The process of starting a family can be a confusing one, especially if you do not have the option of conceiving naturally. Thankfully there are options available to help you out with planning for your family’s future. The first step to understanding your Family LGBTQ options is to get familiar with some common terminology. Here are 11 family planning terms that LGBTQ couples should know.
1 – Family LGBTQ with a Sperm Donor
A sperm donor is someone who contributes sperm to someone else’s pregnancy. There can be a variety of conditions around the sperm donor, depending on who your sperm donor is and where you get the sperm from. For instance, if you select your sperm donor through a sperm bank, you will not be able to uncover the identity of the donor. However, in most cases, you will be able to gain insight into the genetic details of your sperm donor, what their hobbies and interests are, and what their temperament is like.
2 – Egg Donor
Similar to a sperm donor, an egg donor is someone who provides an egg for someone else’s pregnancy. This can be an egg provided by someone you know, or it can be donated anonymously through a fertility clinic. Most egg donations will go on to be fertilized through in vitro fertilization (IVF) which we will discuss in detail later.
3 – Family LGBTQ with a Surrogate
A surrogate is someone who carries a pregnancy and delivers a baby for a family. This is one of the most well-known family planning terms. The surrogate can become pregnant in two ways. The first option is that a pre-fertilized embryo is implanted into her uterus through in vitro fertilization. Another option is that her uterus is injected with sperm to help her become pregnant. Based on all of the possibilities for surrogacy, the surrogate mother does not need to be genetically linked to the child to carry the pregnancy to full term.
4 – Intended Parents
Intended parents are the people (or person) who will be providing care for and raising the child. These people will also bear legal responsibility for the child until they turn 18. The intended parents do not need to be the ones giving birth to the child. In fact, they may not be genetically linked to the child at all. If you’re reading this post, you might even be an intended parent yourself!
5 – Reproductive Endocrinologist (REI)
If you are planning on undergoing artificial insemination or working with a surrogate, the chances are high that you will be in contact with a reproductive endocrinologist or REI at some point. A reproductive endocrinologist is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating any hormone-related issues in the body. These doctors work with in vitro fertilization, tubal factor infertility, male factor infertility, fertility preservation, endometriosis, and any other fertility disorders that you or your partner might be facing.
Reproductive endocrinologists have received years of special training to be able to do what they do. In addition to a medical degree, these specialists will go through a 3-year program where they focus on the study of hormones and the reproductive system. Altogether, most REIs will have about 15 years or more of qualified medical training. All REIs will also have to pass tests to receive their board certification in multiple fields: Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility as well as Obstetrics and Gynecology.
6 – Preimplantation Genetic Testing for Aneuploidy (PGT-A)
PGT-A stands for preimplantation genetic testing for aneuploidy. This takes place when embryos undergo testing to determine which of them have normal chromosomes. The embryos that have normal chromosomes have the best chance of a healthy pregnancy that is carried full-term. If an embryo is missing chromosomes or has additional chromosomes, then it will be less likely to implant along the uterine lining and will be more susceptible to miscarriage. Previously, this test was known as preimplantation genetic screening or PGS. However, scientists have recently renamed the process to preimplantation genetic testing for aneuploidy or PGT-A.
7 – Preimplantation Genetic Testing for Monogenic Diseases (PGT-M)
Another form of genetic testing that REIs will do on embryos is preimplantation genetic testing for monogenic diseases or PGT-M. This is when the embryos are tested for singular gene defects. This test is amazing because it can identify the embryos that are carrying disease genes to prevent your future child from inheriting the disease. This series of testing also used to be known by a different name, preimplantation genetic diagnosis. However, similar to the previous term, experts have recently changed the name to preimplantation genetic testing for monogenic diseases (PGT-M).
8 – Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
Intrauterine insemination or IUI is a procedure that places the sperm directly into a woman’s uterus. This method of insemination increases the chances that the sperm will meet the egg in the fallopian tubes, causing it to become fertilized. In most cases, the person who is looking to become pregnant will undergo a few rounds of IUI before the doctor recommends more invasive methods such as IVF. The procedure itself takes a matter of minutes and is no more invasive than a basic pap smear.
In addition to placing the sperm in the uterus, your REI will carefully wash the sperm so that only a concentration of the strongest swimmers remains. The procedure will be precisely timed so that the sperm is inserted into the uterus during ovulation. In some cases, your doctor will also prescribe fertility medications to increase the chance that your egg will become fertilized.
9 – In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
In vitro fertilization (IVF) on the other hand, is a longer, more invasive process than IUI. Before the IVF process can begin, the person whose eggs you are using will undergo treatment to stimulate their ovaries, causing them to produce multiple eggs. These eggs will then be retrieved from the ovaries through a minimally invasive surgical procedure.
After the eggs are collected, specialists will combine them with sperm so that they become fertilized. These fertilized eggs will begin to mature into embryos before they are transferred into a uterus to begin pregnancy. The great thing about IVF is that you can use one person’s egg and implant the embryo into a different person’s uterus, which makes it a wonderful option for same-sex female couples who both want to be involved in the pregnancy in some way, which we will discuss in the next section.
10 – Reciprocal IVF
Reciprocal in vitro fertilization is a great option for LGBTQ couples of all varieties. However, it is especially popular among cisgender lesbian couples. This is because reciprocal IVF requires that one woman contributes an egg to the pregnancy and the other woman will carry the pregnancy to full term. Reciprocal IVF is wonderful because it allows both parents to get involved with the pregnancy and feel connected to their baby.
The Path to Parenthood
Every family is unique, so it only makes sense that the path to conception is unique as well. No matter what your family planning strategy is, if you have questions or concerns, you should bring them up to your doctor or family planning counselor. The process of becoming a parent can be beautiful and fulfilling, but there will be some hardships along the way. Soon enough, you will be embarking on your path to parenthood.
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