A Guide to LGBTQ+ Family Building
Expanding Your Family
Assisted reproductive technology (ART) has expanded the paths to parenthood for all types of family structures. Whether exploring fertility as a single person, within a couple, or as a family unit, parenthood is now possible for more people than ever before.
A 2018 study found that 48% of LGBTQ+ millennials (aged 18-35) were actively planning to grow their families, compared to 55% of non-LGBTQ+ millennials. Researchers noted that this gap had narrowed significantly compared to older generations—the result of advances in technology and the movement for equality.
Still, LGBTQ+ families confront unique challenges in an industry that often fails to center their needs. However, as more and more LGBTQ+ people seek to become parents through ART, the face of fertility is shifting.
Where to Begin
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer parents-to-be have many options to become parents today, including using a donor or surrogate for one or more components of biological conception (eggs, sperm, and uterus).
That being said, many options come with formidable costs so determining how to pay for treatment is an important part of planning. Family Equality Council shares this list of family-building grants that can help make ART more affordable. Your clinic may also offer financial assistance programs and payment plans. If prescription fertility medications are part of your treatment, we’ll comb through the available discount and rebate programs to ensure you get the lowest possible price.
To clarify which of the many paths-to-parenthood might be right for you, it can help to seek out an organization such as Family Equality Council that can provide specialized advice for LGBTQ+ families. It’s also essential to choose a clinic and doctor who can understand your needs and put you at ease.
For LGBTQ+ couples exploring using a donor, it’s also essential to research the laws in your state regarding legal parentage procedures after your baby is born. For a starting point, you can learn about the laws in your area through Movement Advancement Project’s interactive ART law map; however, you should also speak with an experienced LGBTQ+ family lawyer in your state.
An Overview of the Options
Every budding family follows a unique path. It may include natural conception, adoption, foster care, or ART. For those considering the latter, here are some of the places your ART journey might take you.
For those whose bodies cannot produce sperm or are experiencing infertility, a donor can be used. There are two ways to obtain donor sperm: from someone you know or from a sperm bank.
If you use a known donor—often a friend, family member, or other acquaintance—it’s crucial that you fully discuss the relational complexities involved and consult with a lawyer who specializes in working with LGBTQ+ families in your state. When choosing an unknown donor through a sperm bank, the donation’s legalities are less complex because the donor has already surrendered their parental rights.
If you or your partner plan to carry the pregnancy, donor insemination is the process of placing the donated sperm inside the vagina or uterus to facilitate fertilization. There are two methods of insemination that may be used:
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a simple medical procedure performed by a medical doctor where the sperm is placed directly into the uterus by using a very small tube passed up through the cervix.
With intravaginal insemination (IVI), the sperm is placed directly into the vagina. You can often perform IVI at home; however, many people choose to have a medical professional complete the insemination to increase the chances of success.
Parents-to-be who were not born with ovaries or are experiencing infertility can use an egg donor. Like with sperm donors, an egg donor can be a known donor or be found through an agency. Again, when using a known donor, be sure to thoroughly discuss the arrangement’s details and consult with a lawyer who specializes in working with LGBTQ+ families in your state.
With both known and unknown egg donors, the egg must be fertilized in a lab and placed in a uterus through a medical procedure known as in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Intended parents who cannot or will not be carrying the pregnancy for any reason can use a gestational carrier. The gestational carrier will have the embryos (eggs fertilized by sperm) transferred into their uterus, then carry and deliver the baby.
Choosing a gestational carrier is a critical decision that can take time. After all, your relationship will last the better part of a year. An agency can help you meet and screen candidates until you find the right match.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
IVF is one of the most common fertility treatments. It involves combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish then transferring the resulting embryo into a uterus. IVF can be performed with donor sperm, donor eggs, or donor embryos.
Reciprocal IVF, also known as co-maternity, is a specific instance of IVF where one partner provides the egg and the other carries the pregnancy. In this way, one partner is genetically related to the child while the other becomes biologically bonded through pregnancy.
Egg or sperm freezing, also known as cryopreservation, is available to preserve future fertility for those looking to delay pregnancy or undergo gender affirmation treatment. Because gender affirmation treatment may affect fertility, it’s important to discuss the possibility of freezing your sperm or eggs with your doctor before undergoing treatment if you may want children who share your DNA in the future. For those currently undergoing Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), there may still be options available to preserve your fertility. Talk with your doctor about which choices may be right for you.
Planning a Future for Your Family
There are many routes available to expand your family. Ultimately, every journey has the same destination in mind: the beautifully chaotic, utterly unique, yet completely universal journey of parenthood.
As you assemble a team you trust to guide your path forward, we’ll be here to support you if prescription medications become part of your plan. Our team of specialists has experience working with the LGBTQ+ community and receives training on how the nuances of the fertility experience may vary for each individual. We’d be happy to manage your medication needs so you can focus on your family during this life-changing time. Visit us at alto.com/fertility or reach out via phone, text, or the app to learn more.