At the Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, we’re helping more and more gay and lesbian couples realize their dreams of having a family. Sometimes these couples come in with questions, but by the time they leave, they’re filled with excitement about the number of options available to them. The truth is, these types of procedures are very commonplace at our clinic, and they are a relatively simple way for gay and lesbian couples to have children.
Here is what gay and lesbian couples can each expect when they visit us and decide it’s time to have a baby.
Pregnancy Options for Lesbian Couples
In order to get pregnant, lesbian couples need a sperm donor; this can be a male they know or an anonymous donor from a sperm bank. Using a sperm bank ensures the donors have already been screened in accordance with FDA guidelines, which eliminates the chance of communicable diseases affecting the pregnancy or baby’s health. If the couple decides to use a friend or family member to donate sperm, they would be similarly screened to verify that they are also healthy.
Once they have their donor chosen, the couple has several options for achieving a pregnancy. One partner can undergo artificial insemination, which is a relatively inexpensive and simple process. But just like having intercourse, it may take a few months to get pregnant using this procedure.
The other option, in vitro fertilization (IVF), has a much higher chance of pregnancy right off the bat, and also allows both of the women to participate in the pregnancy. One partner donates the eggs, which are fertilized with the donated sperm, and the other partner can carry and birth the baby. This means that one partner would be the genetic mother, and the other would be the baby’s birth mother. When we present this option to couples, they’re often excited and surprised because it’s not an opportunity they had considered; most come in thinking artificial insemination was their only option.
We have many couples who have used this option with several of their children. So one partner would carry the baby for the first child, and when they decide to have a second child, the other partner will carry the baby. When they are conceived by the same egg donor, the babies are genetically siblings—they each just have a different birth mom.
Pregnancy Options for Gay Couples
On the other hand, gay couples need an egg donor and surrogate—so it’s a slightly more involved process. The donated eggs can be fertilized with one partner’s or both partners’ sperm, and then placed inside the surrogate, who carries and births the baby.
The donor and the surrogate can be the same person, or they can be two different people. The egg donor can be a woman whom the couple knows, or an anonymous donor chosen from an egg donor registry. Either way, the donor is screened to make sure they are healthy.
Aside from the egg donor, the couple will also need to choose a surrogate. Many women are willing to donate their eggs, but do not want the obligation of carrying the baby for nine months. That’s why using a third-party surrogate—who has already been screened to be healthy and able to carry the baby—is the most common scenario.
It’s always a wonderful opportunity to help LGBT couples start their families. Gay and lesbian couples have so many options when it comes to having a baby, and it’s our joy to walk with them through the process. To schedule an appointment at the Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, visit us online or call us at 520-326-0001.