Usually when couples first visit us at the Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, they already have a strong idea of whom they want to parent their child. It’s a decision they’ve already discussed, but many times, male couples don’t consider the option of having both partners parent their future children.
Women have the benefit of participating in reciprocal IVF—where one donates the egg to become the biological mother, and the other carries the baby as the birth mother. This specific procedure isn’t available for male couples; however, they still have the option of each becoming a father. Here’s how it works and what they should consider.
For male couples to have a baby, one of the partners provides the sperm, but they also require a donor and surrogate. The man who donates the sperm ends up having their own genetic offspring when the baby is born.
General health should be the main consideration in deciding who should be the father. For men, age and fertility are not factors they need to worry about. As long as there are no medical problems or issues with sperm production, they can be a viable father. Even men in their 60s, 70s, and 80s can still potentially father a child.
Many of the couples we meet are excited to hear they both have the options of fathering the pregnancy. Because the majority of them are focused on the single pregnancy before them, they don’t consider future pregnancies that could allow each man to participate.
Often, we’ll retrieve several eggs from the donor. For example, in a single procedure, the donor may produce 20 viable eggs for us to use. Half of those eggs can be fertilized by one partner’s sperm, and once the baby is born, the couple can come back to have the other partner fertilize the rest of the eggs in a second round of procedures. Using the same donor allows both men to be fathers individually, and the two children will be genetic siblings.
In searching for the egg donor, couples have two options: to use an anonymous donor or to use a known egg donor (like a friend or family member). Some couples choose to keep the genetics in the family, literally, by using one man’s sperm and a relative—like a sister or cousin—of the other man as the egg donor. This option is typically ideal because asking a family member to donate their eggs is much less expensive than paying an anonymous donor to go through the process. Of course, the donor will go through all the appropriate medical screenings to ensure there are no possible diseases that might be transferred and affect the health of the pregnancy or baby.
While we typically recommend that men fertilize the eggs sequentially, they do have the option to do so simultaneously as well. We can aim for twins, with each man fertilizing one embryo, but that result isn’t always 100 percent accurate. It’s also safer and easier for the surrogate to carry one baby at a time.
Rarely, we also have couples come in and ask about the option of mixing their sperm and fertilizing the egg somewhat blindly—not knowing whose sperm was used to fertilize the embryo. This is certainly a viable choice, medically speaking, but we don’t typically encourage this since it’s relatively easy to figure out who the father is once the baby is born and because it can cause doubt and confusion during the pregnancy.
No matter what the couple decides they want their path to having a baby to look like, it’s our joy to walk with them through the process. To hear more about all the options available to gay couples, contact the Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility by visiting us online or calling us at 520-326-0001.