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No Heterosexual Partner? It's Called "Social Factor Infertility"

by Connie Shapiro, Ph.D.,  Psychology Today,  Mar 4, 2010
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As I considered what new "face of infertility" to focus on in today's blog, I decided to honor March 3, 2010, a historic day in Washington D.C. where couples waited in line for hours to apply for marriage licenses on the first day same sex unions became legal in the nation's capital. One rarely thinks of same sex couples as "infertile," but the absence of a heterosexual partner means that they must give careful and deliberate consideration to how to enlarge their families. "Social factor infertility" differs in some ways from a diagnosis of medical infertility, and couples facing either will share some familiar emotional territory.

The shared territory obviously includes the anxiety about whether one partner will be able to conceive, and what toll this effort will take on relationships, self esteem, finances, and plans for one's future. The unique territory faced by same sex couples will depend on how open they are about their relationship, whether they have friends and loved ones who support them emotionally in their effort to become parents, whether they are legally married, how they plan to conceive or adopt this child, and whether they live in a state that permits adoption by same sex couples.

Same sex couples who are open about their relationship will have created an environment in which they can be relatively straightforward about themselves and their lives together. In this context, if they choose to share their hopes for a pregnancy or an adoption, they are likely to be able to rally support from many of the people whom they tell of their plans. The details of how they plan to conceive may be shared discreetly: lesbians can choose insemination with sperm from a donor (identified through a sperm bank or a consenting male known to the couple), or intercourse carefully timed to the woman's ovulatory cycle. Gay couples can identify a gestational surrogate, either using her eggs or the eggs of a donor mixed with the sperm from one or both of them. And both gay and lesbian couples can explore adoption as a way of enlarging their families. Read more.


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