Lesbian pregnancy options: How do lesbian couples fulfill their dream of having a baby
There are many different pregnancy options for lesbians and same-sex couples that wish to conceive a baby. The most commonly used method of achieving pregnancy is with the help of a sperm donor. In this blog post, we will take you through the primary fertility treatment options and some things you could consider as a lesbian couple trying to have a baby.
Pregnancy options for lesbian couples
The primary options for lesbian couples wanting to have a baby involve the use of donor sperm and are listed below:
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI) commonly referred to as artificial insemination where donated sperm is injected with a small plastic tube inside the woman's uterus
- In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) using donated sperm
- Reciprocal IVF treatment (also called double donation)
While these three pregnancy options are the most common for lesbian couples trying to conceive, they are very different. You should always consult a healthcare professional before deciding on your fertility treatment.
Your choice of fertility treatment should depend on personal preferences, reproductive health, budget, and your country’s legislation. There are other alternatives, which we cover further below, but in terms of treatment with donor sperm at a clinic, the most common fertility treatment options for lesbian couples are IUI, IVF and reciprocal IVF.
1. Intrauterine insemination (IUI) - Explained
For many lesbian couples, IUI treatment will be the starting point, as this is the simplest and cheapest form of fertility treatment. In IUI treatment, the doctor inserts the sperm in the woman’s uterus with a thin plastic tube, which only takes a couple of minutes and does not require any pain relief or medication.
Often, there is a good chance that this simple type of fertility treatment will work. However, if there is reason to suspect any fertility issues, or if IUI treatment is not successful moving on to more advanced types of fertility treatment may be necessary to fulfil the dream of becoming a family with two mums.
2. In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) - Explained
IVF treatment is more invasive, time-consuming, and often more expensive than IUI. In general, however, the success rates are also higher. In IVF treatment, hormone therapy prior to the actual procedure will help the egg stimulation. When ready, the eggs are retrieved from the ovaries and then fertilized with the donor sperm in a laboratory.
Within a few days, the fertilized eggs will hopefully develop into embryos which can then be transferred back into the woman’s uterus or kept frozen in storage until needed. If you have tried to become pregnant with IUI treatment, but have not succeeded after 3-5 tries, then IVF treatment is usually the next step in the process of becoming same-sex parents.
You can read more about IVF treatment for lesbian couples here.
3. Reciprocal IVF - Explained
Reciprocal IVF (in some places referred to as double donation) is rather popular among lesbian couples. However, not all countries allow this type of treatment. When making a double donation, eggs are retrieved from one woman and then fertilized with donor sperm before being transferred to the other woman’s uterus. Here, the embryo hopefully will stick and become a real pregnancy. In that way, both women are physically a part of the pregnancy, with one being genetically related to the child and the partner being the one to carry, give birth to, and breastfeed the child.
If you are interested in fulfilling your dreams of becoming a two-mum family through double donation, you must start by finding out whether this type of treatment is allowed in your country, or where you might need to go. If you are about to travel abroad to receive treatment, we can recommend you follow the link to read more about fertility tourism.
3 things to consider when starting fertility treatment
Before starting the journey towards becoming same-sex parents, there are some things you and your partner need to decide and do. In the following, we list three things you and your partner need to discuss before starting fertility treatment.
- Who will carry the child?
An important decision for lesbian couples to make before starting fertility treatment, is who is going to carry the child? There are a lot of things to take into consideration, and factors such as age, health and personal preferences might influence the decision.
- Choice of donor
Choosing a sperm donor that you are both happy about might take time. It might help if you and your partner start by deciding the level of information you want regarding the donor and whether you want your child to be able to contact the sperm donor in the future.
- Where to have your treatment?
Unfortunately, not all countries and clinics allow fertility treatment for lesbian couples, so an important first step is finding out where to go. Find a fertility clinic that wants to help you become same-sex parents, and preferably one close by. You should also take into consideration what your legal options are as a lesbian couple, as this varies a lot from country to country. If you want our assistance, Cryos can tell you more about your options and help to find the right fertility clinic.
The treatment process for lesbian couples
What to expect when starting fertility treatment as a lesbian couple? Well, first of all, it is important to say that the treatment process is individual, as it is adapted to your body and more specifically your menstrual cycle. That is why it is a good idea to track your menstrual cycle in advance, as this information will help you and the clinic plan the treatment process. Second of all, the treatment process for lesbian couples is almost identical to that of other couples and singles going through fertility treatment.
Once you have decided who will carry the baby, the first step will usually be to do a blood test on the third day of your period to check the hormone levels. Some fertility doctors will also take a look at the female reproductive system and make sure that the uterus and fallopian tubes are not blocked. This will help determine which type of fertility treatment to have. Once your treatment is planned, you must order donor sperm and have it delivered to your clinic before the treatment.
IUI treatment process
If IUI, the artificial insemination of sperm will be performed around the time of ovulation, as this will give you the best chances of achieving a pregnancy. By doing ultrasounds of your ovaries, the fertility doctor can get an idea of when the ovulation will be. The clinic might also try to help the process and control the timing by prescribing small doses of hormone and/or an injection to trigger the ovulation. Hormone injections might seem a bit scary at first - but remember that this is only to give you the best conditions of a successful treatment. To relieve some anxiety and make it into a team effort, many lesbian couples do the injections together, so that the one going through treatment will have the hormones injected by her partner.
The actual insemination will take place at the clinic and can be carried out in just a few minutes. Afterwards, you can go home or back to work, as there is usually no need for bedrest. After two weeks, you can do a pregnancy test. It might be tempting to do it before but be aware that the ovulation trigger injection includes hormones that might give a false positive pregnancy test within the first weeks. If you wonder when you should take a test, then follow the link to our blog post about how early you can take a pregnancy test.
IVF treatment process
When doing IVF (reciprocal or not), the woman having egg retrieval will usually have to inject hormones for one or two weeks before the egg retrieval. These hormones will help mature and maximize the number of eggs that can be retrieved. The type and dosage of hormones will be tailored to you, and depending on how your body responds, it may cause some discomfort. During this step, your fertility doctor will usually do ultrasounds on a regular basis to monitor how the eggs develop.
The actual eggs will not be visible as they are too small. Instead, the doctor will measure the size and growth of the follicles in which the eggs can be found. When the time is right, you will do an injection to trigger the lh surge and thereby the ovulation, which will then be planned exactly 36 hours later. Upon egg retrieval, you will most likely get some intravenous sedation and some pain-relieving medication. The fertility doctor will then gently retrieve the egg from each follicle and place them in a dish. You and your partner will usually be able to follow the process on a screen. How much time this will take depends on the number of eggs. Once you are done, you will need rest and must expect to take the rest of the day off.
Meanwhile, donor sperm will be added to the mature eggs which will then be monitored for five or six days to see if they fertilize and develop into embryos. Successful embryos will then be transferred to the uterus of the person who intends to carry the pregnancy. Sometimes a fresh embryo can be transferred on day 5 or 6 after the egg retrieval. However, sometimes the body needs rest before taking the next step, and the embryos will then be frozen and stored until it is time for the embryo transfer. Before and after the embryo transfer you will usually take hormones that will improve the chances of the embryo sticking. The embryo transfer is a simple procedure that takes about 10 minutes and usually does not require anaesthesia.
After about two weeks, a blood test will determine if the treatment was successful and whether you are going to be a family of two mums in the near future.
Alternative ways to have a baby as a lesbian couple
Fertility treatment with donor sperm is not the only option for lesbian couples to fulfil their dream of becoming two mums. Deciding to not use donor sperm can be based on different factors such as the economic situation, legislation, or personal wishes and beliefs.
Instead of using donor sperm from a sperm bank like Cryos, lesbian couples can choose to adopt a child from another country or a foster home. Another option is the use of donor sperm from a known donor. A known donor could be a male friend that has decided to help and can either act as a regular donor or become a part of the family. This type of family is called co-parenting or rainbow family.
Some lesbian couples might need to use donor eggs
Some lesbian couples may need to use donor eggs if one or both partners have infertility issues or genetic disorders that a child could inherit. In these situations, the couple may choose to use an egg from a screened and healthy egg donor to increase the chances of a successful pregnancy and a healthy child.
It is important to note that the decision to use donor eggs is a personal one, and each couple's reasons and circumstances may differ.
Same-sex couples' success stories
If you want to read stories from women that became same-sex parents with the help of a sperm donor, you can follow the links below to some of the many personal stories we have received from happy customers:
- Having a baby: Julie and Camilla's fertility journey
- The story of Phoebe and her wife travelling to Denmark to fulfil their dream
- Being the non-biological mother to a donor child – Lisa's story
We are here to help you
At Cryos, we want to help you achieve your dream of a child. Our Customer Care Team is always ready to answer any questions you have in relation to the process of buying donor sperm, the fertility treatment, or the laws in your country and how they might affect your choice of donor and treatment.
If you are interested in exploring the possibilities of having children with help from a donor, then follow the button below to see the different donors available. You can also read more about donor sperm for lesbian couples or see price examples of sperm donors by following the links.
Frequently Asked Questions about how lesbian couples can have a baby
How can lesbian couples have a baby?
There are a few options for lesbian couples to use when trying to have a baby. Often, lesbian couples use artificial insemination with donor sperm to fulfil their dream of a child. One of the advantages of using a sperm donor is the genetic relation between the parents and the child.
Which treatment is most common when lesbians try to conceive?
The most common fertility treatment for lesbian couples trying to conceive is IUI treatment, also known as intrauterine insemination. IUI treatment is the cheapest and least invasive type of artificial insemination, which makes it attractive for lesbian couples to start their journey towards a child.
How many lesbians conceive using a sperm donor?
At Cryos, 32 % of our private customers in 2021 were lesbian couples trying to become pregnant with donor sperm. Sperm donation is a great way for lesbian couples to achieve their dream of parenthood while maintaining a genetic relation to the child.