Everything You Need To Know About Shared Motherhood

| 24.11.2017


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By Professor Nick Macklon, Medical Director of The London Women’s Clinic Group

There is now an abundance of fertility options available to all women and families across the world

Fertility treatment has advanced at a rapid rate since the first successful IVF treatment took place, 40 years ago. There is now an abundance of fertility options available to all women and families across the world, and with increased acceptance and acknowledgement of the many different family dynamics of modern society, this has paved the way for a bigger variety of fertility treatments which suit different needs.

Shared Motherhood is one such example of these developments, but what is this and why is it becoming an increasingly popular option amongst lesbian couples? Here, Professor Nick Macklon, Medical Director at one of the UK’s leading fertility clinics, The London Women’s Clinic (www.londonwomensclinic.co.uk), shares his expert insight on this revolutionary fertility treatment.

What is Shared Motherhood?

Shared Mothered treatment was pioneered by consultants at the London Women’s Clinic more than 20 years ago, to allow lesbian couples to share the motherhood experience from the stage of conception. The process involves one partner going through the IVF process to produce eggs, which are then fertilised with a donor’s sperm. The embryo is then implanted into the womb of the other female partner who carries the child to full term and gives birth. The outcome of the treatment is that one woman is the biological mother of the child whilst the other is the gestational mother.

Is it safe and successful?

The concept of Shared Motherhood (also known as partner assisted reproduction, Inter-spousal Egg Donation, ROPA or reciprocal IVF), is a viable and safe option for lesbian couples and a recent study conducted by our team at the LWC has affirmed this. We studied 121 lesbian couples treated with the technique between 2011 and 2016 at the London Women’s Clinic, and the findings revealed that 60% of couples succeeded in having a live healthy birth.  These outcomes are excellent in comparison with standard IVF treatments and provide reassurance as to the efficacy of the technique.

What are the benefits?  

Shared Motherhood comes with a number of social, emotional and psychological benefits to both partners. It allows both women to experience motherhood, and allows both women to feel ‘equally related’ and build a bond with the child, something that, while a common experience of heterosexual couples, hasn’t previously been possible for lesbian couples.  Many lesbian couples go on to have a second child, and reverse the roles.

It also becomes an attractive option when one of the women is older and where their eggs may be of lower quality. They have the option to carry the child using their younger partner’s fertilised egg to ensure the chances of a healthy live birth are high, but they are still heavily involved in the development of the embryo.   

What makes it different to other treatments for lesbian couples?

Previously, if a lesbian couple had a baby through donor sperm and IVF, the other woman had to adopt the child to become its rightful parent. However, through this dual-motherhood option, both women are equal as parents in the eyes of the law, heightening the feelings of emotional involvement, thus increasing the bond between both mothers and baby, whilst limiting potential legal complications which could make one partner feel less involved.

Who qualifies?

The treatment is most appropriate for lesbian partners who are married as this allows the child to be registered on their birth certificate as having two mothers. Both women must also be able to either supply their eggs, or carry a baby safely, therefore the same guidelines in terms of age and lifestyle factors for optimum fertility and pregnancy still apply.

Where can I seek treatment?

Currently it is only offered by private fertility clinics in selected countries that permit the treatment as well as homosexual marriage, particularly Western counties including the UK and Spain.

Many fertility clinics, such as The London Women’s Clinic, also offer seminars where you and your partner can learn more about the treatment and think carefully and in-depth about the financial, psychological and physical elements it involves.

For more information about the treatments offered by Professor Nick Macklon and The London Women’s Clinic please visit: https://www.londonwomensclinic.com/