This month, in honor of LGBT Pride, we’d like to turn our focus toward LGBT parents.
According to a 2013 study by the Williams Institute, an estimated 3 million LGBT Americans have had a child, and as many as 6 million American children and adults have an LGBT parent.
While official numbers about LGBT parents having their own children through IVF aren’t available at this time, anecdotal evidence from fertility specialists across the country points toward a growing number of LGBT couples seeking to use IVF and other reproductive technologies to have genetically linked children.
This is due to a number of factors including:
- A growing social acceptance of LGBT couples and unconventional families.
- Recent legal decisions which have upheld LGBT marriage and adoption rights.
- A tightening of restrictions on overseas adoptions.
But one of the biggest factors is the increased availability and effectiveness of IVF and other fertility treatments.
For gay male couples, the ability to have a child through a gestational carrier is growing. A gestational carrier is a situation where a woman carries a child for another couple or individual. The child is created through IVF using a donor egg and donor sperm.
While the legality of gestational carriers can vary from state to state, a growing number have laws that are favorable toward gestational carriers, or courts that will be willing to recognize a couple’s right to a child carried by gestational carrier.*
In addition, improvements in IVF technology have made it easier for women to act as a gestational carrier. At the same time, a decrease in the overall cost of IVF and an increase in the number of insurance companies willing to cover the costs of IVF have made it more affordable for gay couples than ever before.
For gay male couples seeking to have a child using a gestational carrier, speaking to a reproductive specialist is a good way to start. They can recommend agencies that help with gestational carriers and egg donation, and also help couples to fully understand what is required and what options are available in terms of financing and support networks.
For lesbian couples, one treatment option that is increasingly popular is reciprocal IVF. This procedure uses the standard IVF procedure of taking a donor egg from one parent and fertilizing it with donor sperm. Then, the fertilized embryo is transferred to the other partner, who carries the child to term.
The benefit of reciprocal IVF is that both parents have a biological as well as an emotional link to their child.
Of course, lesbian couples can also take advantage of IUI fertilization using donor sperm.
When LGBT couples come to my practice, they bring their desire to grow their family together, as well as a number of questions.
Some of these are medical and logistical questions:
- What treatment options are available?
- Where can we find the third-party services we need such as egg donors, sperm donors or gestational carriers?
- When searching for these services, how do we make the best choice and find consensus about points where we disagree?
- When do we transition from less aggressive treatments to more aggressive treatments?
There are also emotional questions:
- How do we as a couple make the choice that is best for us when deciding to grow our family?
- How do we talk to our extended families and community about our family building choices?
- How do we weigh issues of cost against our desire to grow our family?
The answers to these questions will be different for every couple. What is important is that both partners understand that solutions are available, as long as there is open communication.
Then again, that holds true for every family.
*A gestational carrier is different from a traditional surrogate. A traditional surrogate is a situation where the woman carrying the child has also provided the egg and is a biological parent to the child she is carrying. While gestational surrogacy is legal in the state of California, traditional surrogacy is not.
Learn more about the services we provide for LGBT couples.