Fertility Options for Same-Sex Couples: what you need to know

Considering fertility treatment to start a family can be a daunting process for anyone.  If you’re a LGBTQ+ person or couple and want to have a child with a biological connection to you or your partner, you may need to undergo fertility treatment.  Here at fertility family we have compiled what you need to know to help you on your way to parenthood.

What are the fertility options for same sex couples?

Donor insemination

Donor insemination involves using donor sperm. The sperm can be obtained from a donor either through a sperm bank or a person you know (known donor), no matter what route you choose to take, it’s vital that the sperm you intend to use has been tested for quality and safety. 

Donor insemination can be done at home and while this may seem cheaper and easier there are considerable risks. It is recommended to use a UK licensed fertility clinic for donor insemination as clinics are required by law to ensure the donor, patients and any future children are protected by carrying out rigorous health checks and counselling. Semen analysis is carried out in all male patients undergoing fertility treatment and can help to establish whether the sperm is of sufficiently high quality to use in artificial insemination. This analysis screens for sperm count, motility (ability to swim forwards) and morphology (the right size and shape).  It is also important that the medical history of donors is taken into account, infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis and any hereditary concerns.

Lesbian couples who are civil partners and conceive a child through donor insemination are the child’s legal parents – whether at home or in a clinic. Couples who use donor insemination and are not civil partners, but use a licensed clinic, will also be their child’s legal parents. But if a couple who are not civil partners use donor insemination at home, the non-birth mother will have to adopt the child.

Co-parenting

Co-parenting is a shortened version of ‘co-operative parent’. Co-parenting is when two people agree to conceive and raise a child together when they are not in a relationship. Each person may have their own partner, so it is possible that a child has more than two parents or carers. In the UK a child can only have two legal parents, even if more adults are involved in their up-bringing. Bringing up children within a loving family unit, sharing financial, parental, and emotional responsibility is a real possibility, however such situations are complex and legal advice is recommended; all the details should be worked out with legal advice from the onset. This allows each parent to fully understand their role and involvement.

Surrogacy

Choosing the right person to carry your child is a huge decision- something that can be rewarding for both the surrogate and the prospective parents. Many parents become close with their surrogate, developing a bond that can last a lifetime.

There are several types of surrogates. You may choose to use your own sperm or egg or your partners sperm or egg with a donor or a donor embryo which would have no biological link to you or your partner.  For gay couples looking to find a surrogate, Twodadsuk share their experience and journey through surrogacy in the UK to help other gay couples achieve their dreams of becoming parents.

It’s illegal to pay a surrogate for anything other than expenses in the UK. It is also illegal to advertise for surrogates in the UK. A legal order has to be issued following the birth, after which you become the legal parent of the child. Surrogacy UK provides support throughout the process and is a good place to get started. 

Adoption or fostering

Same-sex couples and single LGBTQ+ adopters have had the legal right to adopt since 2005, and the number of children adopted by same-sex parents is growing every year. You can do this through a foster or adoption agency or local authority (you do not need to live in the area you apply for). Take a look at the First4Adoption agency finder if you are looking for an agency — they also provide free online resources so that you can prepare for what to expect.

Trans and non-binary parents

If you are thinking about fertility treatment, but also considering physically changing your body, you can research options for preserving your fertility with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority

You can also foster and adopt if you are trans or non-binary — you have the same rights as anyone else. 

How does IVF work for same sex couples?

IVF (Invitro Fertilisation) is a medical procedure whereby an egg is fertilised by sperm in a test tube or elsewhere outside the body. This process can be used in surrogacy and for anyone with fertility problems regardless of your sexual orientation, the process is similar to heterosexual couples who use donor egg, sperm or embryos.

For lesbian couples who undergo IVF, there are some decisions to make. One partner can go through the whole IVF process using a sperm donor. Alternatively, one partner could carry the pregnancy while the other partner provides the egg, which allows each parent to feel connected to the IVF procedure.

Does the donor have any legal rights regarding the baby?

If a donor donates sperm or their egg through a Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) licensed clinic, the donor will not:

  • be named on the birth certificate
  • be the legal parent 
  • have any influence over how the child will be brought up
  • have to provide financial support
  • have any legal obligation 

At 16 years old, the child can request the donor’s information. If the child wants to make contact with the donor when they are 18 years old, they can request this — but this doesn’t change the legal status of the donor. 

If the donor does not use a licensed clinic to donate sperm, then they will legally be the father of the child.

Can you have more than one baby from the same donor?

It is common for a couple to want to use a sperm or egg donor more than once so that their children share the same biological makeup. Ideally, you should request this as soon as possible, because sperm and egg donors in the UK can only create a maximum of 10 successful families each. Fortunately, there is no limit to the number of children conceived using the donor’s sperm within that family. 

Whatever fertility treatment you choose, consider using clinically proven fertility supplements to increase your chances of becoming pregnant. Whether or not you have known fertility problems, modern lifestyles can negatively affect sperm or egg quality and therefore, it is helpful to take the right nutritional support to give us the best quality egg and sperm to produce a good quality embryo and increase the chance of a successful pregnancy.