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Fertility clinics offer gay couples new pregnancy options

US fertility clinics offer new ways for gay couples to have children, including a 'two-mom' approach, in which the eggs from one mother are used to make embryos that are later implanted in the second mother.

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Embryologist Rick Slifkin uses a microscope to view an embryo, visible on a monitor, right, at Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York, in New York, Oct. 3.

Richard Drew/AP

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Fertility clinics have put a new twist on how to make babies: A "two-mom" approach that lets female same-sex couples share the biological role. One woman's eggs are mixed in a lab dish with donor sperm, then implanted in the other woman, who carries the pregnancy.

A New York doctor described 18 of these cases Tuesday at a fertility conference in Boston that featured other research on ways to help same-sex couples have children. Dr. Alan Copperman is medical director of Reproductive Medicine Associates, a New York City clinic that does the "two-mom" approach.

A New York couple – Sarah Marshall, 40, a recruiter for law firms, and Maggie Leigh Marshall, 35, a real estate broker – used it to have their daughter, Graham, now 18 months old. Maggie's eggs were used to make embryos that were implanted in Sarah, and both women are listed as parents on the birth certificate.

"It allowed us both to participate," Sarah Marshall said. "I had to mentally and psychologically give up the idea of, is she going to look like me or my family. But from the time I started carrying her up to now, she is definitely mine."

Maggie Marshall said she had no interest in being pregnant, but "Sarah really wanted to have the experience. We also thought it would be a great way to bond with a kid that ultimately would look a lot like me."

It wasn't cheap – the couple spent nearly $100,000 on multiple failed attempts before the last one worked. A single in vitro fertilization attempt can run $15,000 to more than $20,000, depending on how much embryo testing is done and whether some embryos are frozen to allow multiple attempts from one batch.

One Canadian study suggests that more lesbian couples have been seeking fertility services in Ontario since same-sex marriage was legalized in the province a decade ago. Some doctors think interest also is up in the US. For male couples, many clinics offer egg donors and surrogate moms, using one or both men's sperm.

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