Reciprocal IVF: Success Rates and Outcomes


Advances in assisted reproduction technology (ART) have allowed lesbian couples experience the joys of pregnancy, childbirth, and building a family.

Fertility doctors have helped countless gay couples around the world bring their families to life thanks to reciprocal IVF, a variation of in vitro fertilization (IVF).

For lesbian couples, we often recommend reciprocal IVF to allow each mother to be part of their child’s birth. Let's review the basics of reciprocal IVF and discuss the success rates of the procedure. We will also consider ways to boost the success rates of IVF.

What is Reciprocal IVF? 

During reciprocal IVF, one intended mother’s eggs are harvested and fertilized in a lab using donor sperm. The donor sperm can be screened and selected based on the donor’s physical characteristics (height, eye color, hair color, etc.) as well as his education level and career path.

Once the egg is fertilized and develops into an embryo, this embryo is placed in the other intended mother’s uterus, where it will attach and be carried to term. Fertility drugs are used to sync the cycles of both mothers.

In simple terms, one mother carries the fertilized egg of the other mother. This means that the child will have the genetic makeup of one mother and be carried to term by her other mother. Both women get to share in the experience, which is why reciprocal IVF is such a popular choice for lesbian couples. 

Reciprocal IVF Success Rates 

The success rate for reciprocal IVF can differ from patient to patient. According to these numbers from The American Pregnancy Association, age is a key factor in the success rates of IVF:

  • Women under age 35 - A 41 to 43 percent success rate
  • Women age 35 to 37 - A 33 to 36 percent success rate
  • Women age 38 to 40 - A 23 to 27 percent success rate
  • Women over 40 - A 13 to 18 percent success rate

The quality of the eggs tends to go down as women get older, particularly closer to the age of 40. During the consultation process at our Los Angeles fertility clinic, we make sure patients understand why age is such a key factor in the IVF process.

Other Factors That Impact Reciprocal IVF Success Rates

In addition to age of the intended mothers, the success rates of reciprocal IVF can also be affected by the following:

  • The quality of the donor sperm
  • Medical conditions affecting a mother’s eggs
  • Medical conditions affecting a mother’s uterus
  • General fitness
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Smoking and use of tobacco products
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Diet and nutrition

How to Increase the Success Rates of Reciprocal IVF

Yes. Fertility drugs tend to help boost success rates through syncing up each mother’s cycles. Sometimes making lifestyle changes prior to IVF can also increase the success rate of reciprocal IVF.

What Happens If a Reciprocal IVF Cycle Fails?

If a reciprocal IVF cycle fails, it could just be a matter of bad luck. It may be advisable to try another IVF cycle to see if that proves effective. A failed cycle or repeated failed cycles could also mean that there are other fertility issues that must be addressed, and that IVF may not be the right option.

Our Los Angeles infertility doctors can assess the situation in the event of a failed IVF cycle . We’ll then inform you of the ideal options to consider to help build your family despite this setback.

Learn More About Reciprocal IVF 

For more information about reciprocal IVF and other options for family building, contact our team of fertility specialists. LGBTQ couples are welcome at Pacific Fertility Center. You can reach our offices by phone at (310) 586-3458 or (818) 952-0328.

Note: This is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Information provided is for general educational purposes only and is subject to change without notice. Speak to your doctor directly with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Any information contained herein does not replace any care plan as determined by a physician. 

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