A British lesbian couple have become the first parents to carry a single baby in both of their wombs – in a pioneering new procedure known as ‘shared motherhood’.
Jasmine Francis-Smith, 28, from Northamptonshire, gave birth to Otis two months ago at a hospital in Essex, using an egg that was first incubated by her wife, Donna.
Previously, the procedure could only be achieved through artificial incubation of the egg before the transfer of the embryo to the womb.
While more than 100 babies have been born to lesbian couples using the artificial method, the Francis-Smiths have gone one step further, with both of them participating naturally in the birth – and Donna incubating the egg herself.
Jasmine Francis-Smith, 28, (right) from Northamptonshire, gave birth to Otis (pictured) two months ago at a hospital in Essex, using an egg that was first incubated by her wife, Donna (left)
Donna incubated the embryo for the first 18 hours following fertilisation in the ‘shared motherhood’ procedure, before it was transferred to Jasmine.
This is done by placing the eggs inside the miniature capsule and inserting it into Donna’s womb, allowing interaction between the embryo and the maternal environment.
A benefit is that fertilization will take place in the maternal environment In Vivo, taking place in a living organism, rather than in the artificial environment of the IVF laboratory with its associated risks.
It is then removed and placed inside Jasmine, where it remains for the duration of the pregnancy.
A spokesman for the London Women’s clinic, which carried out the procedure, said that this not only allows both partners a ‘practical and emotional stake in the pregnancy, but also provides the embryo with important nutrients and other components in a natural, maternal environment’.
Jasmine, a dental nurse, gave birth to their son on September 30 in Colchester, Essex, where the family now live.
She said: ‘The procedure really made me and Donna feel quite equal in the whole process and has emotionally brought us closer together. Now with baby Otis born safe and well, we feel a true family. If we had to go through the process again there is nothing we would change.’
Her wife, Lance Cpl Donna Francis-Smith, has been in the army for 11 years and has served in Afghanistan.
The pair married in April last year after first meeting online in 2014.
Lance Cpl Donna Francis-Smith, has been in the army for 11 years and has served in Afghanistan. The pair (pictured) married in April last year after first meeting online in 2014
Jasmine, a dental nurse, said that now Otis (pictured) has been born safe and well they ‘feel a true family.’ She added: ‘If we had to go through the process again there is nothing we would change’
Donna told the Telegraph: ‘We’re overwhelmed to be honest, it’s blown up massively.
‘You get a lot of same-sex couples where one person is doing the whole thing, and the one person is getting pregnant and giving birth, whereas with this we’re both involved in a massive way.
‘It’s definitely brought us closer together emotionally. We’re a close couple anyway but we both have a special bond with Otis as well which was helped by the way we’ve done it.’
She added: ‘We’re just happy that it’s worked so well and the information is out there. It will help people in the future – it brings you closer together rather than feeling one has a bond more than the other.’
The procedure is now available to all same-sex and heterosexual couples, as well as single women seeking IVF treatment at the London Women’s Clinic.
A mother recently gave birth to a daughter after she won a competition for a free round of IVF.
Katie Foster (pictured with her six-week-old daughter Abigail and son Elijah, two) recently gave birth to a daughter after she won a competition for a free round of IVF
Katie Foster, received the free treatment – which can cost up to £8,000 a go – after she entered the contest when it was advertised on Facebook.
The competition, being run by fertility advice website IVF Bab-ble, was offering eight free rounds of IVF funded by the Fertility Partnership clinics in the UK to mark the 40th anniversary of the treatment.
Official NHS guidance recommends that couples can have three rounds of IVF. However, individual NHS clinical commissioning groups make the final decision about who can have NHS-funded IVF in their local area.
What is the brand new ‘shared motherhood’ procedure? How IVF experts at the London Women’s Clinic pioneered new treatment
How was the procedure first performed using artificial incubation?
IVF experts at the London Women’s Clinic first launched the concept of ‘shared motherhood’ in 2011, with one partner contributing the egg while the other partner carries the pregnancy.
More than 100 babies have been born to lesbian couples using this approach which involves artificial incubation prior to the transfer of the embryo into the womb.
How has the procedure changed to involve transfer of egg?
The Clinic has now gone one step further with the fertilised egg being incubated in one partner’s uterus – rather than in an artificial environment – for the first 18 hours following fertilisation, before being transferred to the second partner’s womb for the duration of the pregnancy.
The procedure now involves incubating a fertilised egg inside the womb of one mother using a device known as AneVivo. This allows the gametes – a male or female reproductive cell that contains half the genetic material of the organism – to fertilise and grow inside the womb of the gestational mother
This not only gives both partners a practical and emotional stake in the pregnancy, but also provides the embryo with important nutrients and other components in a natural, maternal environment.
Placing the eggs inside the miniature capsule and inserting it into the womb allows interaction between the embryo and the maternal environment.
A major benefit is that fertilization will take place in the maternal environment In Vivo rather than in the artificial environment of the IVF laboratory with its associated risks.
The London Women’s Clinic announced that Britain’s first baby born as a result of this intrauterine incubation approach was born in July.
Both partners, Donna and Jasmine Francis-Smith, were involved in creating the embryo during the first days of its development, before the capsule was removed from the uterus, the embryo grown into a ‘blastocyst’, transferred back to the uterus to implant and a pregnancy began.
How does the procedure work?
The incubation capsule, known as AneVivo, allowed Donna as the egg provider and capsule carrier to take a major role in the whole process before transfer of an embryo to Jasmine for implantation and pregnancy.
AneVivo is a device (a special catheter) that allows the gametes to fertilise and grow inside the womb of the gestational mother.
The aim of this procedure is not only to allow fertilization to take place in the more natural environment provided by the uterus, but also to involve the parents or parent-to-be more closely in the process.
The catheter AneVivo, holding the injected gametes, is carefully inserted into the uterine cavity at the correct time of development.
After a period of 18 hours, the device is retrieved, and fertilization is assessed in the laboratory. From there, the embryos are cultured ‘in vitro’ until they are ready for replacement for implantation in the uterus or for cryostorage.