In what USA Today is calling a potential "fertility world first," two Texas women carried the same child through a cutting edge process called reciprocal effortless In Vitro Fertilization using INVOcell.
The same-sex couple, Ashleigh Coulter, 28, and Bliss Coutler, 36, say they always wanted to find a way to have a child together, and new advances in fertilization techniques allowed that to happen in one sense: they both were able to carry the child at different points in the baby's development.
"Obviously, us being two women, we were like how can we make this happen?" Ashleigh told USA Today. "We felt like there has to be a way."
In what appears to be the first time the technique has ever been attempted, fertility specialists and husband and wife Drs. Kathy and Kevin Doody at the CARE Fertility clinic in Bedford, Texas tried reciprocal effortless In Vitro Fertilization using leading edge technology for the couple.
USA Today provides details on the process, which began like traditional IVF, using sperm from a sperm donor and harvested eggs, but then involved some key differences:
Instead of placing the sperm and Bliss' eggs into incubators in a lab, which is called reciprocal IVF and has been carried out for same-sex couples for years, they go into the chamber of the INVOcell device immediately after egg retrieval. The device is placed into Bliss' body for five days where early embryo development begins. ... Because embryos don't have livers, kidneys or lungs, traditionally, electromechanical devices like incubators are used in labs to remove toxins and try to maintain a supportive environment for the embryo.
Kathy explained that Bliss's body naturally "got the embryo off to an early start" because, "not surprisingly," a woman's body "is a very good incubator."
After the eggs were fertilized in her body, they removed them five days later and froze the embryos. They then gave Ashleigh estrogen and progesterone and transferred the embryos to her. "Almost like passing the baton," Kathy remarked. Ashleigh was pregnant after the first try.
"She got to carry him for five days and was a big part of the fertilization, and then I carried him for nine months," said Ashleigh. "So that made it really special for the both of us — that we were both involved. She got to be a part of it, and I got to be a part of it."
USA Today notes that the cost for the effortless IVF using INVOcell, around $8,000, is about half the cost of traditional IVF, which can run from $14,000 to $16,000.
Their son, Stetson, is now a healthy 5-month-old baby.
The new practice, said Kathy, "opens up new avenues, new choices for same-sex couples." Indeed, another couple has since used the process at their clinic to have a child.
In response to those who cite religious arguments against the complex scientific practices required to make the fertilization possible, Kathy said she would "respectfully disagree."
"I think that family, relationship, children is exactly everything that was meant to be in our world," she said.