For any couple, trying to build a family can be an overwhelming process. When you’re in a same-sex female relationship, there are some added factors to navigate. If you’ve been asking yourself, “How can lesbian couples have a baby?”, this is the blog for you. Thanks to assisted reproductive technology, several resources and various choices, you and your partner can decide which one works best for your family building goals.
How can lesbian couples have a baby if they don’t want to be pregnant?
This is a very good question. While some same-sex female couples would like to be parents, neither may either be interested or able physically to carry a child. If you want to know how can lesbian couples have a baby if they don’t want to physically be pregnant, there are two options that are available:
- Adoption: Some same-sex female couples can apply to adopt through a local authority or adoption agency. There are typically three forms of adoption: Domestic, International or Foster care. You and your partner should do some research on your own to see which you feel would work best for you as a couple.
- Surrogacy: Surrogacy is when a woman who in not genetically related to the child agrees to be a gestational carrier and carry a pregnancy for a couple or individual. This is typically supported by a legal contract agreement. The lesbian couple could either use an embryo created using one of their eggs through IVF or an embryo through donation.
How Can Lesbian Couples Have a Baby if One of Them Wants to Be Pregnant?
If you’re interested in how can lesbian couples have a baby if one of them would like to experience pregnancy, below are the primary ways you can explore. Each does depend on your fertility health, age, and of course, what your reproductive endocrinologist would recommend. They are:
- Artificial Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) with Donor Sperm: Artificial insemination is a form of assisted reproductive technology (ART) that uses sperm either from a known friend or partner or from a donor. A fertility doctor would use a very thin catheter, to insert sperm into the uterus of the woman intended to carry the child. IUI is less expensive and less invasive than In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) but also tends to have lower success rates.
- Reciprocal In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) with Donor Sperm: When undergoing Reciprocal IVF, one partner provides eggs (ideally, this would be the younger/healthier partner to ensure higher egg quality), while the partner who is interested in being pregnant would carry and deliver the baby. Some couples prefer this 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 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 an anonymous 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. 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 an inherited genetic mutation that can result in disease or confirm that the embryo has a normal number of chromosomes.
- In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) with Donor Eggs: Same-sex female couples are aware that they will need a sperm donor. This entails, as we mentioned with artificial insemination, either using a known donor, such as a friend, or going to a sperm bank. However, some also pursue using a donor egg. Sometimes, an individual or couple does not feel strongly about being genetically tied to their child, but one partner would like to have the experience of pregnancy. In other cases, both partners may have an egg quality issue 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 (like sperm banks) where you can pursue that as an option should you be interested or if it is medically needed. The process would be similar to IVF in that donor sperm and donor eggs would be combined and any resulting embryos would then be transferred to the uterus of the partner who is willing and able to carry the pregnancy.
How Can Lesbian Couples Have a Baby?… but just not yet!
Egg Freezing or Frozen Embryos: Whether it’s freezing one partner (or even both partner’s eggs), using frozen donor eggs or going through an IVF cycle and having embryos frozen to use at a later date, egg freezing, or embryo freezing is an option of how can a lesbian couple have a baby down the line. Since the older you get, the more your fertility declines, it’s not a bad idea to preserve your fertility when it’s optimal. That way, when you are ready to be a parent, you have the option. 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 to get pregnant. There is also the option of fertilizing the eggs and freezing embryos to store for later use.
The biggest take away when you ask, “How Can Lesbian Couples Have a Baby…” is that they CAN. As we’ve seen, there’s adoption, surrogacy, donor sperm, donor eggs, insemination, IVF, egg freezing and embryo freezing. Plus, having genetic tests to help support your IVF outcomes and there are online resources that offer guidance and support you along your journey!