In an apparent world-first, both women in a same-sex couple have a biological connection to their son after each carried the same embryo during different phases of an in vitro fertilization (IVF) attempt. As strange as it may sound, achieving this unique family dynamic required only a slight modification to an established IVF process and led to a healthy, normal birth.
The proud mothers are Ashleigh and Bliss Coulter, a married couple from northern Texas. The medical experts behind the breakthrough are husband-and-wife fertility doctors Kathy and Kevin Doody of the CARE Fertility clinic. Speaking to ABC affiliate WFAA, the Coulters explained that even though they planned to use eggs harvested from Bliss and to implant the fertilized embryos into Ashleigh, they still hoped to find a way for Bliss to feel she had helped carry the baby.
Thankfully for them, a special procedure that could make this desire a reality was approved by the FDA in 2015. It had simply never been used for this purpose before. Known as “effortless IVF”, the procedure involves retrieving mature egg follicles and placing them inside a small, flexible device – the INVOcell, developed by the medical device company INVO Biosciences – alongside the father/donor sperm. The INVOcell is then placed inside the vagina of the mother-to-be for several days, during which time the embryo will hopefully form and begin developing within. The device is then extracted, and the embryo is transferred to the uterus.