Family Building Options for Lesbian Couples

Family Building Options for Lesbian Couples, A Checklist

This blog offers a comprehensive checklist of family building options available to lesbian and transgender couples where both partners have a female reproductive tract. 

What do you need to make a baby?

  1. Eggs

    Eggs may possibly come from both partners.  If one partner is unable to produce viable eggs, then eggs will come from only one partner.
  1. Uterus – A place for the baby to grow

    May possibly come from both partners.  If one partner has a uterus that is unable to carry a baby, then only one partner is available to be the gestational carrier. 
  1. Sperm

    1. Known sperm donor
    2. Anonymous sperm donor, from a sperm bank

How do you get the egg and sperm together?

Artificial insemination methods 

These methods involve placing the sperm inside the vaginal canal or directly inside the uterus.  In either case, artificial insemination involves the same parent-to-be providing both the egg and the uterus.  Drugs may or may not be used to stimulate the ovaries to produce more than one egg per cycle. 

Intravaginal insemination

Sperm is placed inside the vaginal canal.  This is typically a DIY approach, often referred to as the turkey baster method, although more commonly a syringe (minus the needle) is used. Costs are generally minimal.

IUI (intrauterine insemination)

Sperm is prepped (washed) prior to being placed directly into the uterus via a small plastic tube known as a canula.  

This approach is usually done with the aid of a professional – either a midwife, nurse practitioner, or doctor.  Costs run $2k – $6k, depending on several factors (cost of sperm, cost of meds, amount of monitoring needed).

  • At home with a professional, i.e. a midwife
  • Ob/gyn nurse or doctor – in office IUI
  • Fertility clinic – in office IUI

IVF – in vitro fertilization

IVF involves stimulating the ovaries with medications to produce several eggs, surgically removing those eggs, fertilizing them to create embryos, and then placing an embryo back into the uterus.  Once a couple is pursuing IVF, it becomes possible to mix and match the source of the eggs and the gestational uterus. Costs run about $25k per stimulation/retrieval cycle.

Possible sources of eggs and uterus:

Eggs:

  • One woman only provides eggs
  • Both women provide eggs

Uterus:

  • One woman is the gestational carrier
  • Both women are gestational carriers

Possible combos (may repeat as needed for larger families):

For one pregnancy:

  • One woman provides both eggs and uterus
  • One woman provides the eggs, the other woman is the gestational carrier

For two pregnancies:

  • Both women provide their own eggs and uterus for two different pregnancies
  • One woman provides the eggs, and both women are gestational carriers for two different pregnancies
  • Both women provide eggs, and one woman is the gestational carrier for two different pregnancies

Egg donation for lesbian couples

It may happen that a lesbian couple is unable to produce viable eggs, and they will want to work with donated eggs. Those donated eggs may come from a few different sources:  

Individual egg donor

A specific individual is chosen to donate eggs during a fresh IVF cycle. That donor goes through a stimulation/retrieval cycle,  and their eggs are inseminated with the donor sperm.

This is a good option for parents who are using a known egg donor and are hoping to have multiple embryos to build a family with genetically related siblings. Costs run about $40k per retrieval cycle.

Frozen eggs

Rather than a known egg donor going through a retrieval cycle, previously retrieved and frozen eggs are used.  The eggs will be inseminated with the donor sperm, and multiple embryos may be created and frozen for later use to build a family of genetically related siblings. 

This type of cycle is a good choice when using a known sperm donor. Costs run about $40k per stimulation/retrieval cycle.

Embryo donation

The best source of donor embryos are the IVF programs that are creating embryos specifically for this purpose.  Young donors with robust gametes provide the sperm and eggs, embryos are created, and then made available for transfer. 

This option works well when both donor eggs and anonymous donor sperm are being used, and the parents-to-be are unconcerned with having full genetic siblings if more than one child is being considered. Costs run about $15k for a package of 3 transfer cycles.

Preparing for the possibilities:

  1. Get both partners evaluated, so that you know what resources you have to work with and can make informed decisions about what to do and when to do it.

  2. Consult with professionals to discuss your family building This may include a fertility specialist for your medical options, and a counsellor to figure out what options resonate most for your family.

  3. Holistic health support for both partners. In our clinic we work with both partners to get everyone into great shape – for egg donation, pregnancy, and parenthood. As the fertility journey unfolds, each partner may be taking on different roles in the family building process, and in the end both will be parents.


Our family building treatment plans focus on overall health, fertility support, and stress reduction. 

Modalities include

If you live in the Bay Area and are looking for family building support, please contact us.

Leslie Oldershaw, L.Ac.
Medical director
Fertility Acupuncturist East Bay
510-595-1175
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