The idea of shared motherhood is relatively new, but it is redefining the concept of parenthood for many same-sex female couples.
While IVF has been practised for over 40 years, the ROPA method – which enables two women to share biological motherhood – was only first pioneered in 2010.
In the decade that followed, this method has redefined partner assisted reproduction and created many happy families.
In recent years, the UK has taken huge strides forward in making assisted reproduction more accessible for same sex couples. Most significantly, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act was amended to legally recognise female partners as parents in 2008. Today, with the help of the ROPA method, two women can both have a biological connection to their child while sharing the joy of pregnancy.
In this article, we answer some of the most common questions about the ROPA method including the procedure and its legalities, and who it is suitable for.
1. Who is the ROPA method for?
ROPA stands for ‘Reception of Oocytes from the Partner’. With a focus on partner assisted reproduction, same sex female couples can benefit from this method. With the ROPA method, one half of the couple (known as the ‘genetic mother’) will undergo ovarian stimulation in order to have her eggs extracted. Her partner (known as the ‘gestational mother’) carries the pregnancy after the embryo is placed into her uterus. What this means is that both women can share an essential biological role in the birth of their baby.
2. How is the ROPA method different to traditional IVF?
The ROPA method is a variation of IVF, but the process is very similar. The woman who’s nominated to use her eggs will undergo ovarian stimulation to produce more follicles than normal. This in turn allows the follicles to produce more eggs, known as oocytes. She will have hormonal blood tests and an ultrasound scan to determine when the follicles have reached an optimal size. At this point, the oocytes are ready to be extracted. The extraction is very simple. It is carried out under sedation, in less than 15 minutes.
Sperm from a donor will then be mixed with the oocytes in an incubator in conditions that are prime for fertilisation. The fertilised eggs develop into embryos within days.
Meanwhile, the gestational mother receives hormone treatment to prepare her uterus. This vital step ensures that the uterine lining is thickened to create an environment that encourages the very best possible chance of embryo implantation.
When the medical team determine the optimum implantation time and have selected the strongest embryo, the transfer to the uterus can take place. This is a quick procedure which does not require sedation or recovery time. After 15 days, a beta-hCG test will confirm whether the procedure was successful in achieving pregnancy.
3. Can we decide who the genetic mother will be?
At IVI, our aim is always to give every parent the best possible chance of conception. This is no different with the ROPA method. If you are considering this treatment, there may be medical or genetic reasons why you might be best to carry the baby while your partner donates her eggs, or vice versa. For example, there may be a risk of passing on genetic or chromosomal disorders, or one half of the couple may have endometriosis, an irregular menstrual cycle, or previous failed IVF attempts. Our friendly team of experts can help you to determine the best role for each of you in order to best reach your goal of having a baby.
4. Who will be the legal mother?
After giving birth, the gestational mother is automatically granted the legal role of mother. If married, the genetic mother automatically assumes the role of legal parent. However, this only happens if both provide written consent. If you’re not married or you are in a civil partnership, then you must both legally consent to the treatment beforehand in order for the genetic mother to automatically become the second legal parent at birth.
The legal forms must be completely accurately. On the birth certificate, only the legal parents will be named. Inaccurate legal forms can cause lengthy complications. We will be there to help you fill out these forms correctly. We will also provide access to counselling to make sure you both fully understand the legal ramifications of your treatment.
5. What are the benefits of the ROPA method?
There are many benefits for female same sex couples if they opt for the ROPA method. The most important benefit for many patients is that both women will have a vital role in creating new life. Allowing both a birth mother and a genetic mother, it helps to create a strong partnership where both partners feel equally involved. The baby will also have a biological connection to both women. This creates two strong bonds between mother and baby. For some couples, this may be particularly important in ensuring that their baby will form strong bonds with both sides of their family.
Additionally, one Spanish study found that when using their own eggs, couples using the ROPA method had a higher birth rate than IVF. The success of the ROPA method was further researched in a six-year study that also found high live birth rates when using partner-donated eggs.
6. Can we choose the donor?
When using donor sperm, we always consider a range of factors in order to match the donor’s features to yours as a couple as closely as possible. You’ll have access to basic information about your donor, including height, weight, eye and hair colour, age, ethnicity, marital status and whether they have any children. You will also be able to access relevant parts of their medical history.
It is important to remember that lesbian couples also have the option of using donated sperm from someone they know. As long as the treatment is carried out at a clinic licensed by the HFEA, the legal rights will be the same as with an anonymous sperm donor.
In accordance with HFEA’s policy, sperm donors have no legal rights or responsibilities to children born as a result of their sperm donation. Any offspring will be able to access non-identifiable details of the donor once they reach the age of 16. Once they are 18, they can make contact with the donor if they wish to.
7. How can I find out more?
Find out more about the ROPA method by attending one of our Virtual Open Evenings. They provide the opportunity to ask questions and learn how we can help you in your shared journey to motherhood. You can also meet our highly trained team, who can help to put your mind at ease while you explore your options. You’ll also find out more about IVI and how we’ve earned our reputation as a world-leader in assisted fertility research.
Book your place now for our next Virtual Open Evening.
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