What Is Reciprocal IVF?

Medically Reviewed by Mahammad Juber, MD on September 21, 2022

For people with uteruses, there are many paths to parenthood outside of sexual reproduction. One of those options is reciprocal IVF.

Reciprocal IVF, or reciprocal in vitro fertilization, is a process similar to the classic in vitro fertilization process but is more specific to two uterus-bearing people. Reciprocal IVF may be a good option for LGBTQ+ couples who wish to build their family while also contributing to academic research that helps advance fertility treatments for all people. 

Deciding on the pregnancy roles of each individual in reciprocal IVF can be difficult. Both parents may want to experience pregnancy, and each may also want to be the one to pass their genetic material to the child. 

Oftentimes, this can be decided when more than one child is wanted, in which case each parent can take a turn. For example, Parent A can contribute their egg to the first pregnancy, and when it's time for the second pregnancy to occur, the roles are reversed, and it will be Parent B’s turn. 

Sometimes, though, only one partner has the desire to experience pregnancy. This makes the process easier when deciding who wants to carry the child to term. Other factors that can help determine who experiences pregnancy include age and health. 

Another important factor to consider is the timing of the pregnancy. Couples who choose reciprocal IVF have two choices: immediate pregnancy, which involves transferring the child to the prospective mother within three to five days, or a choice to have their eggs frozen. Couples who choose the frozen route often choose it due to lifestyle commitments, health situations, and career choices that may affect the development of the child. Frozen eggs can remain viable for several years. 

What Is In Vitro Fertilization?

In vitro fertilization, often known as IVF, is the combination of sperm with an egg or eggs, oftentimes in a Petri dish. The fertilized eggs are then either placed into the uterus or frozen to be used in the future. 

Reciprocal IVF Process 

If both parents have reproductive female organs, reciprocal IVF can be considered instead of the typical in vitro fertilization method. In reciprocal IVF, the eggs are removed from one parent’s ovaries, fertilized or inseminated outside of the body, and then placed in the second parent’s body. This allows both partners to equally contribute to the IVF process. 

The first step in the reciprocal IVF process is to choose a sperm donor. You can choose either an anonymous donor or a known donor. Most of the times, and especially to avoid legal troubles, anonymous sperm donors are used. This is typically done through a service known as a sperm bank. Some couples choose to use a known sperm donor instead, though, and this is often someone that they know on a personal level such as a family member or close friend. 

After the sperm donor has been chosen, the sperm sample is collected and screened in order to gauge the health of the donor. After this step, the process of IVF begins. The egg donor, Partner A, will experience an ovarian stimulation cycle which will result in a retrieval of the egg. Next, the egg will be fertilized using the donor’s sperm. Partner B will then undergo a transfer, having the fertilized egg transferred into their body, at which point they will then carry the child to term. 

Reciprocal IVF Cost

The cost of reciprocal IVF varies. It depends on the state in which you live, your insurance, and the specific services you will require. As insurance varies between companies, it’s important to check with your own insurance company to see what type of coverage they offer. 

Other Considerations for Reciprocal IVF

Prior to committing to reciprocal IVF, you and your partner must sit down and answer the following questions: 

  • Who will be the egg donor?
  • Who will undergo the pregnancy? 
  • Will the sperm donor be anonymous or known? 
  • If a known sperm donor is used, who will it be?
  • Is there a reproductive attorney involved?

Reproductive attorneys can help you figure out any individual state or country legalities when it comes to reciprocal IVF or IVF in general. 

There are also other options that are similar to reciprocal IFV. These options are concurrent IVF and effortless IVF. 

Concurrent IVF

Concurrent IVF occurs when both partners choose to be pregnant at the same time. Each partner will experience the IVF process through a baby synchronization transfer. This process uses babies who were created from each partner and results in the partners carrying each other’s biological children at the same time. This process can be challenging, though, as it results in increased stress from managing two pregnancies and births at the same time, as well as dual prenatal and postnatal care. The stress continues as both mothers recover and care for multiple newborns. 

Effortless IVF

Effortless IVF involves an FDA-approved device known as INVOcell. For this procedure, Partner A’s egg will be combined with the sperm from the donor in an INVOcell capsule. This is an alternative to the egg being cultured in a cryolab. Once the egg and sperm have been combined, the INVOcell device is placed into the vagina, acting as its own incubator. This period lasts for five days and allows the baby to develop. Once removed, the baby is often frozen to allow Partner B to prepare for the frozen baby cycle, at which point the baby will then be transferred and carried to term. 

Are There Legal Issues Associated With Reciprocal IVF?

There are certain third-party legal issues that will need to be navigated in cases of reciprocal IVF. These will vary from state to state and country to country. That is why it’s important to have an attorney specializing in reciprocal IVF. 

Show Sources


Massachusetts General Hospital: “Financing Your Fertility Services."

Resolve: “Reciprocal IVF."

Standford Children’s: “Parenting Options for the LGBTQ+ Community: A How-To Guide."


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