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. Let us look at these options that may lead you to your heart’s desire of becoming an LGBTQ parent.
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 and 3% of foster children rearing. There are also an estimated over 2 million LGBTQ people that have reported interest in adopting.
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 fertilisation 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 is transferred 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.
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 counselling. 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.
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.
· 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.
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.
· Anonymous donor
This is whereby the third party contributor is not personally known to the parents. The donation of eggs, sperm or embryos are 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.
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.
· 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 however 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.