Fertility procedure allows 2 women to carry same baby, presents new choices for same-sex couples

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Paula Faris reports on two women who underwent fertilityprocedure to carry the same baby.

For the first time in history, two women have carried the same baby thanks to an amazing new medical advance. Now, baby Stetson has two doting moms who were both able to participate in a way that's never been done before.

"He's our miracle baby," Ashleigh Coulter said.

The 28-year-old mother and her 36-year-old partner Bliss talked with WFAA in Dallas.

"He's perfect," Bliss said. "Our cute little cowboy."

Bliss and Ashleigh met six years ago and fell in love, and then came marriage.

"I wanted to be pregnant for so long and so bad," Ashleigh said.

"I always wanted to have a child," Bliss added. "I just didn't want to carry the child."

The couple knew that welcoming their own biological child would require a sperm donor, as well as some creativity.

"Obviously, us being two women, we were like, how can we make this happen?" Ashleigh said. "We felt like there has to be a way."

And as it turned out, there was a way for both women to carry their own baby.

Fertility specialists Dr. Kathy Doody and husband Dr. Kevin Doody at the CARE Fertility in Bedford were the first to try what's called reciprocal effortless In Vitro Fertilization using radical technology, which gave Bliss and Ashleigh a shot at motherhood.

"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 said. "And Kevin said, 'I think you're right. I think we could.'"

The process starts like traditional IVF.

"Bliss went through the stimulation of her ovaries and the egg harvest," Dr. Kathy said.

Instead of placing the sperm and Bliss' eggs into incubators in a lab, which is called reciprocal IVF and has been carried out for same-sex couples for years, they go into the chamber of the INVOcell device immediately after egg retrieval. The device was placed into Bliss' body for five days, where early embryo development begins.

"She got the embryo off to an early start," Dr. Kathy said. "The eggs fertilized in her body, and when they returned five days later, we removed the device and froze the embryos."

Because embryos don't have livers, kidneys or lungs, traditionally, electromechanical devices like incubators are used in labs to remove toxins and try to maintain a supportive environment for the embryo.

"It turns out, not surprisingly, that the woman's own body is a very good incubator," Dr. 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."

Next, it was Ashleigh's turn.

"Almost like passing the baton, like it's a relay race," Dr. Kathy said.

Doctors evaluated Ashleigh's uterus, gave her estrogen and then progesterone, waited for the right time and transferred her wife's embryos to her body. 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."

The cost of effortless IVF using INVOcell is approximately half the cost of traditional IVF, which usually runs between $14,000 and $16,000 with medication.

Reciprocal effortless IVF, which is the process Bliss and Ashleigh underwent, is about $8,000 with medication, compared to traditional reciprocal IVF involving lab incubators that cost roughly $15,000 to $20,000.

Dr. Kathy responded to critics who may believe that this science is contrary to religious beliefs.

"Well, I would respectfully disagree with them," she said. "I think that family, relationship, children is exactly everything that was meant to be in our world."

"It was everything I hoped it would be," Ashleigh said.

Stetson is a happy, healthy 5-month-old baby, and Bliss and Ashleigh are busy with motherhood.

"No one really knew it was possible, but it worked magnificently," Bliss said.

The couple has two additional frozen embryos from Bliss that they could use the same way, unless Ashleigh wants to use her eggs next time since only Bliss' genes transferred to Stetson.

"I think it opens up new avenues, new choices for same sex couples," Dr. Kathy said.

Since Ashleigh's delivery, a second same-sex couple in North Texas went through the reciprocal effortless IVF process at CARE Fertility, got pregnant and delivered a healthy baby girl in September.

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