Perhaps you and your female partner have talked about having a family and are curious about your options. If so, you can take comfort in the fact that you have several paths you can take to parenthood. There are, of course, several factors to take into consideration. Do you or your partner want to carry the child? Do you have budget concerns? Who would you use as a sperm donor or do you prefer to go to a sperm bank? Do you have anything in either of your medical history that either of you may be concerned about? While it may seem overwhelming, you do have many attainable and even affordable options that make lesbians having babies quite conceivable!
Lesbians Having Babies Through Fertility Treatment
While there is the option of home insemination, this is not recommended for several reasons. The cost may be lower, but the success rates are as well. Also, without the guidance of a medical team, you may open yourself up to a sexually transmitted disease or an injury to either the uterus or vagina (if you’re using a home kit and the instructions are not properly followed). This is why same-sex female couples having babies have used primarily one of two assisted reproductive technology methods:
- Artificial Insemination: Intrauterine insemination with donor sperm is a form of assisted reproductive technology (ART) that uses sperm either from a known friend or partner or from a donor. A reproductive endocrinologist takes the sperm and using a very thin catheter, inserts it into the woman intended to carry the child, bypasses the cervix and releases the sperm to get it closer to the egg than it would have been through intercourse. IUI is less expensive and is less invasive. It can often lead to needing more than one cycle before being successful. Another factor to consider, IUI can present the risk of becoming pregnant with multiples.
- In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): IVF is the process of extracting eggs and donor sperm to manually combine the eggs and sperm in a laboratory dish. Any embryo(s) that develop are then transferred to the uterus of the woman planning to carry the baby. IVF is more expensive but has higher success rates. Also, should you or your doctor feel genetic testing such as Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) or Pre-implantation Genetic Screening (PGS) is necessary on embryos prior to selecting one for transfer, you may choose to have embryo testing to see if your embryos contain a certain genetic mutation that can result in disease or confirm that the embryo has a normal number of chromosomes .
Reciprocal (or Partner) In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
If you’re considering IVF, there is one option that same-sex female couples having babies are pursuing more and more in the last few years: Reciprocal IVF. This is when one of the female partner’s eggs are retrieved and fertilized with donor sperm. Then, the embryo is transferred to the other partner’s uterus in the hopes that it would implant in her uterine lining so that she would carry the pregnancy. Same sex-female couples feel reciprocal IVF is a more shared experience since both are actively involved, since one partner is providing the genetic makeup of the egg and the other will be carrying and delivering the baby.
Using Donor Eggs
Same-sex female couples are aware that they will need a sperm donor. This entails either using a known donor, such as a friend, or going to a sperm bank. However, some also pursue using a donor egg. Sometimes, partners do not feel strongly about being genetically tied to their child, but one partner would like to have the experience of pregnancy. Some other factors may be that both partners have egg quality issues either due to age or if one or both have a diagnosis of Diminished Ovarian Reserve or Premature Ovarian Failure. Whatever the reason, eggs can be donated from a friend or relative, but there are also donor egg banks (similar to sperm banks) where you can pursue that as an option should you be interested or if it is medically needed. The cost of donor eggs can vary depending on where you go, if the donor eggs are fresh or frozen,and again, if the donor is someone you know.
If you’re ready to start building your family, it’s recommended to make an appointment with a reproductive endocrinologist to discuss the above options, share what you and your partner feel would work best for you and then together, you can map out a course of action for how to best build a happy and healthy family.