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What Is Reciprocal IVF? Everything You Need to Know.

06.16.2023 / The Oova Team
What Is Reciprocal IVF? Everything You Need to Know.

Reciprocal IVF, also known as "shared motherhood," is a fertility treatment that is growing in popularity. It's an option that empowers female same-sex couples to actively shape the conception and gestation of their child. 

This approach to fertility combines the benefits of in vitro fertilization (IVF) with the desire for a biological connection. With reciprocal IVF, one partner contributes the eggs, which are then fertilized with carefully selected donor sperm. The embryos are then transferred to the other partner's uterus for pregnancy.

Understanding the intricacies of reciprocal IVF is crucial for individuals and couples who are exploring different paths to parenthood.

This article will give you the knowledge and insights to make informed decisions about your fertility journey, whether you're considering reciprocal IVF or seeking information to support a loved one.

What it is     Process     IVF vs. reciprocal IVF     Success rates     Cost

What is reciprocal IVF?

Reciprocal IVF is an assisted reproductive technique that enables both partners to actively participate in both the conception and gestation of their child, even if both partners have uteruses. It is a process that combines the principles of in vitro fertilization (IVF) with the desire for shared parental involvement.

In reciprocal IVF, one partner contributes the eggs while the other partner carries the pregnancy.

This approach provides an opportunity for both partners to have a biological connection to their child and experience the journey to parenthood together.

Reciprocal IVF process

The reciprocal IVF process involves several stages and typically follows the same fundamental steps as traditional IVF, with differences in who is involved in biological conception and who carries the pregnancy.

Initial consultation

You’ll typically meet with a fertility specialist or reproductive endocrinologist. During this consultation, they’ll review medical history and conduct necessary fertility tests. 

Ovarian stimulation

The partner who plans to provide the eggs will take fertility medications to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple mature eggs. The dosage and duration of medication will be determined based on individual factors and the fertility specialist's recommendations. Regular monitoring through blood work and ultrasound scans will be conducted to assess follicle growth and hormone levels.

Egg retrieval

Once the follicles reach the desired size, a thin needle is inserted into the ovaries to retrieve the mature eggs. The process usually takes around 20-30 minutes, and the retrieved eggs are then handed over to the laboratory.

Sperm collection

Simultaneously, the person who plans to contribute the sperm (referred to as the "sperm provider") provides a fresh semen sample on the day of the egg retrieval. If needed, alternative methods such as surgical sperm retrieval (testicular sperm extraction or epididymal sperm aspiration) can be used to obtain sperm.


Once the eggs and sperm are collected, they are brought together in the laboratory for fertilization. The chosen method of fertilization is typically in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). In IVF, the eggs and sperm are placed in a culture dish, allowing fertilization to occur naturally. With ICSI, a single sperm is injected directly into each mature egg to enhance the chances of fertilization.

Embryo development and transfer

After fertilization, the embryos are closely monitored in the laboratory for their development. The embryos are typically left to grow for a few days until they reach the desired stage of development for transfer. Selected embryos are then transferred into the uterus of the partner who will carry the pregnancy (referred to as the "recipient partner").

The number of embryos to be transferred will depend on various factors, including the recipient partner's age and the quality of the embryos. Any remaining viable embryos can be cryopreserved (frozen) for future use.

Pregnancy test and follow-up

Following the embryo transfer, a period of waiting begins to determine if the transfer was successful. Around 10-14 days after the transfer, the recipient partner will take a pregnancy test. If the test confirms a positive pregnancy, further monitoring and prenatal care will be initiated to support the ongoing pregnancy.

>>MORE: What Not to Do During the Two-Week Wait

It's important to note that the specific details of the reciprocal IVF process can vary based on individual circumstances and the protocols followed by the fertility clinic. Your fertility specialist will provide you with personalized guidance and support throughout each stage of the process, ensuring your unique needs and preferences are taken into account.

How long is the reciprocal IVF process?

The reciprocal IVF process typically spans several weeks to a few months.

While the length of the process may vary from couple to couple, each step of the process typically takes: 

  • Initial consultation: One day for an initial consultation, then a few weeks to do testing and evaluation
  • Ovarian stimulation: 8 to 12 days
  • Egg retrieval and sperm collection: One day, usually done within the same day
  • Fertilization and embryo development: 3 to 6 days
  • Embryo transfer: a few minutes
  • Waiting period and pregnancy test: must wait 10-14 days before taking a test.

What is the difference between IVF and reciprocal IVF?

While both procedures involve assisted reproductive techniques, IVF and reciprocal IVF differ in biological contribution and typical parenthood models.

In IVF, the intended mother or an egg donor provides the eggs for fertilization, while the intended father or a sperm donor provides the sperm. The fertilized embryos are then transferred to the same intended mother's uterus or a gestational carrier for implantation and gestation.

>>RELATED: Navigating the Medications of IVF

In reciprocal IVF, the process involves having one partner contribute her genetic material through her eggs. The eggs are then fertilized outside of the body before being transferred into the other partner. The other partner then carries the pregnancy and gives birth to the child.

By embracing shared motherhood, reciprocal IVF celebrates the diversity of family-building options and supports the aspirations of individuals and couples in the LGBTQ+ community.

>>RELATED: Fertility Benefits Need to Include the LGBTQ+ Community

How successful is reciprocal IVF?

Reciprocal IVF has shown encouraging pregnancy success rates. 

According to a study published in the Porto Biomedical Journal, the cumulative pregnancy rate per cycle in reciprocal IVF for female same-sex couples was reported to be around 60% after six cycles

What is the cost of reciprocal IVF?

The cost of reciprocal IVF can vary depending on several factors, including geographic location, the specific fertility clinic, additional procedures or treatments required, and any insurance coverage.

While it’s challenging to provide exact figures due to the variability, here are some general cost considerations:

  • Fertility clinic fees: These fees typically include consultations, fertility assessments, ovarian stimulation medications, egg retrieval, sperm preparation, in vitro fertilization, embryo culture, and embryo transfer. The total cost for these clinic services can range from several thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.
  • Medication costs: The medications used for ovarian stimulation and hormonal support during the reciprocal IVF process can contribute significantly to the total cost. The price of medications can vary depending on the dosage, brand, and duration of treatment. Some insurance plans may cover a portion of the medication costs.
  • Diagnostic tests and preparatory procedures: Prior to undergoing reciprocal IVF, individuals may need to undergo various diagnostic tests to assess fertility potential and overall health. These tests can include blood work, ultrasounds, and imaging studies. Additionally, preparatory procedures, such as hysteroscopy or sonohysterography, may be required to evaluate the uterine cavity and optimize the chances of successful embryo implantation. 

>>MORE: Infertility is Expensive. Here Are 7 Ways To Save Money When Trying to Conceive.


Reciprocal IVF is a reproductive option that allows same-sex female couples to have a biological connection to their child. Through the use of assisted reproductive techniques, such as egg retrieval, fertilization, and embryo transfer, both partners can actively participate in the process of creating their family.

If you are considering reciprocal IVF, it is crucial to consult with a fertility specialist who can provide personalized guidance, assess your individual circumstances, and address any concerns you may have.

They will be able to outline the specific steps involved in the process, discuss success rates, and provide you with the necessary support throughout your journey.

Reciprocal IVF opens doors to parenthood and allows individuals and couples to create a family in a way that is meaningful to them. With advances in reproductive technologies and the support of medical professionals, you can have the opportunity to embark on an incredible journey towards building the family you have always dreamed of.


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