries and uteruses to participate in the family building process.
What Is Shared IVF?
In shared IVF, one partner provides the eggs while the other partner receives the resulting embryo and carries the pregnancy. This way, both parents have a biological connection to their child. One parent shares a genetic relationship by providing the egg, while the other parent influences the developing pregnancy by carrying it in their uterus. And of course, both partners are also parents because they raise the child together, regardless of biological connection.
To begin the process, both partners undergo testing to make sure their role in the process will be medically successful. Then, the partner providing the egg goes through ovarian stimulation and an egg retrieval. The eggs are fertilized with donor sperm to develop embryos, which are usually frozen. Some patients choose to do genetic testing on the embryos (called PGT-A) before freezing the embryos. The partner planning to carry the pregnancy then takes hormonal medications to prepare their uterus to accept an embryo. Then, we transfer one embryo into their uterus. Both the egg retrieval and embryo transfer procedures are safe and relatively simple. Shared IVF has high success rates, especially for partners in good health, under 35 years old, and with no history of fertility challenges.
Why Does PNWF Call It Shared IVF?
If you’ve researched this process, you may have seen it called “reciprocal IVF” or “co-IVF”. The procedure is exactly the same. At PNWF, we feel that the term “shared IVF” better represents the emotional intent behind the experience, rather than a clinical description of the process. Similarly, some patients resonate with the term “shared maternity” to describe their shared parental roles. We believe that these terms celebrate and uplift both parents in the process. However, we’re happy to adjust our terminology to support your specific journey or preference.
What Special Considerations Does Shared IVF Involve?
First, you and your partner will need to choose a sperm donor. You can read our guide to donor sperm here. We’re happy to provide additional resources to help with your decision.
Second, we recommend consulting with a fertility lawyer to make sure both parents have equal legal parental rights. Many states consider the parent providing the eggs as an egg donor or the genetic parent, while considering the parent carrying the pregnancy as a surrogate. At PNWF, we recognize that the two individuals are partners and co-parents, and we have designed specific consents for shared IVF that establish both partners as legal parents. Each state and clinic has their own laws and policies, however. A lawyer with LGBTQ+ fertility experience can help make sure that both of you have legal parentage.
PNWF Leads the Field in Shared IVF
We founded our clinic on the belief that everyone deserves the chance to build a family. We have proudly served LGBTQ+ parents in our community for decades, and formalized that commitment last year in our Center for LGBTQ+ Fertility. If you and your partner are interested in shared IVF, we’d love to help! Make an appointment with us today.