What to know about the new IVF treatment

A new fertility treatment has allowed two women to physically create a baby.

October 30, 2018, 7:32 PM

Ashleigh and Bliss Coulter from Mountain Springs, Texas, have become the first same-sex couple in the state to take part in the birth of a child using a technique called Reciprocal effortless in vitro fertilization, a procedure pioneered by their doctor, Dr. Kathy Doody, and her husband, Dr. Kevin Doody, both Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility specialists. Reciprocal effortless IVF is a unique way for two females to physically take part in the creation of a child.

What’s the difference between “Reciprocal IVF” and “Reciprocal effortless IVF?”

Reciprocal effortless IVF is a combination of two IVF treatments that allows two women to take part in carrying their child at different stages.

Reciprocal IVF has already been practiced for many years, and allows two women to participate. This involves fertilizing the eggs from one woman with sperm, incubating them in a lab, and then transferring the embryo to their female partner.

Effortless IVF is a procedure that uses an FDA approved device called the INVOcell to assist in reproduction. Once the eggs have been retrieved from the female, the sperm and egg are placed in a test tube for 5 minutes. They are then transferred to the INVOcell device, which is moved to a woman’s vagina. The vagina acts as an incubator and carries the embryo for 5 days. The INVOcell is then removed by a doctor and the embryo is implanted into the same woman’s uterus.

While effortless IVF typically involves the same female providing the egg and carrying the embryo, Reciprocal effortless IVF involves one female providing the egg and initial incubation environment, while another carries the embryo to term in a pregnancy.

Does that mean that two women can be pregnant with the same baby?

Each woman isn’t actually pregnant using this method. The first female holds the device containing the sperm and egg that becomes the embryo in her body for five days. The embryo is then transferred into the uterus of the woman who eventually gives birth. Only the second woman is actually pregnant.

What could this mean for same sex couples?

According to Dr. Doody, Bliss and Ashleigh Coulter were the first same sex couple that were both able to both carry the same baby. While Bliss provided the eggs and incubated the embryo for the first 5 days, it was transferred to Ashleigh who became pregnant and delivered their child.

“For same sex couples this opens up a whole new way to look at IVF,” said Doody.

What is the cost?

Dr. Doody’s website estimates the cost of effortless IVF to be $8,000 to $10,050, which can be less expensive than traditional IVF.

What are the differences between effortless IVF and traditional IVF procedures with incubation?

This procedure is not much of a departure from regular IVF, according to Dr. Richard Paulson, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and chief of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Southern California. The main difference is that the fertilization happens inside the first woman instead of an incubator.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Doody has a financial interest in the company that makes INVOcell, and her husband serves on its board.

Dr. Anna Jackson is a psychiatry resident at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect the following changes: The article originally stated that the Coulters were the first-ever same-sex couple to ever have this specific IVF procedure. They were in fact the first couple in Texas to have the procedure. Ashleigh Coulter's name was originally misspelled as Ashley, this has been corrected throughout the article. Reciprocal effortless in vitro fertilization was pioneered by both Dr. Kathy Doody and her husband, Dr. Kevin Doody, not just Dr. Kathy Doody.