Getting pregnant and having a baby starts with a sperm cell fertilizing an egg cell. This can happen in many ways, like sexual intercourse, in vitro fertilization, and artificial insemination.
This process may be easy for heterosexual couples, provided they have no fertility issues. However, it is different for same-sex couples, especially when none are transgender.
If one partner is transgender and is yet to complete their transition, they may be able to get the other partner pregnant or carry the baby (depending on their assigned sex at birth). However, cisgender same-sex couples may have to undergo an entirely different process to have biological children.
Thankfully, the world of science has given us some unexpected miracles; same-sex couples having their own children is no exception.
How Can Lesbian Couples Have a Biological Child
People in a same-sex relationship can have children whenever they want through adoption. Adoption is an excellent option because the child gets a family and a forever home, and the couples get to raise a child. However, the adoption process is not as seamless for same-sex couples as it is for heterosexual couples.
Moreover, some same-sex couples often prefer a genetically related child, while others want the thrills and experience of carrying a pregnancy. If you fall into either of these categories, there are options you can explore:
Getting a Sperm Donor
Same-sex female couples need donor sperm to get pregnant. The downside of the process is getting a viable sperm donor.
Same-sex female couples can get donor sperm from their fertility clinic. But, getting sperm cells from a donor involves spending money. Coupled with other fertilization and implantation costs, it may be a lot for the couple.
There is also the fear of not knowing the psychological and physical features of the donor. That’s why some lesbian couples ask friends or family members to donate sperm.
When same-sex couples find a donor that suits them, they must decide who will carry the pregnancy. The sperm donor, anonymous or not, is the child’s biological father.
In the case where one partner is transgender and hasn’t completed the transition (i.e., all male reproductive organs are still intact), they can donate the sperm, and the other partner carries the baby.
After sperm collection, fertilizing the egg is the next stage. This is when the couples must decide on who donates their egg or carries the baby.
Since there is usually no penis-vaginal intercourse in same-sex female couples’ relationships, the couple needs to fertilize the eggs through a process called artificial insemination. There are two types of artificial insemination – intracervical and intrauterine.
- Intracervical insemination – is when medical professionals introduce the sperm into the vagina and deposit it near the cervix. The sperm then swims into the uterus like it would in sexual intercourse.
This procedure is not complicated; same-sex couples can buy insemination kits to inseminate themselves. Likewise, they can carry out the process in a clinic, although it is cheaper at home.
- Intrauterine insemination – in this process, the sperm is injected directly into the uterus. This significantly increases the chance of getting pregnant, and the process is only done in clinics.
Once insemination is done, the couples must wait to take a pregnancy test to determine the success of the fertilization. They can repeat the process as often as they need until they are pregnant.
Artificial insemination is great for same-sex couples with optimum reproductive health. Couples with fertility issues can opt for IVF.
In Vitro Fertilization – IVF
A same-sex couple with fertility issues may find IVF is the best chance of having a biologically related child. This is because fertilization takes place in the lab, after which they transfer the embryo to the uterus of the carrying partner.
The egg is harvested from one partner or the donor egg and is fertilized with the donor sperm outside the body. The partner carrying the baby will also use some medication to improve the chances of successful implantation.
Once fertilization is complete, the embryo is transferred to the uterus, where implantation occurs.
It is also possible for both partners to be involved in this process. Rather than leave the embryo to incubate in the lab, professionals can transfer to one parent for incubation.
Once it incubates, medical professionals can transfer the embryo to the parent, who will carry the pregnancy to term.
Lesbian couples can have varying decisions when it comes to getting pregnant. While one partner may be open to it, the other may not. They can decide whose egg they will fertilize and who will carry the baby.
IVF makes it easy; one partner can get pregnant using the other partner’s egg. This process is called reciprocal IVF because it involves both partners. A same-sex couple that opts for reciprocal IVF will also feel a more biological connection to the child since both partners can be biological parents.
The process is the same. The medical professionals harvest the eggs from one partner and fertilize them. Afterward, they transfer the resulting embryo to the other partner for implantation.
Same-sex couples also must consider the legal rights in their country or state. There are instances where the partner who donated eggs must legally adopt the child to have the same parental rights as the partner who carried the pregnancy.
In addition, the gestational carrier is the child’s biological mother in the eyes of the law. If anything happens to her before the adoption is complete, the other partner may not be the child’s biological parent.
A gestational carrier is anyone who carries the pregnancy; it could be one of the partners or a surrogate. Both partners may opt for a surrogate if they have fertility issues.
Surrogacy is usually the final resolution after exhausting other possibilities to get pregnant. This is because there are legal issues around surrogacy that most people try to avoid. For example, the law may not regard a couple as the legal parents of their child until they go through an adoption process.
Same-sex male couples also have to go through the same process, which is more difficult since they require a surrogate.
The Future for Same-Sex Couples
Research is ongoing to allow same-sex couples to have children without needing donated sperm or eggs. The study created mouse pups with two fathers or two mothers. Using gene expression and deleting the paternal genome, researchers created mouse pups that lived through gestation but died shortly after birth.
Scientists believe they can reciprocate this in humans eventually. They can produce sperm using a skin cell in a woman to fertilize an egg. In the same way, they can produce eggs using skin cells in a man.
Japanese scientists announced that they created human eggs in the lab. This means that science is one step closer to making same-sex couples get pregnant without needing donors.
A lesbian couple can have their own baby, and there are more options for them than before. They only need to decide who will donate eggs and get a sperm donor. If they don’t have fertility issues, they can opt for artificial insemination, and if they do, IVF is another way to go.
The legal parent of the child is the one who carries the baby. Therefore, the other partner must adopt the child to have the same rights.
If couples decide to have more than one child, they can use reciprocal IVF. That way, each partner has the chance to be the biological mother of their children. Although they will have to adopt the other children that they didn’t carry.
In the future, scientists may be able to take skin or blood cells from two same-sex parents and use gene editing to turn them to stem cells and then sex cells – egg cells and sperm cells. In vitro fertilization can be used to make an embryo that will be transferred to a surrogate.