Fertility clinic provides first 'shared motherhood' service in Ireland

As part of a fertility clinic's new "shared motherhood" fertility treatment, female same-sex couples will be able to share in the birthing process.

Lesbian couple lying on floor and laughing with a baby. As part of a new clinic programme, female same-sex parents can avail of

The Sims IVF clinic are offering a “shared motherhood” treatment for female same-sex couples in Ireland. Doctor John Kennedy, who launched this new programme, said, “It is a positive progressive especially given the imminent enacting of the Child and Family Relationships Act.” 

As part of the new service, the eggs from one partner will be used to create embryos after being fertilised in vitro with donor sperm. This means one of the parents will be classified as the “genetic mother” while the other partner will act as the “gestational mother”. The service has gone into effect and is currently available for couples. 

Dr Kennedy is uncertain if this is the first of its kind in Ireland but believes so. In relation to the new service, he said, “I think it is just a bit of a shame we have not been doing it already. I think most same-sex couples who come in would like to know it is an option.”

Couples are advised by the clinic to use an identifiable sperm donor as the Children and Family’s Relationship Act prevents anonymous donations. Under this Act, it also notes that the child must be born in Ireland. 

Speaking about what brought about the launch of this service, Dr Kennedy said, “The driver of this is that we knew the Child and Family Relationships Act was coming in. We knew that this would be a problem for those patients. But we also knew that if we had patients coming through in Ireland who are availing of this service it will create more traction and get a better conversation going. To protect both these people and other couples who want to do this.”

On the Sims IVF website, the clinic highlights that “the proposed timeline for introducing this legislation will cause some unintended, but very serious, negative consequences for many of our patients.”

Dr Kennedy reassured that couples would still be able to avail of the “shared motherhood” service after the Act has been implemented.  He said, “The frustrating thing for me here is that the shared motherhood isn’t being covered on the Child and Family Relationships Act, when it would be incredibly easy for them to do so.”

Though there are still issues ingrained in the Act, Dr Kennedy said, “In the main, the Child and Family Relationships Act is a good thing. If it could be tweaked just in a couple of small key ways, I think it has potential to be a very good thing. I think there is potential down the line to get some proper legislation in place for governing fertility treatments in Ireland. I think there’s a huge opportunity to do good things with that as well.”

In November, Minister for Health Simon Harris  signed regulations to commence Sections 2 and 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act. Under the new sections, many same-sex parents are still left out of the legislation. 

Equality for Children stated: “From May 5 2020, some children born to LGBT+ families in Ireland, will for the first time be provided with a pathway to have their relationship with their non-biological parent recognised.”

Founder of Equality for Children, Ranae von Meding, said in relation to the signing, “I want to be clear that today is not a win for us. The signing of this commencement order has already been delayed seven times over the last five years. And only a fraction of LGBT+ families and their children will be covered by it. My family along with many others will continue to be left behind.”

The “shared motherhood” service is currently priced as a package at €8,200. This covers a range of procedures and consultations throughout the process. The only clinic which can administer the procedure is in Clonskeagh, Dublin, but for people not located in the city centre, they can have blood tests, consultations, and checkups in the Cork and Carlow branch.

With the new service, Dr.Kennedy is hopeful it “will become the norm and it will become very much a normal part of a lesbian couples experience of fertility treatments.”

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