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Options for Lesbians Wanting To Get Pregnant

How Lesbians Have Babies

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For lesbians who want to get pregnant and have children, there are many options available. Dr. Geoffrey Sher from Sher Institutes for Reproductive Medicine, one of the premier experts in fertility in the United States spoke with Lesbian Life about options available to lesbian couples who wish to get pregnant and have children. His clinics have been treating same-sex and opposite sex couples for more than 20 years. “We’ve had literally hundreds of babies born to lesbians and gay men,” he says.

Medical options for lesbians who want to have children:

Donor insemination with a known or anonymous donor. Dr. Sher warns that when you have a known donor, there is a concern that they might later interfere with the lives of the couple or might try to gain some sort of legal recognition of parentage. “It can turn out well in the end, but very often there’s a problem,” he says.

Dr. Sher also cautions couples who want to use fresh sperm that the recommended guidelines from the American Society of Reproductive Medicine and the FDA are to quarantine the sperm for six months and have the donor tested for certain viral diseases, including HIV. He says that the process of freezing the sperm doesn’t harm it if it’s good quality sperm.

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is where a woman is given fertility drugs to propagate the growth of eggs in her ovaries. At exactly the right time, you extract the eggs. The eggs are then processed in a lab and the ones deemed to be mature are fertilized in a petri dish by adding sperm. The embryo is painlessly injected into the uterus.

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) which involves the injection of sperm into the uterus by means of a catheter directed through the cervix.

Why would someone choose one means over another? A doctor can discuss with you which options might be best for your situation.

There are many things to consider, including medical conditions and cost. Someone with blocked tubes or endometriosis, for example may fail at insemination and could have a successful pregnancy with IVF. People who have failed insemination after more than three tries often try IVF.

Age is also a factor. If someone is older, she’ll have a smaller percentage of eggs available and IVF may be a more viable option. Also with IVF parents can gender select.

Lesbian Reason for IVF

And there is another reason that might be especially of interest to lesbians. That is where one woman provides the eggs so that her partner can carry the baby and they can both participate in the experience. In this process, one woman harvests her eggs, it is fertilized by an anonymous or known sperm donor and the embryo is placed into the hormonally prepared uterus of the other partner. Although the baby will not share genetic material with both mothers, egg sharing is a way for both women to participate in the pregnancy.

What should a lesbian couple look for in a clinic when deciding to get pregnant?

Dr. Sher says, “The first one is they need to know that they’re welcome. They need to visit the clinic, talk to the doctor. It shouldn’t cost them anything to visit the clinic to determine what the attitude is of the staff. How do they view the situation? They’ll quickly discover if this is embraced or just tolerated. If it’s just tolerated, they’re in the wrong place.”

Couples should also investigate the reputation of the clinic and how good they are at what they do. He warned the people should not always trust statistics because those are often self-reported and may or may not be accurate. “In our case, we see a lot of gay couples,” Dr Sher says, “We have a reputation….Gay people have a network. They talk.”

Saving Eggs for Later

One option for lesbians who may want to have children in the future, but are not ready is to have their eggs extracted for later use. “We’re seeing more and more of that,” Dr. Sher says. This option is helpful for women who do not know who they want the sperm donor to be or for women who know they want to have children in the future but are concerned about aging.

Costs of Getting Pregnant

So, how much is all this going to cost you? For lesbians wanting to have children, cost is, of course, an issue. The cost of artificial insemination is about $3000 a try, not including sperm. Dr. Sher says, “What the couple must look at is what does it cost to have a baby. Not just want does it cost to have a procedure. And the cost isn’t just financial, there’s an emotional cost too.”

Dr. Sher’s clinics offer a risk-sharing plan for couples opting for a program called micro IVF. For women under 35, about 90% will get pregnant after three tries of micro IVF. For about $14,000 a couple will have access to three tries of IVF, which has a higher probability of pregnancy than simple artificial insemination and doesn’t cost that much more. Every clinic, of course will have their own pricing structures, financing options and arrangements with insurance companies.

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