Breakthroughs in IVF: How a Same-Sex Couple Carried the Same Baby

animation of IVF, where a pipette inserts sperm into an egg

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is certainly nothing new to same-sex couples, as it is a method of assisted reproduction that both same-sex couples and those who suffer from infertility have used for many years now. Traditional methods of IVF involve combing the eggs and sperm in a petri dish and then incubating them over the course of several days in a lab. From there, the doctor inserts the now-fertilized egg into the woman’s uterus for her to carry the baby until birth.

However, thanks to new advancements in IVF, it recently became possible for a same-sex couple to both carry their baby, and this new breakthrough holds a lot of promise for the future of assisted reproductive technology (ART).

The miracle baby

Using a new method of IVF called reciprocal effortless in vitro fertilization, same-sex couple Ashley and Bliss Coulter were able to both carry their “miracle baby.” The procedure actually entails two different methods of IVF combined together to achieve the end result. These two forms of IVF are called effortless IVF and reciprocal IVF.

Effortless IVF is similar to the normal method of IVF, except instead of placing the sperm and egg into an incubator, they are instead put into a capsule called an INVOcell that can then be inserted into a woman’s vagina to act as a natural incubator. Reciprocal IVF, meanwhile, simply means that a different woman than the one who will carry the baby donates the eggs to use in the IVF process.

In the Coulters’ case, both of these methods were used so that both partners could carry their child. The couple decided that Bliss would be the one to provide the egg for fertilization. Once the egg was retrieved from her ovaries and combined with the donor sperm, the doctors placed it back into her body using the INVOcell capsule for five days as the embryo developed. They then transferred the embryo into Ashley’s body for her to carry until birth.

Advances in assisted reproductive technology

While the development of reciprocal effortless IVF is an amazing achievement, there have been a lot of other advances in assisted reproductive technology that have helped many people have children of their own when they otherwise couldn’t. Many of these advancements, such as effortless IVF, even helped pave the way for reciprocal effortless IVF.

One such advancement is that of in vitro maturation (IVM), which is a process of collecting immature eggs from a woman that are then matured outside of her body through the use of hormones. This is advantageous over traditional IVF techniques because the woman undergoing IVM doesn’t have to take medication to stimulate egg production like is typically required with IVF.

Out of all of these advancements and technologies, one of the biggest breakthroughs in ART is intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). In essence, ICSI is a procedure in which a mature egg is directly injected with sperm using a needle. This technique is used most often in cases where couples are dealing with male infertility. ICSI allows for an egg to be fertilized by the male’s sperm in situations where they normally couldn’t, such as in the case of a low sperm count or poor sperm quality.

While there have been many advancements in ART that have already been put into practice, there are many more that are still undergoing research. Uterus transplantation is one such advancement that is still being researched, though a woman with a transplanted uterus has already given birth to a baby in the US.

Uterus transplantation holds a lot of promise for the future of ART research. In the future, it may be possible for any woman who wasn’t born with a uterus to give birth after a successful transplantation. This would also give hope to women who have other types of uterine factor infertility.

With that said, uterus transplantation does come with quite a few ethical concerns. A few include: whether or not women who desperately want to have a baby are capable of giving informed consent, if resources should be devoted to such a procedure when other options are available, and some concerns regarding the cost of the procedure.

Even with these concerns, the progress that has been made in uterus transplantation is an amazing achievement of medical research and helps advance the field of assisted reproduction. While a lot of work still needs to go into it before it’s ready for the masses, it does hold a lot of promise and could be a great contribution to ART.

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