Making babies: Five predictions about the future of reproduction

1. It Will Take a Village to Make a Child

Sperm and egg donation and surrogacy have already enabled unusual parental configurations. In some cases—say, a father contracting with an egg donor and a separate surrogate mother—a new baby could be said to have three biological parents. But this is only the beginning of what science may make possible in the near future. One new IVF procedure would combine the nucleus of a patient’s egg with mitochondrial DNA from a donor’s egg. The FDA is mulling approving the technique, which could prevent diseases that originate in mitochondrial DNA; it’s already been successfully tested in monkeys.

Or take uterus transplants, in which one woman’s healthy uterus is implanted in someone else’s abdomen. Since 2012, nine Swedish women have received a uterus donation from a relative—in most cases their own mother. They’re now undergoing IVF treatment, to see whether they can conceive and carry a baby. If successful, they’ll be the first women to bear a child with another person’s womb. Not only that: their children will in effect be sleeping in the same “room” that they once did. The implications are fascinating. As Charis Thompson, a sociologist at the London School of Economics who has written a book about IVF, observes, “Parenthood is multiplying.”