Since the legalization of gay marriage occurred with the 2015 landmark ruling Obergefell v. Hodges, which deemed the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, same-sex and LGBTQ couples are starting families in increasing numbers.
Thanks to marriage equality, stigma that was once associated with LGBTQ couples starting families is dissolving. And the socially conservative notion that children of same-sex parents weren’t as well-adjusted as children who were brought up in heteronormative relationships has been debunked by scientific research.
And one of the largest studies conducted on the subject, results of which were published earlier this year, followed 1,200 children raised by same-sex couples in the Netherlands — which was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, which it did in 2001 — found that those kids had higher standardized test scores and were 6.7 percent more likely to graduate from high school than kids raised by opposite-sex couples.
Researchers concluded that this is likely because of the difficulties same-sex couples face in having children — biologically, socially and financially speaking — and are therefore more invested in the well-being of their children.
For many LGBTQ couples looking at paths to parenthood, assisted reproduction using egg or sperm donors is the preferred way to have a child because it allows them to share DNA, and thus a strong biological connection, to their child. Assisted reproduction also faces less legal and political discrimination than LGBTQ adoption.
As demand for these services grow, having quality egg and sperm donors is more important than ever. Potential donors undergo extensive genetic screenings and psychological testing and answer detailed questions about themselves, including their education levels, ethnic backgrounds and medical histories.
Before deciding to undergo assisted reproduction, couples must consider several factors.
- How the surrogate will (or won’t) fit into the family. Some couples opt to have a friend of family member act as their surrogate, which may enable them to be more involved in the pregnancy and allows the surrogate to be more involved in the child’s life.
- Donor characteristics. Couples can select eggs and sperm from individuals based on their intelligence, physical characteristics and ethnicity.
- Assisted reproduction can be costly and insemination treatments don’t always work the first time, so couples should be prepared for the financial responsibilities that these treatments entail.
Egg Donation and Surrogacy
For gay or trans couples looking to have children, surrogacy is the go-to option for assisted reproduction. Through surrogacy, couples choose an egg from a donor or egg bank, fertilize the egg with one of the partners’ sperm, or from a sperm donor, and implant the egg into a surrogate, who has no biological link to the baby and who carries the baby to term.
Some lesbian couples may also opt to use a surrogate, whether for personal or health-related reasons.
Finding support and tips from other couples who have completed the process and are now happy parents is a great way to gather further information about what to expect of the surrogacy process.
For lesbian or certain trans couples seeking to become parents, sperm donation is a relatively simple way to start a family. This is done in one of two ways:
- Artificial (or alternative) insemination. In this process, the sperm is injected directly into the woman’s cervix or uterus during ovulation to fertilize an egg. This is also known as intrauterine insemination.
- In vitro fertilization (IVF). This occurs when an egg is inseminated in a laboratory and then implanted into the woman who opts to carry the baby.
Lesbian couples who want to use a sperm donor must consider whether they want to choose a known or unknown sperm donor and must decide which woman will carry the baby.
Some couples decide to use “partner to partner” insemination, in which the partner of one egg is inseminated via IVF and then implanted into the other partner’s uterus — thus, both partners have a biological connection to the baby. This option is more costly than in intrauterine insemination.
Many couples find adoption to be a wonderful way to become parents. Unfortunately, the path to adoption for LGBTQ parents can be difficult. Adoption is still a primary target of anti-LGBTQ legislation, and laws surrounding LGTBQ adoption vary by state.
The LGBTQ Right to Parenthood
Whether couples opt to adopt or use donors, becoming a parent is the right of every adult, no matter what their sexual orientation. Sperm and egg donors are often vitally important in the process of LGBTQ couples attaining their goals of starting a family.
For individuals who wish to help couples conceive, many options exist, and they should learn more about the process from their local egg or sperm bank.