Sometimes, deciding which of the members of a lesbian couple will conceive is straightforward: one partner has a particular desire to carry the child, while the other considers getting pregnant and giving birth as out of the question.
However, things are rarely this simple. Often both partners want to be fully involved, making coming to a mutual decision rather complicated. Giving life and feeling a little being growing inside you is such an incredible experience (tiring and scary as it may be from time to time) that both partners are often keen to take on the responsibility. This begs the question: how do these lesbian couples decide which of them will be the one to conceive?
The methods of conception available when you’re a lesbian couple
First, let’s explore the options available to lesbians wanting to build their family. In addition to adoption or co-parenting with another couple or a single man, lesbian couples can complete their family via donor insemination. In short, this is when a man donates his sperm to a woman or a couple so that they can become pregnant.
As the type of donor and vial depends on the method of conception chosen, you must first decide how you want to get pregnant with donor sperm, before you start searching for a donor. In the UK, lesbian couples have access to the same fertility treatments as heterosexual couples.
You can conceive via natural insemination, artificial insemination at home, intrauterine insemination (IUI) in a clinic or in vitro fertilisation (IVF). Take the time to discuss your options with your partner and check with your GP or gynaecologist which solution is best for you.
Once this is decided, there are then several ways to locate a suitable donor. He could be someone you already know or someone you have met online. You could also pick your donor from a fertility clinic or sperm bank’s catalogue.
What are the factors to consider when deciding who will conceive?
If both partners want to become pregnant but only wish to have one baby for the moment, deciding which of them will conceive can prove complicated. However, there are certain factors that can weigh in on the decision.
One of the first things to consider is fertility. The most fertile partner is normally the one who is more likely to conceive. It’s best that both partners undergo a fertility check-up to find out who has the better chances of getting pregnant.
Quantity and quality of eggs declines with age. Therefore, if there is a significant difference in age between the two women, the youngest might be more likely to conceive.
- Health and medical conditions
You should also consider how healthy each partner is. Discuss together any healthy issues that you may have, whether this is diabetes, a history of infections or any other conditions that could complicate pregnancy. Additionally, check to see if you have any genetic disorders that could be passed on to the baby. Don’t hesitate to pay a visit to your GP and undergo a full health check.
Being underweight or overweight can affect fertility and prevent pregnancy. Certain habits, for instance alcohol consumption or smoking, are other important points to consider before making your decision.
- Expectations and personality
Sometimes one member of a couple really wants to be pregnant, while their partner has no desire whatsoever to carry the baby and give birth. Usually, unless there is a medical condition involved or infertility issues that could make pregnancy difficult, the partner who will carry the pregnancy will be the one who actively desires the opportunity.
Experiencing the pregnancy together with reciprocal IVF or co-maternity
More and more lesbian couples choose this option as it allows both partners to be fully involved in the pregnancy.
Reciprocal IVF (also called co-maternity) works like standard IVF, except that one woman donates her egg to her partner who, in turn, carries the baby. The egg of partner #1 is retrieved through surgery, and then fertilised with donor sperm in a laboratory, before being transferred (as an embryo) into the womb of partner #2. Only the woman who donates her egg is genetically related to the child.
The procedure usually requires that the cycles of each woman be synchronised with the help of fertility drugs.
Once again, the couple must decide who will carry the child and who will provide the eggs. Age, fertility, health problems, medical history and weight are all factors to consider before making such a crucial decision.
When both partners want to get pregnant
If both partners are eager to carry the child, one solution is for both to get pregnant and, therefore, for the couple to have two babies. Each woman becomes pregnant via either natural insemination, intrauterine insemination, intracervical insemination or in vitro fertilisation, with the same sperm donor or not.
They can try to get pregnant during the same cycle, in order to give birth around the same time, although it’s important to remember that it’s impossible to be certain whether these synchronised attempts to conceive will be successful or not.
The couple could also decide that one of the partners will have their first baby, while the other will carry the second, perhaps a few months or years later on, once child number 1 has grown up a little.
Of course, all of these solutions require both partners to be on the same page regarding conception and pregnancy. Just as with any opposite-sex couple, same-sex couples must discuss the number of children they want and when they would like to start their family. And, just as with any couple trying for a baby, compromises may have to be made in order to ultimately reach an agreement.