Gay Fertility doctor on 20 years of helping to build #LGBTQ families
Isn’t it great that all families are not the same? Diverse families help make interesting neighborhoods and communities that serve to enrich our lives. As a fertility specialist, I’ve helped straight couples struggling with infertility, gay men and lesbian women, bisexual people in same-sex relationships, transgender individuals, as well as straight singles, from around the world - to have children of their own.
It was about twenty years ago that a gay couple first walked through my doors looking for help building their family. They wanted the child to be a mix of their genetics, to serve as an expression of their love for each other. Since two men cannot yet combine their genetic material to create an embryo, we got creative, harvesting eggs from one partner’s sister and fertilizing them with sperm of his partner. This combination of genetic material would be a similar mix of their combined genetics and would achieve their goal: an expression of their love and commitment to their new family.
Everything worked out wonderfully: the 41 year-old sister’s ovaries responded well to medication, high quality eggs and embryos were produced, and they conceived on the first embryo transfer into their surrogate, who was their next-door neighbor. It was a true family affair with even the neighbors involved. Their daughter is now a college freshman.
Since that first couple I have had the incredible fortune of helping hundreds of LGBTQ people walk the road to parenthood. Together we’ve been able to test and forge new paths that have opened doors for so many.
Shortly after that first gay male couple, two lesbians also wanted a child that was a mixture of their genetic material. Lesbian women have several options to have children including donor insemination in a natural cycle, IVF, and reciprocal IVF in which eggs from one partner are harvested and inseminated to create embryos, which are then transferred into the other partner’s uterus to carry the child.
Taking a chapter from my first LGBTQ patients, we used the sperm of one partner’s father to inseminate eggs harvested from her partner. The woman who underwent egg retrieval also desired to carry the pregnancy. Two embryos were transferred resulting in a twin pregnancy – they are now the proud parents of twin boys.
Family planning and building for transgender individuals begins with preservation of sperm or eggs prior to gender reassignment. I recently helped created embryos for a woman using sperm that had been frozen prior to her transition. We are planning a future embryo transfer into a gestational carrier to start their family.
Gay men with HIV can safely have children of their own through semen testing, sperm washing, and IVF using donor eggs with embryo transfer into a surrogate. The worldwide experience has demonstrated the very low risk of these procedures with appropriate medical monitoring and treatment.
LGBTQ family building requires personal preparation and planning. The advances in reproductive medicine over the past thirty years allows for nearly all individuals to have children of their own through assisted reproductive procedures.
But what I’ve found is the most important requirement throughout this process is love for the future child. With love and commitment, all things are possible.