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What Are My Options to Starting a Family? An LGBTQ Guide.

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Introduction: Starting a family is a beautiful aspiration, filled with numerous paths to parenthood. For LGBTQ individuals and couples, the journey to having a child can involve unique challenges and complexities. However, the growing support and variety of solutions available today mean that you can find a way to achieve your dream. 

In this guide, we will explore the options for LGBTQ families looking to start a family, including adoption, conception methods, surrogacy, and third-party reproduction. Whether you desire a biological connection or are open to adoption and fostering, there’s a path that can lead you to the joy of parenthood.

Challenges and Support for LGBTQ Families

Trying to have a child as an LGBTQ person or while in a same-sex relationship can get somewhat complicated. It can also be tougher where there are infertility problems. Thankfully, despite these challenges, there has been growing support and solutions that have become accessible to LGBTQ families looking to have a baby.

Wanting to have a child as an LGBTQ individual or couple is not unusual. There are an estimated 2-3.7 million children under the age of 18 that have at least one LGBTQ parent in the US. There are various ways by which such parents managed to have their children, meaning there is likely a solution you will find acceptable if you are willing to do the research and make the effort.

Adoption and Fostering

This is the most common path to parenthood that LGBTQ people follow. Adoptions allow individuals or couples that are not the birth parents of the child to establish a legal parent-child relationship. Fostering allows an individual or couple to care for a child for a certain period due to them having been removed from their parents’ custody as a result of them being found unfit. Fostering does not always end in adoption.

Both can however be incredibly complex processes that involve much paperwork, assessments, and costs. Not to mention that in some countries and states it can be harder for LGBTQ couples to adopt or foster. Most do not however have explicit laws prohibiting LGBTQ people from adopting or fostering and will often leave the decision up to the family court system and welfare agencies.

In the US, same-sex couples are 7 times more likely to be raising an adopted or foster child than heterosexual couples. Same-sex parents are believed to account for about:

  • 4% of adoptions
  • 3% of foster children rearing

There are also an estimated over 2 million LGBTQ people that have reported interest in adopting.

A happy same-sex couple with their adopted child.

A happy same-sex couple with their adopted child.

Conception

For some LGBTQ parents, the desire to have a biological connection with the child is strong. There are different ways for such couples to conceive:

In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) – This is whereby the egg and sperm are combined in a lab setting with one or two of the resulting embryos later transferred into a woman’s uterus for fertilization to occur. With same-sex couples, a donor is usually required for either the egg or sperm. Where the same-sex couple are both assigned male at birth, there will be a need to find a surrogate that will carry the baby to term. In reciprocal IVF, one partner will provide the egg, while the other will transfer the embryo to carry it to term.

IVF is ideal not only in facilitating conception but also in addressing possible infertility issues. It often incorporates diagnosis and treatment of fertility problems before retrieval of eggs or sperm.

Insemination – This is whereby collected sperm is placed directly into the uterus, cervix, or vagina. Intrauterine insemination into the uterus tends to have the highest success rate. The semen sample can come from a known or unknown donor. It undergoes a special wash before the transfer is done. Where the donor is unknown, the sperm will also need to be screened for genetic conditions as a safeguard. This option of insemination is typically available to LGBTQ individuals or couples that are both assigned female at birth.

Surrogacy

Surrogacy offers another path to parenthood, especially for individuals or couples assigned male at birth. This process involves a surrogate carrying the pregnancy to term, often with the involvement of a donor egg and the sperm of one partner.

In our experience, the legalities and costs of surrogacy can be daunting, requiring substantial research and professional guidance. Despite the intricate procedures, surrogacy remains a viable option for many LGBTQ families aiming for a biological connection with their child.

This option is common for LGBTQ individuals or couples that are both assigned male at birth and want to have their own biological child. Even for couples that may have at least one female partner, there could be health or personal problems that make carrying a baby to term difficult. Egg and sperm donations may also be required to undertake this process.

Surrogacy involves contracting a gestational carrier to carry a pregnancy for you. This arrangement is often made through agencies that can provide the needed support to surrogates, including healthcare and counseling. Legal cover is also included to ensure parental rights are protected. This can be especially important if the surrogate is also a donor and to facilitate second-parent adoption for the LGBTQ partner that is not a biological parent.

Third-Party Reproduction

This option allows for a third party to make some kind of biological contribution towards the conception of a baby. It can support IVF, insemination, and surrogacy efforts. This may involve donating eggs, sperm, or embryos. It may also be used as a means to provide gestational services. Meaning the third party would be the one to carry the embryo to term.

Types of Donors

There are several types of donors involved in third-party reproduction:

  • Known Donor: This is whereby the person donating eggs, sperm, or embryos is known to the LGBTQ parents. This may be a family member, friend, or acquaintance. This arrangement could be arrived at through personal discussion, an agency, advertisement, or fertility clinic.
  • Anonymous Donor: This is whereby the third-party contributor is not personally known to the parents. The donation of eggs, sperm, or embryos is anonymously done. In some instances, there may be some additional information provided as a profile like age, race, physical characteristics, medical history, and educational level.
  • Open and Semi-open Donors: Semi-open donor arrangements allow for the possibility that the resulting child may one day be able to get in touch with the donor. There are often restrictions such as at what age such contact may be initiated. The donor may, however, decide to refuse such contact. Open donor arrangements allow for open and direct communication between the LGBTQ parents and the donor throughout the conception process and beyond. This is opted for where the LGBTQ parents feel a need to keep the donor involved in their child’s life and all parties are open to such a relationship.

Considerations for Known Donors

Working with a known donor can have its pros and cons. While you are in a better position to ascertain their health status and know their lifestyle, the relationship may get complicated once the child is born and later on. It is advisable to meet with a lawyer that handles such cases to get proper advice and learn what agreements you can enter into to guide this process.

Benefits of Anonymous Donors

From our perspective, it is a popular option amongst LGBTQ parents as there are fewer concerns about donors claiming parental rights. The donors also do not have to worry about anyone claiming child support. Without this contact between the would-be parents and the donor, there is less stress over future legal or emotional consequences.

Conclusion: Starting a family as an LGBTQ individual or couple may present unique challenges, but the diverse options available—from adoption and fostering to conception through IVF and surrogacy—ensure that there is a pathway suited to every aspiring parent. Navigating this journey requires thorough research and commitment, but with growing social support and legal advancements, LGBTQ individuals and couples can confidently pursue their dreams of parenthood. Remember, seeking professional guidance can further ease the process, providing you the clarity and support needed to make informed and heartwarming decisions for your future family.

FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can LGBTQ individuals or couples adopt or foster children?

Yes, LGBTQ individuals and couples can adopt or foster children, though the process can be complex and may vary depending on local laws and regulations. In the US, same-sex couples are 7 times more likely to be raising an adopted or foster child than heterosexual couples.

2. What is In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and how does it work for LGBTQ couples?

IVF involves combining an egg and sperm in a lab setting to create an embryo, which is then transferred to a uterus for fertilization. LGBTQ couples may require a donor for either the egg or sperm. For same-sex couples where both partners are assigned male at birth, a surrogate is needed to carry the baby to term.

3. What does insemination involve and who is it suitable for?

Insemination involves placing collected sperm directly into the uterus, cervix, or vagina. It is suitable for LGBTQ individuals or couples both assigned female at birth. Sperm can be from a known or unknown donor and is typically screened for genetic conditions to ensure safety.

4. How does surrogacy work for LGBTQ families?

Surrogacy involves hiring a gestational carrier to carry a pregnancy for you. This is often facilitated by agencies that provide necessary support, healthcare, and legal cover to protect parental rights. Surrogacy is especially common for couples where both partners are assigned male at birth or where one partner cannot carry a baby to term.

5. What is third-party reproduction and how does it assist LGBTQ couples?

Third-party reproduction allows a third party to contribute biologically, such as donating eggs, sperm, or embryos, or providing gestational services. This supports IVF, insemination, and surrogacy processes. The donor can be known, anonymous, open, or semi-open, depending on the arrangement made with the LGBTQ parents.

6. What are the pros and cons of using a known donor for conception?

Using a known donor allows the parents to know the donor’s health status and lifestyle. However, the relationship can become complicated after the child is born. It’s advisable to seek legal advice to establish clear agreements and expectations.

7. What is the difference between anonymous and open donor arrangements?

An anonymous donor arrangement ensures that the donors are not personally known to the parents, reducing concerns over parental rights and child support claims. Open donor arrangements allow for direct communication between the parents and the donor, which can continue throughout the process and beyond, depending on mutual agreement.

8. Are there any restrictions when it comes to semi-open donor arrangements?

Semi-open donor arrangements allow for the possibility of future contact between the child and donor, but usually involve restrictions such as age limits for initiating contact. The donor may also have the option to refuse contact when approached.

  • Published on : Friday December 17, 2021
  • Last updated : Thursday July 4, 2024
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About the author

Michelle Tan is an IVF Consultant with 12 years of experience in fertility consulting. Having personally undergone IVF and surrogacy, she brings firsthand insight and empathy to her work. Based in Singapore, Michelle frequently travels to clinics in Bangkok, Phnom Penh, and Bishkek, sharing her expertise and supporting patients on their fertility journeys.