Every loving couple should have the chance to parent a child, and for years, experts have worked to make this a reality. For example, fertility medications, Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), and In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) have all been tremendous advances in the pursuit of pregnancy. Still, until recently, the focus of these treatments has been primarily on heterosexual couples.
However, thanks to pioneering clinics like Rise Fertility, LGBTQ+ couples can also experience the joy of parenthood. Offering a variety of treatment options, Rise wants you to worry no longer over whether you and your partner CAN become parents, but rather HOW you and your doctor can make it happen.
You Do Have Options
Just as our world is beginning to accept and respect diversity in sexual orientation, it makes sense that the field of fertility medicine should follow suit. Today we have several options, each unique in its methods and pros and cons.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) with Donor Sperm
This treatment is primarily for lesbian or queer couples. It involves the physical placement of donor sperm in the uterus of one or both partners. After passing a set of tests, one or both mothers are given fertility medication to stimulate their egg production. Then, with a special instrument, the doctor inseminates or injects a donor’s sperm into the patient’s uterus with the hope that egg fertilization and a successful pregnancy will occur.
Sometimes couples know a sperm donor and have pre arranged for him to take part so they can feel comfortable with the child’s genetic background. In addition, compared to other treatments, IUI with donor sperm can be less expensive and less invasive.
Ultimately, the biological father must sign away his legal rights to the child, which may or may not be a problem if the donor is known. If anonymous donor sperm is used, the father has already signed away rights which comes at a higher cost. Finally, this method only has an approximate 20% success rate.
IVF with Donor Sperm
In this procedure, lesbian or queer couples must decide which one of them will carry the baby to term. Usually, this choice is based on fertility testing showing that one partner is more physically suitable than the other. In this approach, the gestational carrier first undergoes fertility treatment to maximize her egg production. Then, the eggs are harvested and later combined with a donor’s sperm “in vitro” or in a lab. At that point, one or more fertilized embryos are placed back into the mother’s uterus to begin the pregnancy process. Ideally, the embryo or embryos survive, and the couple is blessed with one or more newborn babies.
Given that, with IVF, fertility specialists have both the sperm and the egg on hand, they’re better able to ensure that one or more eggs get fertilized. In this way, the procedure can take away some of the guessing involved with IUI. As a result, its success rate is as high as 40% per cycle, depending on the patient’s age. And upon achieving success, couples often opt to repeat, despite the effort involved.
In all its variations, IVF takes place over a period of weeks involving multiple doctor appointments and multiple cycles of treatment – first for testing, then for egg harvesting, and finally for egg placement. During this time, couples can experience emotional highs, such as when their eggs are successfully fertilized and lows if the embryos don’t survive pregnancy.
Another option for lesbian or queer couples allows them to share in the conception and pregnancy processes. With reciprocal IVF, one partner provides the eggs to be harvested and fertilized, while the other carries the baby to term, giving both mothers an essential role to play.
As mentioned, couples using reciprocal IVF both get to participate. That means both partners have an essential role, and the burden of IVF and pregnancy is shared. Additionally, after experiencing one successful reciprocal IVF pregnancy, couples may switch roles allowing each to empathize with the other entirely. Finally, while success rates for this procedure are the same as other IVF-based methods, couples do have the benefit of two mother’s eggs from which to harvest.
Although reciprocal IVF opens up many possibilities for lesbian and queer couples, it carries the same challenges of IVF – the aforementioned emotional ups and downs and commitment to multiple cycles of therapy. Also, some patients have reported feeling misunderstood by clinics that see a majority of heterosexual patients and aren’t sensitive to the needs of LGBTQ+ communities.
IVF With Donor + Surrogate
Of course, being an excellent parent isn’t restricted only to women. Gay couples now have the benefit of a fertility option that caters to their needs. During this process, couples can have their sperm fertilize a female donor’s egg and have the baby carried to term by a surrogate mother. Often both men can freeze their sperm while an egg donor and surrogate mother are found. At that point, some couples opt to both fertilize an egg from the same donor with their sperm giving their babies a chance to be half-siblings.
Experiencing IVF with an egg donor and surrogate allows gay men to finally have biological children. And given that egg donors are usually young, the success rate for this procedure is relatively high at 50% or better. What’s more, the laws in the State of California are favorable to the procedure.
Other states, however, may not allow there to be a gestational carrier. In addition, ethical issues can arise when the donor is known and later wants to claim rights to the child. Therefore, similar to sperm donor situations, using an anonymous egg donor who’s signed away rights is usually more expensive.
LGBTQ+ Fertility Treatments – Other Issues to Consider
Preserving Your Fertility Before Gender Transition
While undergoing gender transition is a deeply personal choice, one practical consideration is whether or not to preserve your current sperm or eggs before doing so. This way, you can take advantage of fertility options later in life and avoid some of the challenges discussed above.
Insurance coverage varies by carrier and can sometimes be unclear when it comes to LGBTQ+ fertility. Therefore, it pays to check with your insurer before you embark on your fertility journey. And, at the same time, don’t hesitate to consult Rise Fertility or another reputable clinic to understand better how they’ve been able to navigate insurance plans like yours.
Unfortunately, sharing the same gender may not be the only obstacle LGBTQ+ couples face in getting pregnant. Infertility affects them at the same rate as heterosexual partners. For example, one or both gay partners can experience a low sperm count, or one or both lesbian partners may not have eggs healthy enough for conception. Therefore, like heterosexual couples, they need to realize there’s no shame in having fertility challenges and that they, too, can overcome them.
Consult with a Clinic Who Understands and Cares
At Rise Fertility, we pride ourselves on providing the best possible care to patients of all genders and orientations. So rest assured, if you and your partner want to experience the joy of childbirth, we’re here to help.
And the best way we can be of service is by first getting to know you and your partner. So to begin your fertility journey, be sure to schedule your free consult in our Mission Viejo or Newport Beach office today!