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Big Decisions

Due to the innate biology of the situation and to societal pressures, the decision by a gay man or lesbian to become a parent may be weighed more heavily than by many straight people. As many infertile heterosexuals who have gone on to parent can attest, the extra time and thought that goes into this project might be viewed as highly valuable.

Gay/lesbian individuals and couples must face a number of psychosocial odds that may not be in their favor, most notably those presented by the society in which they live and their own, closer circle of family and friends, all of which are crucial to one’s ability to parent. Once these odds have been addressed, the questions related to the biology of baby-making will probably seem slighter in comparison.

Men and women of average fertility who also happen to be gay/lesbian actually have a wider range of choices when it comes to baby-making than an infertile couple.

First, seeing a fertility specialist and paying for assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are not necessarily the only modes of reproducing — it is possible that artificial insemination (AI) can be conducted in the privacy of one’s own home with minimal outside participation. If this route is the most appealing to you and yours, caution is urged and knowledge-gathering is crucial to not only successful conception but to avoid any negative health issues.

For those who may not be up to the rigorous clinical standards recommended for healthy home-insemination, ART includes resources for both male and female fertility issues, with both known and anonymous donors of sperm and eggs available. It is even possible in this day and age to extract viable sperm from men who have low to zero sperm count in their ejaculate. As changes happen constantly in the field of reproductive science, staying up-to-date on available techniques is part of being an informed medical consumer.

Finding Doctor Right

Finding a qualified specialist who accepts gay/lesbian patients may be a challenge. The arena of specialists in general is relatively small (for example, there are only about 400 reproductive endocrinologists in the United States), so locating one in your geographical area may be difficult.

The most experienced specialists treat the couple rather than either individual partner alone in their successful practices. Optimally, you will work with a specialist as a team, and it could only be beneficial to have all the “players” on board i.e. both partners. However, in cases where a practitioner will not consider working with a gay/lesbian couple, decisions must be made about whether or not to proceed as a “single” patient.

In general, the issues that gays and lesbians will be addressing are the same as anyone who is considering the use of “third party assistance”.

Lesbian Baby-Making Options

An overview of resources for women trying to conceive:

Artificial Insemination

Generally, artificial insemination refers to any means of introducing sperm into a woman’s reproductive system without sexual intercourse. As mentioned above, it may be conducted at home or in a clinic. AI is a relatively uncomplicated way of promoting conception and is best used for women of average fertility to subfertility.

In Vitro Fertilization

In vitro, or IVF, is a more elaborate and costly way of creating a conception, and is also more recommended for people with anywhere from subfertility to infertility from a wide range of causes.

Fertility Drugs

Not typically required if a woman is ovulating normally, fertility drugs may be used alone or in conjunction with the above methods. The purpose of all fertility drugs is to induce ovulation, and since they have a number of possible negative side effects, it is unwise to use fertility drugs unless absolutely necessary.

Donor Semen

Necessary for conception, donor semen may be obtained either through a known male or via an anonymous situation, such as a clearinghouse or clinic.

Gay Male Baby-Making Options

An overview of resources for men trying to conceive:

Female Surrogates

The biggest hurdle for men hoping to become parents is finding a surrogate mother. Surrogates may provide either traditional services, which includes the use of their own eggs, or gestational services only, which involves only the use of their uterus while a third party’s eggs are used.

Donor Oocytes (Eggs)

Necessary for conception, donor eggs also may be obtained either through a known female or via an anonymous situation, such as a clearinghouse or clinic. However, unlike donor sperm, the retrieval of usable eggs involves fertility drugs and surgical procedures, neither of which should be agreed upon without a lot of information-sharing beforehand.

Embryo Adoption for Men and Women

A relatively new third party option that may be used in either case is that of embryo adoption, in which an embryo created by another couple is donated and used to impregnate another female, either surrogate or the parent-to-be. In this case, IVF is necessary. Resulting children will have none of the genetic material of either individual in a parenting couple, which may be either desired or not, depending on the couple’s issues.

Third-Party Issues for Men and Woman

Whether using donor sperm or egg, you will be using another human’s gametes and, therefore, genetic history. As a result, a number of emotional/relational factors should be reviewed between partners, for example:

  • How will the use of a third party’s genetic information affect the relationship between the parents-to-be?
  • Will and how will you disclose information about the contributing third party to any resulting child/children, or to family, friends, and others?
  • Will you allow any contact or information sharing between the third party and resulting children, and how specifically will it be handled?

In addition to the psychosocial issues involved, any third party reproduction efforts come with situation-specific legal issues to be addressed, including the naming of resulting children and custody rights.

Finding Support

While much of your information gathering can be done in the same online spaces as anyone else who is using ART, finding emotional support may be a different issue. Gay men and lesbian women may find online communities that are specific to gay/lesbian parenting to be more hospitable than generic infertility communities, in addition to being more knowledgeable of the unique issues.

Becoming a parent is a daunting task for anyone, regardless of their sexuality and orientation. As is usually the case for any other life challenge, finding support from sources outside of the partner relationship may be crucial to the health of your growing family.

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