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Finding a Doctor When You're LGBT

LGBT Family-Building

Realizing you need a Fertility Doctor, much less finding one, can feel like a tricky and overwhelming concept. For the average heterosexual couple, needing ART usually comes as a surprise (half the surprise being that ART means Assisted Reproductive Technology, and not just something that one hangs on their walls). You can arrive at your first appointment with little to no ideas, information or predictions on what your treatment course will be. The idea is generally to arrive with questions and receive some options and answers.

With a gay or lesbian couple, when the desire is to pursue having biological children, chances are they have at least some vague ideas about ART and the possibilities involved with conceiving long before they make their first appointment. Should the process of finding a Doctor differ? Does a gay couple need to be anymore armed with information for that first appointment than a straight couple does? What would be the first step for a gay or lesbian couple who are thinking about starting a family? What decisions, if any, need to be made/discussed before going into a fertility specialist?

For help with these questions, I spoke with Dr. Eldon Schriock, a Reproductive Endocrinologist and Fertility Specialist at Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco.

Just like with a heterosexual couple, it is not necessary to have any sort of concrete plan prior to seeing a specialist. If anything, seeing a specialist can help you create one.

"An initial consult can be helpful prior to making any decisions," Dr. Schriock says. "The RE can discuss process, options, and costs. Will sperm or egg donors be necessary? Are there known people to be sperm and egg donors or gestational carriers? Will a gay couple want to use both of their sperm? Will a lesbian couple want to use eggs from one partner and the uterus of the other partner? What are the legal issues your state? How do you both become legal parents? Do you want to have your embryos tested genetically? CCS, complete chromosome screening, is a powerful tool to determine if the embryo is genetically normal prior to transfer. Similar to the “amniocentesis test” done at 12 – 16 weeks of pregnancy, this test will also reveal the gender of the embryo."

You don't have to arrive armed with a plan, just like with any appointment with a Fertility Doctor, the consultation will help you devise one. What about finding a Fertility Doctor in the first place? For a gay couple, are there truly any real benefits of finding a Doctor who works with a higher rate of LGBT couples than one who doesn't?

"As in any project, the more you do of something, the better the outcome," says Dr. Schriock. "A comparison to a general contractor building a home may be helpful. The doctor is the general contractor building a family. As the general contractor’s success is dependent on excellent subcontractors, roofer, electrician etc, the doctor also has a team: psychologist, attorney, egg and sperm bank, surrogacy agency, nurse, insurance facilitator, geneticist, and embryologists. A doctor who does many of these treatments will probably have options for team members that would uniquely fit a particular couples needs. A highly successful, busy embryology laboratory is critical. Having multiple embryologists and excellent quality control are facilitated by doing many cycles per year. CCS and embryo freezing, vitrification, are highly complex embryological skills and are critical for success."

Finding a Doctor who is particularly tuned into the needs and supportive of the LGBT community is greatly beneficial. On how to find a Doctor that fits that description, Dr. Schriock gives some great questions for a gay couple to consider of a Doctor or clinic before booking an appointment:

  • Is the doctor part of a team of people focusing on helping LGBT couples?
  • Does the doctor have a long history of helping LGBT couple?
  • Does the doctor do many of theses treatments per year?
  • Does the doctor have high success rates, including CCS, vitrification?
  • Does the doctor have a successful frozen donor egg bank?
  • Does the doctor provide special classes/seminars for the LGBT community?
  • Does the doctor support LGBT family building publicly?
  • Does the doctor place a high priority on maximizing the health of your child? A good way to increase the chance of a healthy baby is to prevent multiple pregnancy by having high success rates, while transferring one embryo at a time.

As is true for any couple,you don't need to have a plan in place before booking an appointment with a Fertility Doctor - the purpose of a consultation is to help you answer questions that you may have, and develop the best possible treatment
plan for your specifics. The very best thing you CAN do for yourself before going to that first appointment is to find a Doctor that is the best fit for you.


Comments (1)

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