Any parent knows that having a child is never a stress-free process, but gay and lesbian couples have to deal with more challenges than most. However, with good information, a clear plan and good medical support, family planning for lesbian couples is a relatively straightforward process that won’t distract much from your excitement and joy about becoming parents.
The first major decision to be made is between adopting a child and having a genetically-linked child. For many women, the genetic link and experience of pregnancy is an important part of parenting. If you are taking this path, the below information will help outline and explain your three main family planning options.
Artificial insemination, sometimes referred to as intrauterine insemination, is the lowest-tech option for lesbian couples looking to build a family. However, that’s not to say that it’s less likely to be effective. In many cases, this process does not significantly differ from non-assisted pregnancies, except that the sperm is introduced to the uterus using non-sexual methods.
The procedure itself is very quick and simple, but you will have to undertake a number of tests and some planning before it takes place. You should have all the regular tests relating to sexual and reproductive health, such as pap smears, mammograms and STI checks, as well as having a clear record of a regular menstrual cycle.
Some doctors will also carry out a short X-ray-type procedure to assess the status of the woman’s Fallopian tubes, checking for issues that could cause miscarriage or other difficulties. You may also be required to carry out a blood test to ascertain your levels of progesterone, which indicates ovulation.
Selecting a Sperm Donor
Of course, apart from the medical elements of this process, you and your partner will also have to select a sperm donor. This is a major decision and good communication between all parties is essential.
The major decision for lesbian, gay or transgender parents to make is whether to choose a known donor (often a family member or friend) or an anonymous donor, via a sperm bank. Donors are screened by the sperm bank for diseases, inheritable conditions and are made aware of their legal status. Furthermore, although they remain anonymous, you will have the option of choosing a donor based on basic characteristics, such as family history, race and education level.
Once the preparation has been completed, the process itself, carried out at an appropriate time in the child bearer’s cycle, takes just five to ten minutes.
2) In Vitro Fertilisation
It’s now over 35 years since the first “IVF Baby” was born, sparking a revolution in fertility treatment. Despite initial scepticism from some segments of society, over five million babies have since been born via IVF, and the process has been demonstrated to be safe and highly effective.
Many of the early considerations related to IVF are similar to those listed above regarding artificial insemination. However, because the process is more complicated and costly, prospective genetically-linked mothers will be required to undergo a string of screenings, genetic assessments and tests for infectious diseases.
Additionally, in all cases IVF involves a course of injectable medications intended to induce superovulation, or the production of multiple eggs in a single cycle. This is a minor surgical procedure, which requires sedation and is carried out to retrieve the eggs.
The eggs are then inseminated with the selected donor’s sperm in a laboratory, creating an embryo which is then implanted in the uterus.
3) Reciprocal IVF
Traditionally, IVF is carried out using the eggs and uterus of one woman. However, some lesbian couples choose a process known as reciprocal IVF. During this process, one partner provides the eggs, which are then implanted in her partner’s uterus. This does not involve additional risk, but gives both parents the opportunity to actively participate in the process.
The biggest difference between reciprocal and traditional IVF is that both partners are required to undergo different medical tests. The egg-donating parent will undergo superovulation treatment, for example, whilst the partner who intends to become pregnant should undergo uterine assessments and take medications to thicken the lining of the uterus so to facilitate implantation.
It should be noted that no reproductive treatment has a 100% success rate, but for women under forty the odds of success are high. However, there are some emotional as well as practical risks involved in any of the processes listed above, so couples should ensure continuous, positive communication, as well as consulting a health professional.
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