Reciprocal IVF: What should my partner and I consider?

Reciprocal IVF explained

Emily Patrick and Kerry Osborn recently made UK history by being the first to give birth to each other’s babies in a process known as simultaneous reciprocal IVF. Ezra was conceived using Emily’s fertilised egg and carried by Kerry, while Elvis, born just a few weeks earlier, was carried by Emily using Kerry’s egg. The same sperm donor fertilised both eggs.

What is reciprocal IVF?

Reciprocal IVF is also referred to as shared motherhood, co-maternity, shared parenthood or intra-partner egg donation. It is a fertility treatment option that allows both partners in a same-sex female relationship to participate in the experience of conception and pregnancy.

If you choose to undergo reciprocal IVF, eggs are collected from one partner and fertilised in our lab using donor sperm. The most suitable embryo is then chosen for transfer into the other partner. Considerations include:

Choosing which partner will be the donor and which will be the carrier

At the beginning of your journey, both you and your partner will undergo a fertility check. The partner donating her eggs should have a good ovarian reserve, which is assessed by an ultrasound scan showing the number of follicles on each ovary, the small fluid-filled sacs that can potentially release an egg. Blood tests are also performed to measure certain hormones, such as anti-müllerian hormone (AMH). Low AMH levels can indicate a low ovarian reserve.

A pelvic ultrasound scan will also be performed to check the health of your and your partner’s uterus to facilitate a successful implantation.

These factors can highlight who is most suitable to be the donor or carry the pregnancy. However, if both of you have no fertility issues, it is up to you to make a personal choice, and we can provide you with our expertise and support when making that decision.

Understanding the risks

Neither role is free of risk as you’ll both be taking fertility medications, and both may experience side effects. Then, one partner will be going through pregnancy and childbirth.

As in the case of Emily Patrick and Kerry Osborn, if you are undergoing simultaneous or concurrent reciprocal IVF, then this may also mean unforeseen challenges as you may have very different experiences of pregnancy and childbirth.

Choosing the right sperm donor 

You can either use sperm from a known donor or from a sperm bank. At Aria, we provide the facility for sperm donors to donate their sperm on a known basis to either a friend, family member or someone else known to them.

We also work with several established sperm banks and can help advise and support you through the process. We will also inform you on when you should order donor sperm in advance of your treatment.

Understanding the legal implications

Understanding the legal implications of using a sperm donor and reciprocal IVF is vital. For example, if you and your partner are married, you are both the legal parents to the child born. However, you must consent to legal parenthood if you are not married before receiving treatment.

If you use sperm through a sperm bank, there are strict regulations regarding donors. A sperm donor can request confirmation of the number of children born, inducing gender and year of birth, but otherwise, the identity of the child and mother will remain anonymous. The donor will have no legal or financial rights or obligations in relation to the child. At the age of 18, your child will have the right to basic information about their sperm donor if they wish.

Using a known donor can be more complicated, so it is vital to obtain legal advice and consider a donor agreement. While they are not legally binding, they record the intentions of all involved.

Our team is here to answer any questions you may have and support you through the process of reciprocal IVF.