Lesbian IUI and IVF: Fertility Treatment Options for Gay Women

Among LGBTQ+ millennials — persons born 1981-1996 — 63% report they are considering expanding their families by either becoming first-time parents or by having more children. Many of the pathways to parenthood available to different-sex couples are also options for lesbian partners.

Lesbian IUI and IVF and Other Fertility Treatment Options for Gay Women

When lesbian couples are exploring fertility treatment options to build their family, it’s good for each partner to decide whether they want to carry a baby and whether they intend to be a genetic mother. Baseline testing of each partner is helpful to make sure that the uterus and egg supply are normal, as this may be helpful in determining the best treatment path. In general, a lesbian couple's options for conception include using a sperm donor for either intrauterine insemination, in vitro fertilization (IVF), or reciprocal IVF (where one partner supplies the eggs and the other partner carries the child). Other options for parenthood include surrogacy (if neither partner is able to carry) and adoption. 

The services of a fertility clinic vary in cost but can range from less than $5,000 to more than $30,000. Surrogacy is more expensive, possibly reaching as high as $130,000 or more. Adoption through a public agency carries very little cost, while private adoptions can run as high as $50,000 or more. 

Let's look at the options for conception in more detail.

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) for Lesbians

IUI depends on one partner choosing to use her eggs to become pregnant. After monitoring for ovulation, often with the addition of fertility medication, a washed donor sperm sample is injected through a small catheter into the uterus.

This is a common, relatively non-invasive option that is considered first-line treatment for lesbian couples and is also the most affordable option. While the rate of success varies, lesbians using IUI successfully conceive at a rate comparable to heterosexual women with timed intercourse       

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)  for Lesbians

IVF is a more complicated procedure but offers a higher rate of success. For an IVF procedure, eggs retrieved from one partner are inseminated with donor sperm in the laboratory. A resulting embryo can be transfer to her uterus or the uterus of her partner. IVF requires a longer preparation time for the partner who will carry the pregnancy, usually around three weeks.

Success rates with IVF vary depending on age, fertility status, overall general health, and other factors. 

Reciprocal IVF

If both partners want to take part in the conception, reciprocal IVF is the treatment technique of choice. One partner provides multiple eggs through ovarian stimulation. After harvesting the eggs, they're inseminated with donor sperm to create embryos. An embryo is then transferred into the uterus of the partner who will carry the pregnancy.  Often, there are additional embryos that can be frozen for a future attempt.

Reciprocal IVF carries a high rate of success and is an effective way to establish an important bond between both parents and the child.      

Donor Sperm

The selection of a sperm donor is an important step. A known donor may donate his sperm, or sperm from an anonymous donor may be purchased from a sperm bank. If a known donor is used, a legal agreement among all parties is recommended to document intentions for parental rights and obligations.

Legal Considerations for Gay Parents To Be

Laws governing same-sex parents vary from state to state. Whether you are facing an adoption, a second-parent adoption by the non-biological parent, or the use of a surrogate, make certain you are familiar with the laws of your state. 

Begin Your Journey to Parenthood

Lesbian couples who want to become parents have multiple options available to them, from IUI or IVF treatments to surrogacy or adoption. For more information and guidance, connect with a reproductive physician to determine the treatment plan that is right for you.

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