Disclosure: This post is sponsored by IVF Australia
It has been said that when you have a child it is like a piece of your heart is now walking around in the world. It is life-changing and multiplies love in our lives like nothing else. But working out how to get started on the journey can be challenging for anyone, and for same-sex female couples there are multiple decisions to be made.
Rainbow Families and our wonderful sponsor, IVF Australia, are here to help by providing some information on common considerations for LGBTQ+ people who are looking to become pregnant and give birth. While this blog is more specifically for same-sex female couples, information on fertility treatment considerations for other LGBTQ+ people including transgender and gender diverse people and gay men can be found here.
Let’s talk about sperm
One of the first considerations is sperm. Whether you want to ask someone you know to be your sperm donor, or if you prefer to use a clinic-recruited sperm donor. You'll want to consider which scenario will best suit you.
Once this has been decided, there are a few treatment options available including using donor sperm for intrauterine insemination (IUI); or using donor sperm for in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). The type of treatment will depend on your individual circumstances and quality of sperm, all of which will be discussed with your treating doctor to determine what will give you the best chance of successful pregnancy.
Using donor sperm from someone known to you does mean considering the Family Law implications and potentially including the donor in your family life. For many parents, this is a wonderful option for building a family. A fertility clinic can work with you and the donor to ensure the best chance of success and to help you decide the process by which conception will occur.
Where donor sperm is provided by the clinic, a lot of information is provided about your donor but the identity of the donor is withheld until the child turns 18, at which point the child can find out the donor’s identity if they choose to do so.
You will have access to certain details about the clinic-recruited donor options as the clinic will provide you with in-depth questionnaires completed by the donors about themselves and their families including physical attributes and a detailed family medical history. This latter information is quite important, particularly as when your child grows up, they will need to be able to ensure they can give this kind of information to their own medical practitioners. Further information on options for sperm can be found here.
It is also important to be very aware there is no such thing as the ‘perfect donor’ - all of us have genetic strengths and weaknesses and that is what makes humans so diverse and every person totally unique!
What is the difference between IUI and IVF
The process for IUI, also known as artificial insemination, can be quite straightforward. It involves the donor semen being inserted directly inside the uterus just before the time of ovulation. In some cases, the fertility specialist may recommend fertility drugs to encourage ovulation, but this will be discussed as part of your preparation. Further detailed information on IUI can be found here.
IVF is a more staged process that does involve fertility drugs to stimulate ovulation, collection of the eggs, and then combining the sperm and egg in the laboratory. The resulting fertilised egg develops into an embryo over five days before being transferred into the parent who will carry the pregnancy and give birth. Further detailed information on IVF can be found here.
Other factors to consider
Quite aside from the basic biological mechanics, there are other factors to consider. They include having an understanding of the medical history and any existing fertility or health issues the birthing parent may have. Some conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cardio-vascular disease or other chronic conditions can make pregnancy higher risk. That does not mean you should not ever have a baby – it just means you need to ensure you get excellent medical advice and support right from the outset. Factors such as diet, lifestyle, body-mass index, stress and living situation also contribute to the experience someone has as a birthing parent. Further detailed information on the female reproductive system and fertility can be found here.
It is really important to have the right support emotionally and mentally – including a network of other LGBTQ+ parents who ‘get it’. This is one of the most important outcomes of Rainbow Families’ Making Rainbow Families seminar, which IVF Australia has been supporting since it first started back in 2016. The Making Rainbow Families seminar is an opportunity to share your hopes and fears in a safe space with other parents-to-be who are also embarking on the same life-changing journey. Our paths as LGBTQ+ parents may be wildly different – but the destination is a shared one! Details on the next Making Rainbow Families seminar can be found here.
What to look for in an IVF clinic
It can feel like a huge and even nerve-wracking step to approach a fertility clinic for the first time. Suddenly, things seem very real, and you are going to have to discuss some incredibly personal details about yourself and your life. That is why ensuring you are dealing with a clinic that understands the unique situation of LGBTQ+ people is essential.
You need to be able to have trust and confidence in every aspect of the process, from staff getting your pronouns right and not making assumptions about your lifestyle, through to knowing the clinic has the latest medical and scientific knowledge and facilities. A caring and person-centred approach is also vital, so the clinicians will be able to understand your unique gynaecological and fertility scenario and help you choose the best path. The end goal is making a family – the IVF clinic needs to be fully committed to helping you achieve that dream in the most appropriate way.
About IVF Australia
IVF Australia has been working with people of all genders and sexual orientations for decades to help them navigate fertility treatment options and create a family. To find out more, call 1800 111 483 or visit ivf.com.au.