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Infertility and treatment

IVF treatment for lesbian couples

Two women with a donor-conceived child

When trying to start a family, many lesbian couples begin with IUI treatment. While some may conceive with IUI, others may require additional treatment. If you and your partner have recently discovered that IVF treatment is necessary, we recommend reading this blog post to learn more about the process and what to expect.

The process of IVF treatment as a lesbian couple

IVF is an artificial insemination technique where embryologists fertilize an egg with sperm in a laboratory. At the start of IVF treatment, the fertilization was performed in a glass, which is why it is called "in vitro" (meaning "in glass"). After the embryo has developed, a fertility doctor transfers it to the uterus where it hopefully develops into a successful pregnancy.

  • Step 1: When undergoing IVF, the process always starts with fertility medication that stimulates the ovaries to help mature and maximize the number of eggs that can be retrieved. The medication is typically injected during a period of one to two weeks before the retrieval. The type and dosage of hormones will be tailored to you. Depending on how your body responds, it may cause some discomfort.
  • Step 2: Regular ultrasound scans are conducted during this time to monitor egg development, as the eggs themselves are too small to be visible. Instead, follicle size and growth are measured to determine when to use a trigger shot. By using a trigger shot, you create a rise in the hormone luteinizing hormone (lh surge), thus triggering ovulation after a period of 36 to 40 hours.
  • Step 3: Once one or more eggs have matured, it is time for egg retrieval. During egg retrieval, the woman will typically receive intravenous sedation and pain relief medication. The fertility doctor will then gently retrieve the eggs from each follicle and place them in a dish, with the process visible to the patient and partner 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.
Illustration of IVF treatment

Illustration of the IVF treatment process

  • Step 4: Mature eggs are then fertilised with donor sperm and monitored for five or six days to observe whether fertilization has occurred and whether they have started to develop into embryos.
  • Step 5: Any successfully developed embryos will then be transferred to the uterus of the person who intends to carry the pregnancy. It is normal to only transfer one embryo at a time since twin pregnancies can be a health risk for both the mother and the babies. While fresh embryos may be transferred five or six days after egg retrieval, sometimes embryos must be frozen and stored to allow the body time to rest. The embryo transfer process is brief, lasting approximately 10 minutes and is typically performed without anaesthesia. A blood test is conducted approximately two weeks later to determine whether the treatment was successful and whether you are going to be a family of two mums in the near future.

Reciprocal IVF – the preferred option for many lesbian couples

Reciprocal IVF, also known as double donation, is a common option for lesbian couples as the eggs are collected from one woman and fertilized with donor sperm before being transferred to the uterus of the other woman. Hopefully, the embryo will implant and develop into a pregnancy.

Why is reciprocal IVF preferred among lesbian couples?

Reciprocal IVF allows both women to be biologically involved in the pregnancy, with one being genetically related to the child and the other carrying and giving birth to the child. Giving birth to a child often creates a special bond between the mother and the child, which can be deepened through breastfeeding.

Reciprocal IVF is prohibited in several countries, so we recommend researching whether it is possible to receive in your country. If not, you will have to decide whether you are willing to travel to a country that allows it. This is called fertility tourism. If you want to read more about people travelling to another country for fertility treatment, we recommend that you follow the link to our blog post about Phoebe and her wife, who travelled abroad for fertility treatment.

Find a sperm donor for LGBT+ couples

At Cryos we care about being an LGBT+ friendly sperm bank, and about 35% of the people we help are lesbian couples trying to conceive with donor sperm. We have the world's largest donor selection, and you can browse through our free donor search to find the perfect match.

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