When Ashleigh and Bliss Coutler started to plan to have a baby, they knew that welcoming their own biological child would require a sperm donor and some creativity.
“Obviously, us being two women, we were like, ‘How can we make this happen?'” Ashleigh told USAToday. “We felt like there has to be a way.”
“I wanted to be pregnant for so long and so bad,” Ashleigh told ABC news 7.
“I always wanted to have a child,” Bliss added. “I just didn’t want to carry the child.”
Fertility specialists Dr. Kathy Doody and her husband, Dr. Kevin Doody, of the CARE Fertility in Bedford, Texas, were the first to try reciprocal effortless in vitro fertilization.
“We were just talking one night at home and I said, ‘You know, I think we could use this for a same-sex couple,'” Dr. Kathy recalled. “And Kevin said: ‘I think you’re right. I think we could.'”
Bliss’ eggs were harvested, and instead of placing the sperm and eggs into incubators in a lab, they went into the chamber of the INVOcell device immediately after egg retrieval. That device was placed into Bliss’ body for five days where early embryo development begins.
“She got the embryo off to an early start,” Kathy said. “The eggs fertilized in her body, and when they returned five days later, we removed the device and froze the embryos.”
“It turns out, not surprisingly, that the woman’s own body is a very good incubator,” Kathy said, clarifying how INVOcell works. “We have livers, kidneys, and lungs, so we’re able to provide those same services to the embryo more naturally.”
Doctors then evaluated Ashleigh’s uterus, gave her estrogen and then progesterone, waited for the right time and transferred her wife’s embryos to her body.
As luck would have it – they got pregnant on the first try!
“She got to carry him for five days and was a big part of the fertilization, and then I carried him for nine months,” Ashleigh said. “So that made it really special for the both of us – that we were both involved. She got to be a part of it, and I got to be a part of it.”
Now, 5-months-old baby Stetson is a happy, healthy little boy!
The cost of effortless IVF using INVOcell was about half the cost of traditional IVF totaling about $8,000 with medication.
There could be more joy in the future for the couple who still have two additional frozen embryos from Bliss. They could also choose to use Ashleigh’s eggs next time because only Bliss’ genes transferred to Stetson.