This month as we celebrate Pride, we also embrace diversity in families. Parents – and parents-to-be – come with all types of backgrounds – partnered, single, straight and gay/lesbian. And, today, the path for building your family is diverse, too, with access to a variety of assisted reproductive techniques (ART) including in vitro fertilization (IVF).
As more people think about building their own family, some employers are meeting the interest or demand by offering “family building” benefits including adoption and fertility services for all. If you currently work for an organization that does not offer such coverage, RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association offers advice on how to talk to your employer about adding fertility benefits.
No matter your individual situation, there are many different fertility treatment options and one – or several – might work for you. For a full description of various techniques plus resources, check out the family building guide from Path2Parenthood. RESOLVE also offers information on options from IVF to surrogacy to adoption, including how to make treatment more affordable and what insurance covers. According to President and CEO Barbara Collura, “RESOLVE has many family building resources, hosts in-person support groups across the country, and offers tools to help people access all family building options.”
The major techniques that may be worth exploring for your unique situation include reciprocal IVF and surrogacy with sperm, egg, and embryo donation. Each involves many different decision points along the way, so talking to fertility specialists, mental health professionals and lawyers who specialize in family law and family building is recommended. It’s also important to note that state laws may apply if you have a child using these approaches.
There are several options available to lesbian couples. The treatment a couple selects will depend on whether both women want the experience of carrying a baby. Decisions to make include who will go first and how to choose the sperm donor (known or unknown). For example, if both women want to become pregnant, working with the same agency and using the same sperm donor, each using their own eggs, might be more cost effective.
Reciprocal IVF is a popular option if only one partner wants to become pregnant or one woman is unable to get pregnant and lets both women have a biological connection to the child. Also known as partner IVF or co-maternity, one partner provides the eggs and the other partner carries the pregnancy, allowing both women to be physically involved in the pregnancy.
Sperm Donation is required for Reciprocal IVF and other fertility techniques as well as for couples where the man has problems with sperm count or quality. Among the decisions to be made are whether the couple or individual wants to select someone they know to be a sperm donor or whether to work with a sperm bank. Although the cost may be lower when acquiring sperm donated by someone you know – as opposed to purchasing sperm from an agency or bank – most clinics recommend any potential parent or parents meet with the donor and both a mental health professional and an attorney who specializes in family law. Additionally, many states and most physicians, require testing for sexually transmitted infections and often other tests, even for known sperm donors. When selecting an anonymous donor by using a sperm bank, one usually has access to information about medical history.
Egg donation may be needed in family building treatment, too, for any woman who may be having problems becoming pregnant due to the quality of her eggs. A reputable agency can help match patients with egg donors who come from diverse backgrounds. As with sperm, you can decide to have the egg donor be known, anonymous or semi-anonymous. Experts recommend that all donated eggs go through a screening process as this helps select the healthiest to enhance the chance of success.
Embryo donation may be needed by those interested in becoming parents. Women who go through IVF often don’t use all their embryos, so the frozen “leftover” embryos may become available for use by others in need. The medical issues for embryo donation include the need to screen potential donors, medical evaluation of the recipient, and the transfer procedure, among others. There are also mental health and legal considerations. To learn more about embryo donation, RESOLVE offers educational resources including the latest statistics about success rates and a free online webinar.
Surrogacy/Gestational Carrier is an approach often used by gay men and involves either an egg donor or embryo donation, often using their own sperm. The woman carrying the baby has no genetic connection to the child and is compensated for both the risk and service she provides. There are several gestational carrier agencies that can help people find a surrogate by playing an important role in evaluating candidates, in addition to personal interaction with prospective parents.
Adoption is an option for anyone interested in being a parent. From babies to older children, it’s a path some single individuals and couples choose instead of pursuing fertility treatment or select when infertility treatment hasn’t worked as planned. To learn more about adoption, check out the resources from the National Infertility and Adoption Education Non-Profit.
We should be proud that nowadays nearly everyone who aspires to be a parent has an opportunity to pursue their dream through advanced fertility techniques and adoption. As with anyone who pursues IVF, it is important to understand the success rates and know what your insurance will or will not cover. The complexity of the infertility treatment process may seem overwhelming, but there are resources that can help with everything from in-depth details on different medical techniques to arranging financing.