Getting married and having children is something many of us look forward to from the time we ourselves are children. We play with baby dolls and cuddle relatives’ babies, dreaming of the day we can have our own. But if you are in a same-sex female relationship, you may find yourself asking the question, “How can a same-sex female couple have a baby?”
Thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, lesbian couples can now not only adopt children but give birth to their own. Read on to learn more about the different options available for lesbian couples looking to become parents.
Pregnancy vs. Adoption
Before we dive into the different ways lesbian couples can have a baby, let’s talk a little about the pregnancy vs. adoption question. Adoption is an obvious solution for same-sex couples looking to have a baby and in many cases, adoption is a win-win situation; the couple gets to raise a child, and a child who needed a good home and parents gets an amazing family.
Most couples however will want to have a baby that is genetically their own or want the experience of pregnancy and delivery. In these cases, it is possible for same-sex female couples to have a baby that is related to one of the partners. As we will discuss more later, it may someday be possible for same-sex couples to have a baby that is genetically both of theirs.
Selecting a Sperm Donor
Most of the options for same-sex female couples to have a baby involve intrauterine insemination using a sperm donor. During this process, couples will select a sperm donor from a donor sperm bank with the assistance of a fertility clinic. Once the donor sperm is selected, the sperm will be sent to the fertility clinic. The sperm donor, usually anonymous, will serve as your baby’s biological father.
You can also ask for a sperm donation from close friends if you feel comfortable doing so although involving someone you know is not as easy as it may at first seem. Some same-sex male couples are even interested in serving as sperm donors in a co-parenting situation, which we’ll discuss later.
Donor Intrauterine Insemination
Donor intrauterine insemination happens in a fertility clinic under the direction of the physician. Be sure to talk to your doctor about what you can do before the appointment to give things the best chance to go right. These procedures often involve taking medication such as Clomid to stimulate your ovaries and involve close monitoring by your doctor. When your doctor determines that you are ready, the intrauterine insemination will be performed which is relatively painless. In this procedure, a catheter is inserted through your cervix and the donor sperm gets injected directly into your uterus. This increases the chance of your becoming pregnant (compared to normal intercourse), especially since it bypasses the issue of poor cervical mucus.
In Vitro Fertilization
In vitro fertilization is one of the most popular options for same-sex couples looking to have a baby. This process is more involved and costly than intrauterine insemination with donor insemination. However, it can triple your chance of becoming pregnant and lessen the risk of twin or triplet pregnancies which is safer for your health.
During in vitro fertilization, a doctor will harvest eggs directly from your ovaries after giving you fertility medication to promote egg development. They will then inject sperm directly into the eggs or will allow them to interact and fertilize in a lab. These embryos will be incubated for 5 days and then frozen for transfer back to your uterus in the following 6-8 weeks. The freezing process results in higher pregnancy rates and allows your embryos to be genetically tested, if you desire, prior to returning them to your uterus.
Reciprocal IVF and Surrogacy
Some same-sex couples opt to use a procedure called reciprocal IVF to have a baby. Rather than one partner donating the eggs and carrying the baby, one partner will donate the eggs which will be implanted into the other partner’s uterus. This is a good option for couples who want both parents involved in the pregnancy and birth process.
In some cases, same-sex couples may also choose to have a surrogate carry their baby. This is most commonly done when one or both partners have problems with their uterus or if it not safe for either of them to become pregnant due to medical reasons. The donated egg from one partner may be implanted into another person who will carry the baby for them. However, this process can be very costly and can have some tricky legal ramifications, so it requires some careful forethought.
In some cases, same-sex female couples may choose to arrange a co-parenting situation with a same-sex male couple. Both couples want children and cannot have them through traditional methods, so they team up and form a close-knit parenting team.
In a co-parenting situation, one of the partners from the same-sex male couple provides the sperm donation for the artificial insemination procedure. One of the partners in the same-sex female couple carries the baby and gives birth. All four parents then work together to raise the child.
Co-parenting can be an amazing option for those who want their child to know their biological father, but it can be complicated from a legal and practical standpoint. If you and your partner plan to go this route, you will need to have extended discussions with your co-parents about how you will handle everything from living situations and custody to schooling, discipline, and finances.
If one partner in a same-sex female couple is a transgender woman, you may be able to have a child that is genetically connected to both of you. If that partner is pre-transition, their body will still be producing sperm. Depending on their medical situation, that sperm may be healthy enough to fertilize the other partner’s egg or frozen for later use during intrauterine insemination (IUI) or In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) treatment cycles. In this situation, you have more options for conceiving. You will need to consult with a doctor to figure out what the best option is for you and your partner.
Of course, adoption can always be a wonderful option for same-sex female couples interested in having a baby. At any given time, there are more than 125,000 children in the foster care system who are eligible for adoption. You can give these children a loving home with your partner.
If you decide to adopt, be aware that you may fight some lingering bias against same-sex couples in the system. Some social workers may want to make extra demands or try to give you only “problem” children. Know your rights and be prepared to stand up for them during the adoption process – you have just as much right to adopt as anyone else.
There is some ongoing research that may one day make it possible for same-sex couples to have a child that is biologically connected to both of them. In 2018, a scientist at the University of Cambridge announced that their lab had a mouse pup that was born to two fathers. It may be possible to use stem cells from one parent to create a sperm with a woman’s DNA in it.
This research is ongoing, and it will be a long time before this procedure is medically approved for human use. Mice are much less complex than humans, and a lot more experimentation will be necessary. But someday, same-sex couples may be able to have a baby that is biologically both of their children.
Deciding on the Best Method for You
There is no one right answer to what the right way to have a baby is. Which method you choose will depend on your and your partner’s wishes and on each of your medical situations. There are a lot of factors that will impact your decision.
Start by sitting down and having a conversation with your partner about what you both want from your parenting experience. Discuss your financial resources and what you know of your reproductive health, then make an appointment with your doctor to discuss the best medical options for both of you.
Answer, “How Can a Same-Sex Female Couple Have a Baby?”
There are many right answers to the question, “How can a same-sex female couple have a baby?” From intrauterine insemination to adoption to co-parenting, you have a lot of options available to you. Which one you choose will be a personal discussion you and your partner will need to have.
If you’d like to get started on your parenthood journey, check out the rest of our site at Inovi Fertility and Genetics Institute. We’re committed to achieving the highest success rates while providing personalized care to our patients. Schedule an appointment today and take the first step in your journey towards becoming