Firstly, not having or not being able to have a child does not make you less of a human being. You are precious, even if you have a child or not. Wanting or not wanting to experience the feeling of having a child depends on your own will. Every human being in a society has the right to receive equal health care regardless of sexual orientation, gender, marital status or partner choice. Nowadays, there are several treatment options for people ready to have a child but naturally cannot. In this blog, I would like to give you some information about specific treatment options for LGBTI+ individuals or couples who want to have a biological child related to you or your partner.
Sperm and egg cells are needed to form an embryo. As same-sex couples do not have either one or the other, it is required to use a donor. Depending on your need, using sperm or an egg donor can help you have a child biologically related to you or your partner. Suppose you desire to experience the pregnancy period but do not require a biological bond. In that case, you may also prefer embryo donation, which is obtained using a sperm donor and an egg donor. Donors that you find via licenced clinics will not have any legal rights on your child.
Using donor egg, sperm or donor embryo is a big and important decision. Not being sure or feeling nervous about the process is normal. Sharing your feelings with your partner, family, friends and getting professional help will make you feel much better if needed. Do not forget that the priority should always be your physical and mental health. Being a mother or a father to a child is something that biological bonds cannot limit.
Lesbian couples (both having female reproductive organs) will need a sperm donor in their treatment process. After selecting the sperm donor, either intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF) techniques can be used in their treatment. IUI is a technique in which donor sperm is injected into the uterus, forming the environment for natural fertilization. With this method, it will be possible for the genetically related partner to experience the pregnancy period. On the other hand, the IVF technique involves using the egg of the chosen partner to fertilize it with donor sperm in the laboratory environment.
It is possible to use "reciprocal IVF" or "co-maternity" techniques to include both partners in the pregnancy process. This is a technique where one partner's eggs are used, and the embryo is placed in the other partner's uterus so that the two partners can experience the pregnancy period together. Similar to the standard IVF technique, chosen eggs of a partner are fertilized with donor sperm in the laboratory environment. Then the embryo(s) are placed in the other partner's uterus allowing both partners to be included in the pregnancy experience. Depending on your and your partner's biological conditions, it is entirely up to you to decide which techniques you want to use.
Gay couples (both having male reproductive organs) will need donor eggs in their treatment process. It is possible to have a child biologically related to one partner using IVF and "surrogacy" techniques. Surrogacy involves donor eggs and fertilizing them with one of the partner's sperm in the laboratory environment to form the embryo. Then, the embryo is transferred into the surrogate mother's uterus to carry the baby only during the pregnancy period. Surrogate and the child are not biologically related by using this method.
Transgender or non-binary individuals may have to go through some procedures to reach the body that reflects themselves. These procedures may result in loss of their fertility. Before starting any hormone therapy or surgery, it may be desirable to preserve fertility by using egg or sperm freezing methods to have a biologically related child in the future.
As stated above, one of the most important things is to be mentally ready when experiencing these treatments. At the end of this journey, our genuine wish is to allow individuals or couples to form healthy and happy families. Remember that the only thing that is needed to form a family is love.
by Sultan Elmas
MSc, Reproductive Medicine
- gov.uk. 2021. Fertility treatment for LGBT+ people | Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. [online] Available at: <https://www.hfea.gov.uk/i-am/fertility-treatment-for-lgbt-people/> [Accessed 7 July 2021].
- uk. 2021. intrauterine insemination (IUI) - NHS. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/artificial-insemination/> [Accessed 7 July 2021].