For female same-sex couples, in vitro fertilization has long given one partner the opportunity to experience pregnancy, while the other partner can do little more than offer emotional support. Using a brand new procedure called Reciprocal effortless in vitro fertilization, however, a couple in Mountain Springs, Texas, just recently became the first pair of women to carry the same child.
Ashleigh and Bliss Coulter are now the proud mothers of a five-month-old boy named Stetson. The pair have been married since 2015, and were interested in having a child from the very beginning, according to Ashleigh:
I was very much interested in having children, but Bliss was a little iffy on it.
Bliss explained her hesitation to ABC News:
I wanted a child that was biologically mine, but I did not want to carry the child.
2 mothers carry same 'miracle' baby youtu.be
Ashleigh explained that in a same-sex relationship, typically, "one of them typically births the child and they use the sperm donor." In this arrangement, "the other mom has to adopt the child."
The couple consulted with Dr. Kathy Doody, a fertility specialist from the C.A.R.E Fertility Clinic in Bedford, and found out there might be a way for Bliss to be part of the conception and early incubation of their child, while Ashleigh handled the bulk of carrying the baby to term.
The process involved mixing two kinds of IVF: "effortless" and reciprocal. Effortless IVF uses a INVOcell capsule to let an egg be fertilized and incubated in a woman's womb as if it were an incubation chamber used by scientists, while reciprocal IVF is the standard procedure that lets one woman donate eggs that are incubated in a laboratory before being implanted into another women, who will carry the child to term. By combining these methods, the couple's eggs were fertilized and went through early incubation in Bliss before being transferred to Ashleigh, who carried the baby the rest of the way.
Bliss was thrilled by the possibility of the new treatment:
Knowing that we're about to create [something] that's biologically mine. My next thought, was what is he going to look like? What is he going to be like? Pretty much like every parent, but I was very excited that this was even possible.
The process went over without a hitch:
Doody harvested eggs from Bliss and introduced it to sperm from a donor in the INVOcell. It was then placed in Bliss to allow fertilization and formation of the embryos for five days. The embryos were then removed and frozen until Ashleigh was ready to receive them.
Meanwhile, Ashleigh was finishing her hormone treatments and preparing for the embryo. 10 days later, on their very first try, Ashleigh was pregnant with Bliss's baby. Ashleigh and Bliss joked about their good fortune:
"Bliss always jokes she has golden eggs. She came out of anesthesia and was like, 'Did you get all of the golden eggs?'
9 months later, Stetson was born without any issues. Bliss will never forget the day:
The moment he was born, I just thought to myself, 'I felt like I was the most blessed person in the whole world' because he was just perfect in every way.
Doody believes doctors should be developing more IVF methods to make child-bearing work for as many prospective parents as possible:
It feels more natural for parents and it gives them a unique bond with their baby.
Ashleigh couldn't agree more, saying that she feels especially close with the child she carried for nine months, but also knows the baby has a connection to her partner:
But when I look at him I get to see my wife. It is priceless.
Since the Coulters delivered Stetson, another couple has used the same procedure to carry a now-healthy baby girl. The pair are happy as can be being first-time moms, but Ashleigh is already working on convincing Bliss that two babies are better than one:
I'm going to talk her into a second one though for sure.