What is the ROPA Method in Assisted Reproduction?
The traditional family model in the Western world consisting of a father, mother and their children has expanded greatly in recent years to include single-parent families, children from different parents, adopted children and same‑sex couples. Assisted reproduction clinics have also evolved, and that is why we want to talk to you about the ROPA method.
Currently, fertility treatment makes it possible for same‑sex female couples to share motherhood through a new type of IVF called ROPA. The ROPA method, also known as double maternity, means “reception of oocytes from partner” and is, together with artificial insemination and in vitro fertilisation both using donor sperm, one of the alternatives that same‑sex female couples have to become mothers.
What does the Law in Spain say about the ROPA method?
Not too long ago, use of this technique was not possible as it was considered gamete donation, and the Law on Assisted Human Reproduction in Spain clearly states that donations must be anonymous. However, in 2005 the Civil Code of Spain was amended to give same‑sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples (Law 13/2005). Since then, the ROPA technique cannot be considered a donation, as one member of the couple is sharing her gametes with the other, just as a male shares his sperm with his wife in a heterosexual relationship.
This means that with the ROPA method one woman provides the eggs which will be fertilised with anonymous donor sperm, and the other woman receives the embryos and carries the baby in the event that a pregnancy is achieved.
There is, however, one very important aspect that must be pointed out: women who wish to use the ROPA method must be married before beginning treatment. This is the only way for the process to be legal and for any future offspring to be considered the child of both women.
What does the ROPA method involve?
The ROPA method consists in performing in vitro fertilisation with the participation of both members of a same‑sex female couple and an anonymous sperm donor, meaning that one woman provides her eggs so that the other can get pregnant.
In this IVF treatment, one of the members of the couple will have her ovaries stimulated and then undergo the egg collection procedure to retrieve the oocytes. These eggs are then fertilised in the IVF laboratory where several embryos are created.
Once the eggs have correctly fertilised and early cell division has been observed, the number and stage of the embryos (day-3 or cells/day‑5 or blastocysts), to be transferred to the recipient’s uterus -the woman who will carry the pregnancy- is decided on a case‑by‑case basis. The woman who will carry the pregnancy will, at the same time as her partner, receive hormone treatment to prepare the endometrium for pregnancy before receiving the embryos.
What do success rates with the ROPA method look like?
It is important to point out that success rates using the ROPA technique will depend on the quality of the eggs that are used, a factor which is very closely related to the age of the woman who is providing her oocytes.
We know that oocyte quality begins to decline little by little starting at the age of 35, and that this decrease in quality is quite significant after the age of 40. For this reason, use of this technique should not be considered if there isn’t a reasonable likelihood of success. The patients’ doctor will assess their particular case and determine whether or not use of this method is indicated.
At any rate, we can say that there is one important difference, on a human and emotional level, between the ROPA method and traditional IVF treatment. And it is that both women actively participate in starting their new family. Thus, without a doubt, this type of treatment is much more profound than traditional in vitro fertilisation or artificial insemination using donor sperm.