First, congratulations on taking steps to expand your family! Thankfully, we live in a time that provides so many options for same-sex female couples who want to get pregnant. You and your partner can explore them together and decide which one feels right for you. While adoption is one option often considered, below, we are going to discuss some of the other reproductive options available:
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) with Donor Sperm
Intrauterine insemination with donor sperm is a form of assisted reproductive technology (ART) that uses sperm either from a known friend or partner (depending if it’s legally allowed in the respective country) or from a donor. A reproductive endocrinologist collects the sperm and, using a very thin catheter, inserts it through the cervix of the woman intended to carry the child, and releases the sperm into the uterine cavity in order to bring it closer to the ovum coming from the ovulation. IUI is less expensive and less invasive than In Vitro Fertilization (to be discussed below), and it is commonly used for same-sex female couples who want to get pregnant. However, it typically has lower success rates than In Vitro Fertilization and can often lead to needing more than one cycle before being successful. In addition, if you were interested in performing genetic testing on the embryo, this would not be possible with IUI.
Reciprocal (or Partner) In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) with Donor Sperm
One increasingly popular option for same-sex female couples who want to get pregnant is Reciprocal IVF. When undergoing Reciprocal IVF, one partner provides the genetic makeup of the egg, while the other carries and delivers the baby. Some couples prefer this (as opposed to IUI or typical IVF) because they feel it’s a more shared experience since both partners are actively involved. How it works is one of the partners goes through the first half of the IVF process, which entails taking hormone injections (approximately 10 – 14 days) to produce eggs. Then, her eggs are retrieved and fertilized with sperm (again, from a donor or a known contributor). The embryo would then be transferred to the other partner’s uterus in the hopes that it would implant in her uterine lining. If it did, this would mean a pregnancy is achieved. IVF is more expensive than IUI, but it does have higher success rates and allows the option for genetic testing. Testing such as Pre-Implantation Genetic Screening (PGS) can help improve the likelihood that the healthiest embryo is transferred to the second partner. Genetically tested embryos have a higher implantation rate and a lower chance of miscarriage.
Same-sex female couples who want to get pregnant: Egg Freezing
Egg freezing is an option for same-sex female couples who want to get pregnant in the future, but neither are quite ready to have a child just yet. The process of egg freezing is very similar to the beginning of the IVF process, when egg retrieval is performed. Once the eggs have been retrieved, they will not be fertilized, but instead will be frozen using a process called vitrification. Vitrification is a “fast freeze” that instantly preserves your eggs, thus reducing the chances of ice crystal formations on the egg, and presenting less risk to the egg during the thawing process. Egg freezing at a younger age, years prior to when you plan to get pregnant, may decrease the likelihood of having embryos with chromosomal abnormalities. In the future, these eggs could be fertilized through IVF in order to get pregnant.
You Have Options
Given the several reproductive options available for same-sex female couples who want to get pregnant, there are important factors to discuss when deciding what option is best for you and your partner, These include what your comfort levels are, your family building goals, if you feel strongly about being genetically tied to your children or not, which course of action works best for you and your partner, plus the timeline you have in mind. From there, the best first step is to make an appointment with a reproductive endocrinologist who will guide you on this journey!