How Does In Vitro Work for Lesbian Couples?

Many lesbian couples who visit the Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility are surprised to learn of the number of options that are available to help them have a baby. In vitro fertilization is one procedure that actually gives women several options for achieving a pregnancy.

Choosing a Sperm Donor

In order to get pregnant, lesbian couples need a sperm donor to fertilize the egg. In fact, about 95 percent of couples utilizing sperm donation are same-sex couples. This can be a friend or family member, or an anonymous donor chosen from a sperm bank. If the couple decides to choose a donor they’re familiar with, we would screen them to verify that they are healthy and do not have any diseases that will affect the baby or pregnancy before we start the IVF process.

A sperm bank ensures the donor has already been screened in accordance with FDA guidelines, which eliminates the chance of communicable diseases. With a sperm bank, couples can choose a donor based on dozens of characteristics like ethnic background, educational background, and physical or behavioral features.

Opting for IVF

Lesbian couples actually have two options when it comes to getting pregnant. Artificial insemination takes a concentrated sample from the chosen sperm donor and injects it into the fallopian tubes. This method has the same likelihood of achieving pregnancy as intercourse—it may take a few months before a viable pregnancy to occur. And it only allows one woman in the couple to participate in the pregnancy, since she uses her own egg and also carries the baby. In vitro fertilization is not only more successful, it also gives couples the unique option where both women can participate.

The IVF Process

In vitro fertilization (IVF), the second option lesbian couples have to get pregnant, offers a high chance of pregnancy with the first attempt. If they choose, one woman can donate her egg, have it fertilized by the donated sperm, and then carry the baby herself as well.

However, the IVF procedure gives both women the opportunity to participate in the pregnancy if they want. One partner can donate the egg, and once it’s fertilized, it’s implanted into the uterus of the other woman, and she carries and delivers the baby. The woman who donates the egg becomes the baby’s genetic mother, and the woman who carries the baby is its birth mother.

Many of the couples who visit us have used this option to share the pregnancy responsibilities and joys between several of their children. The woman who donates her egg for the first child, will to carry the baby for the second child. And the woman who is the birth mother for the first child, will become the genetic mother and donate her egg for the second child, and so on. If the babies are conceived by the same egg donor, then they are genetic siblings, just with different birth moms.

Sometimes, though, depending on each woman’s age, one partner might be a better fit for a specific role in the pregnancy. If both partners decide to participate in the pregnancy, we recommend that the younger partner contribute the egg, and the older partner carry the baby. This is because, in general, younger eggs tend to be healthier and more likely to develop into a viable pregnancy. As long as we’re performing the IVF process with healthy eggs, anyone can carry embryos to term and deliver a healthy baby.

It’s such a joy to help lesbian couples start their family. It’s important to us that they know their options, including IVF, and feel confident that they’ll be able to have a healthy, happy baby. To schedule an appointment at the Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, call us at 520-326-0001 or visit us online.