An Intro Guide From Donor Sperm IUI to Shared Maternity IVF With Donor Sperm
There are many different fertility options for lesbian couples, which all range in cost, convenience, and success rates. Many fertility resources are geared to heterosexual couples, so we’ve created a simple guide to available fertility choices for female partners.
An Overview to Fertility Options For Lesbian Couples
In order to have a baby, you need three things: an egg and sperm to create the embryo, and a uterus to carry the embryo to term. If you and your partner are cisgender women, and one or both of you has viable eggs and/or can carry the baby, then all you need is donor sperm. If neither partner can provide eggs nor a womb, then there are additional donor options available, like donor eggs or embryos, and gestational carriers.
The first step is a full fertility evaluation for both partners to accurately assess the options and provide the greatest chance for success. The two most common fertility options for lesbian couples are intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF). With IVF, there is also the option for shared maternity, where one partner provides the eggs and the other partner carries the baby.
Intrauterine Insemination for Female Couples
Intrauterine insemination, or IUI, is the most straight forward, and often the simplest way, for a lesbian couple to conceive. In IUI, donor sperm is inserted directly into the uterus with a simple and brief procedure. Depending on your fertility evaluation, your provider may prescribe medications to increase the chances of conception. It’s important to time the IUI procedure for when you are most fertile, so you will need to discuss how to track your ovulation with your provider.
When you research fertility options for lesbian couples, you may also see a procedure called ICI, or intracervical insemination. Unlike IUI, in ICI the donor sperm is placed into the cervix, which can be done in an at-home procedure. ICI also requires fresh (not-frozen) donor sperm, which usually means it has to come from a known donor. Generally, fertility clinics (including PNW Fertility) recommend IUI over ICI, as IUI has higher success rates and better medical and safety supervision.
Shared Maternity / Reciprocal IVF
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is the process of combining an egg and sperm in a lab to create an embryo, which is then implanted into the uterus. For lesbian couples, IVF can be the right treatment option for many medical reasons such as failed attempts with IUI, tubal disease, and more. Some lesbian couples also opt for IVF as a way for both partners to participate in the family building process.
This second scenario is often referred to as shared maternity, or reciprocal IVF. It is a way for both parents to have a biological connection to their child; one through genetics, and one through the experience of pregnancy. For shared maternity, one partner will go through ovarian stimulation and an egg retrieval process, while the other receives the fertilized embryo. Shared maternity often has high success rates, especially if both partners are healthy and haven’t had any previous fertility problems.
You will need donor sperm for both reciprocal and traditional IVF. You can read more about how to choose donor sperm here; we have a list of FDA approved sperm banks and are happy to provide resources for making this decision.
Find LGBTQ-Affirming Fertility Care at PNW Fertility
Whether you’re interested in IUI, IVF, or shared maternity, we are here to support you throughout your fertility journey. At PNWF, we believe everyone should be able to build their family, and we proudly support our LGBTQ+ community. If you and your partner are looking to explore fertility options for lesbian couples, contact the Center for LGBTQ+ Fertility at PNWF today for an initial consultation.
For more information about same sex fertility options, tune into our upcoming webinar to learn about our exciting new Center for LGBTQ+ Fertility at PNW Fertility. Click here to watch the webinar recording!