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Gay and Lesbian Family Building
Written in partnership with California Fertility Partners
February 5, 2013
California Fertility Partners has been helping gay and lesbian men and women build families for more than 25 years. We spoke with Dr. Guy Ringler, a fertility doctor and partner at the practice about family building options for gay and lesbian individuals and couples
Q: What should an LGBT individual look for in a fertility clinic?
A: As a gay, lesbian, or transgender individual you should seek a fertility clinic that not only has an excellent reputation for providing high quality medical care, but one that has experience in treating members of the LGBT community. You should look for a physician with an excellent reputation who makes you feel comfortable, and takes time to answer all of your questions and to address your concerns. The office staff should make you feel welcome and cared for during your visits. Fertility treatments can be stressful at times and it’s helpful to be guided through the process by caring and compassionate individuals.
At California Fertility Partners we have been helping gay, lesbian and transgender individuals have babies and build families for over 25 years. As a new patient seeing us for the first time, or a returning patient coming back for another pregnancy, you will find a welcoming and comforting environment with a caring team of professionals.
Q: Do lesbian women and couples need to use a fertility clinic to get pregnant?
A: Single lesbian women or couples should begin their family building journey with a thorough medical evaluation. Ask your Gynecologist for a referral to a Reproductive Endocrinologist (fertility specialist) for a fertility evaluation. The fertility specialist will review your past medical and reproductive history; perform a physical exam including pelvic ultrasound; and check hormone levels to assess your ovarian reserve and reproductive health. It is important to be evaluated before starting a series of fertility procedures to prevent wasting valuable time and resources in the event there is a treatable reproductive problem.
Q: How would a lesbian woman or couple go about finding a sperm donor?
A: Lesbian women seeking donor sperm should talk with their gynecologist or fertility specialist about the donor sperm options available. There are excellent national sperm banks that recruit, medically screen, and quarantine sperm for purchase. The sperm banks can ship frozen sperm to all areas of the country. Many women prefer to use sperm from friends and other known donors. All sperm donors are required to undergo infectious disease screening specified by the FDA. In addition, sperm donors should have genetic screens performed as well. Specimens from anonymous sperm donors must be quarantined for six months, and the donors re-tested, prior to utilizing specimens in fertility procedures. Requirements for quarantine of known sperm donors can vary between fertility programs, however all donors must complete infectious disease screening tests.
Q: What is "reciprocal IVF" and is that an option at your clinic?
A: Reciprocal IVF refers to the fertilization of eggs retrieved from one member of a lesbian couple with the transfer of embryos into the uterus of the egg provider’s partner. Reciprocal IVF is a way for both members of a lesbian couple to actively participate in the reproductive process. At California Fertility Partners we have helped many women build families together through reciprocal IVF.
Q: What is the process for getting started with surrogacy at California Fertility Partners?
A: Gay men interested in starting their family should begin with a consultation to learn about the various treatment options. At the time of initial consultation one should request a baseline semen analysis to confirm adequate sperm production and to identify any potential sperm deficits that may require treatment to optimize the chance for pregnancy. Most gay men choose to pursue egg donation and gestational surrogacy. The process usually begins with the intended parents selecting a gestational surrogate through a surrogacy agency. Once a match has been made the surrogate completes her medical screening with a reproductive endocrinologist.
The intended parents select an egg donor from an egg donor agency. You have the option of meeting the donor candidate through many agencies, or to remain anonymous. The egg donor candidate undergoes medical, genetic, and psychological screening as well. Once all participants have completed their medical screening tests, the attorneys complete the contracts, and a treatment calendar is made that outlines the timing of medication start dates for all individuals.
At California Fertility Partners we have helped hundreds of men become fathers through egg donation and surrogacy. Our happy Dads live around the world and serve as role models for young gay men everywhere for the possibilities for family building.
Q: Are known egg donors and/or known surrogates an option for gay men/couples?
A: Egg donors and surrogates can be family members, friends, or selected through an agency. All egg donors whether known or anonymous must undergo complete medical, genetic, and psychological screening before beginning the treatment process.
If a family member or friend offers to donate their eggs for family building it is essential to have a psychological evaluation to discuss any potential future issues or conflicts regarding the children born. In addition, a legal consultation and contract are needed to outline ownership of the eggs and embryos and prevent conflict in the future. Gestational surrogates also require psychological and legal consultation. The contracts identify the intended parents’ intent to create the child and thereby define the intended parents are the legal parents of the children born.
Q: Can both male partners use their sperm with surrogacy?
A: Gay couples using egg donation and surrogacy to build their families can both be sperm providers for the procedure. The eggs retrieved from the egg donor are divided into two groups with half the eggs inseminated with each partner’s sperm. The embryos are then cultured for five days and one or two embryos are then transferred into the surrogate’s uterus.
Q: Do you work with transgendered individuals?
A: Transgender individuals may elect to use their reproductive tissues for family building or may use donated tissues. We have helped transgender men and women have children using a variety of reproductive techniques. It is important to begin the conversation with an experienced reproductive endocrinologist who can present all options available and to help you choose the method that is best for you.