Expanding your family could be the most rewarding decision you ever make.
It can be frustrating for prospective LGBTQ parents to try and find fertility information that doesn’t offer up heterosexual couples as the norm. Or that focuses on their unique needs. In reality, there are millions of same-sex couples raising children around the world and many who want to become parents but are not sure what route to take. They fear overly medicalised and complex procedures or convoluted legal processes that will take away from the natural joy of bringing a child into the world. While it’s true that there are more medical and legal hurdles to overcome as an LGBTQ parent, it’s probably not as complex as you think. And just as rewarding as the journey of any new parent, regardless of their sexuality. Our guide to conceiving in a same-sex couple is designed to help you explore your options for expanding your family and understand the legal implications for parental rights of the route you choose to take.
Find an overview of the most common paths to LGBTQ conception, below.
Donor insemination is simply the use of donated sperm that a woman (single or in a relationship) can then use to inseminate herself. It can be carried out on a private basis or in a fertility clinic. It is generally the least costly and invasive of potential fertility avenues open to female, same-sex couples.
Who is it suitable for?
Female couples where one partner is willing and medically able to carry a pregnancy healthily to term or single women looking to conceive as a single parent.
How will donor insemination affect parental rights?
Same-sex, female couples who are in a civil partnership will automatically both be granted parental rights. Where the insemination takes place in a fertility clinic both partners will both be granted parental rights, regardless of whether they are in a civil partnership. For couples who undertake the insemination privately and who are not in a civil partnership, only the birth mother will gain parental rights and the other parent would be required to adopt the child to gain them.
Does the donor have to be someone I know?
No, many fertility clinics are able to offer donor sperm to prospective parents or you can find a donor online at coparents.co.uk. However, whether the sperm comes from a donor or someone you know, a fertility clinic is able to screen potential sperm to make sure it is healthy before insemination goes ahead. They can also provide expert advice and guidance.
Can the donor remain anonymous?
Under UK law the donor can remain anonymous until your child is 18, when the child has the right to trace the sperm donor.
Surrogacy is where a woman carries a baby for a couple who are unable, for any number of reasons, to carry a baby of their own. This could be due to a same-sex couple being male, a single male parent or a heterosexual couple who are suffering from infertility. This route is a way for a gay couple to have a child that shares one of the partner’s DNA. Surrogacy remains relatively rare in the UK and surrogates retain the right to change their mind and keep the child until a parental order is signed after the birth.
Who is it suitable for?
Surrogacy is suitable for same-sex and heterosexual couples, and single people who are unable to biologically carry their own child.
How does surrogacy affect parental rights?
In the UK, a couple who have instructed a surrogate have no parental rights until the child is born and a parental order is approved by a judge. This can make it an unattractive option for potential parents and has led to some couples using surrogates abroad where the legal framework is more favourable to parents via surrogacy or the restrictions on surrogacy agreements aren’t so great.
How do we find a surrogate and how much does it cost?
It’s illegal to advertise for a surrogate in the UK, although there are some non-profit agencies who help to match surrogates and potential parents. It’s also possible to find a surrogate privately, and this is often a friend or a family member. Surrogates cannot receive payments outside of reasonable expenses, although it is not unusual for these expenses to be in the region of £15,000. These expenses must be approved by a court at the time the parental order is agreed.
This arrangement is often seen between gay men and gay or single women who both wish to become parents and both wish to play a part in raising a child. It can, however, be an arrangement between a single person and a couple or even two sets of couples. In these cases, conception is likely to occur via artificial insemination and this can be done privately at home or in a clinic. A clinic is recommended because of the enhanced screening services they provide.
Who is it suitable for?
Any couple, man or woman who are committed to raising a child together with another single person or couple and have a clear agreement on custody and financial matters.
How does co-parenting affect parental rights?
Co-parents will not receive automatic sole custody of their child and the arrangements can be complex depending on the parties involved. It’s best to obtain expert legal advice before entering into a co-parenting agreement.
How do I find a co-parent?
A potential co-parent could be a friend or someone you know. Or you could reach out online to find a co-parent in your area. Explore coparents.co.uk and register to become a member to start your search.
Trans and Non-Binary Parents
If you are undergoing or considering undergoing transition treatment and/or surgery, then you may want to consider preserving your fertility for the future. Talk to your doctor or a fertility expert at a trusted local clinic to find out more about expanding your family and the steps you can take to maintain your fertility.
Adoption and Fostering
Of course, there are many LGBTQ couples and singles that choose not to conceive their own biological children but to give those who are without parents or carers a home. This can be an incredibly rewarding way to complete or grow your family. Although this process has been historically biased against gay couples (men and women), things have dramatically improved in the last few years with much of the old stigma faded away. Most agencies and councils now fully recognise the stable and loving home that same-sex parents can provide. If you’re interested in adoption or fostering, contact your local council or adoption agency to find out more.
How do I know which conception route to choose?
Making the decision to have a child can just be the start of a chain of even bigger decisions around how you plan to conceive and raise the newest member of your family. Take your time, do your research, and ultimately choose the avenue that feels right for you. It can also be helpful to reach out to families who have undergone a similar conception process or to speak to your local fertility clinic for further advice and guidance.