Because of advancements in assisted reproductive technology (ART), same-sex parents have more options than they used to when it comes to building their families. In the past, options were limited and most couples pursued adoption. Now, there are many fertility options for same-sex parents.
Fertility Options for Female Same-Sex Parents
Female couples that want to have a baby can pursue either intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF). Lesbian same-sex parents will need to get donor sperm in order to pursue both IUI and IVF.
IUI using donor sperm is the simplest way for female same-sex couples to try to have a baby. The partner who is going to provide the egg and carry the baby will be monitored and when she ovulates, a small volume of concentrated semen (that has been processed by the clinic) is injected directly into the uterus. Sometimes ovulation will be stimulated or controlled with fertility medications.
Lesbian couples may also choose to use in vitro fertilization (IVF) to have a baby. This may be the preferred method if one partner wants to donate the egg while the other wants to carry the pregnancy. This is called reciprocal IVF or egg sharing. IVF may also be preferred if there are fertility issues with either partner.
In IVF, ovulation is stimulated with fertility drugs so that multiple eggs are matured during one menstrual cycle. The eggs are retrieved during an out-patient procedure and then treated and combined with sperm in a lab. The resulting embryos are then transferred into the uterus of the partner who will carry the pregnancy.
Fertility Options for Male Same-Sex Parents
Male same-sex parents need both a donor egg and a gestational carrier or surrogate to have a baby through fertility treatments.
In Vitro Fertilization with Gestational Surrogacy and Egg Donation
The most common fertility option for same-sex parents who are both males is in vitro fertilization (IVF) with a surrogate or gestational carrier. Generally, one partner will provide the sperm and the couple will get a donor egg to fertilize. Then they choose a gestational carrier or surrogate to carry and give birth to the baby.
Gay male couples pursuing IVF to have a baby will need to consider the following:
- Egg Donor: Male same-sex parents will need to get a donor egg in order to do IVF. Some people get a donor egg from a loved one. Other people use a donor egg service or program.
- Sperm Donor: While most gay couples will use one partner’s sperm, sometimes they also need donor sperm. For instance, there may be health issues that prevent both partners from using their own sperm.
- Surrogate or Gestational Carrier: The other important part of this scenario is finding someone to carry and give birth to the baby. Usually, this person is a gestational carrier (GC) rather than a traditional surrogate. While some people use the terms interchangeably, gestational carriers and surrogates are different.
- Traditional surrogates provide their own egg for fertilization (usually via intrauterine insemination) with one of the intended father’s sperm. Because the egg belongs to the surrogate mother, she will be genetically related to any resulting children. This is not a common practice anymore because there are emotional and legal complications.
- Gestational carriers or gestational surrogates do not provide the donor egg. The sperm and egg are provided by the intended parents or donors. After the egg is retrieved and fertilized by the sperm, the embryos are transferred to the gestational carrier’s uterus. The GC then carries and gives birth to the baby.
Finding Donors or Gestational Carriers
Same-sex couples who want parents can get donor eggs or sperm in a couple of different ways. Some people choose to ask a friend or family member to donate eggs or sperm. Others choose to use a service or program provided by a fertility center. Carolinas Fertility Institute has an egg donor program for couples looking to receive donor eggs as well as women who are looking to donate eggs.
There are also services that can help same-sex parents find a gestational carrier. Whichever method a couple chooses, it’s important that they get a lawyer experienced in assisted reproduction to help iron out the legal and financial details.
Talk to A Fertility Expert
If you have any questions about fertility options for same-sex parents, reach out to Carolinas Fertility Institute today. We offer a wide variety of services, from fertility evaluations to In Vitro fertilization. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation by calling our Charlotte office at (844) 686-2233 or our office in the Triad at (336) 448-9100.