Fertility Treatment for Same Sex Couples

Technological advancements mean that same sex couples have an unprecedented opportunity to have their own genetic children. There are a number of different options available to both female and male same sex couples, and while there are ethical and religious concerns around the topic, the practice is perfectly legal in the UK.

Artificial Insemination for Same Sex Couples

Same sex couples may wish to have a baby via third party reproduction, depending on their situation, there are a variety of options available. Lesbian couples will require a donation of sperm taken either straight from the donor or a frozen sample from a sperm bank. The donor may be found privately (I.e. a friend or relative), or found via an agency. The sperm is taken to a lab to be washed and prepared for insemination and is also tested for transferable diseases.

The sperm can be inserted in several ways, firstly, using a needless syringe. The syringe will insert the semen into the vagina, using a long tube to place it as deep as is necessary. This is known as intra-cervical insemination.

Intrauterine insemination involves the semen being placed directly into the uterus, this semen must have been treated to remove unnecessary components to prevent it from being expelled from the body via urine cramping. After the procedure, movement is not recommended for at least 15 minutes.

Gay male couples will provide a sample in a similar way to donors and this sample will be used to fertilise a donor egg. A surrogate mother is needed to bear the embryo to full term, and this is discussed in more detail below.

Surrogate Mothers for Same Sex Couples

Surrogate mothers may be found via agencies or can be personally known to the couple. Gay male couples will chose a partner to provide sperm for artificial insemination, and as the surrogate will be biologically related to the child, under UK law they maintain the right to determine what happens to the child. Unless an adoption contract is drawn, then she will be the child's legal mother. Commercial surrogacy is illegal in the UK, this means that surrogate mother cannot be paid more than expenses for carrying the child.

As you can imagine this can make the situation a bit complicated, and so it is always advised to involve a solicitor to make sure there are no misunderstandings or complications further down the line. It is also important to have a clear understanding of what the surrogate wants before going ahead with any part of the process.

IVF for Same Sex Couples

A conventional IVF procedure involves eggs being directly extracted from the follicles in which they are housed and mixed with the collected sperm in a petri dish. These eggs are then incubated to form a fertilised embryo. This embryo will be implanted back into the uterus where it will hopefully implant itself in the womb, resulting in pregnancy.

Same sex couples may want to use IVF rather than adoption so that they have a biological connection. Lesbian couples may use a surrogate mother, using one of their own eggs and a sperm donation or one of the partners will carry the baby themselves. Gay couples will use a surrogate mother, using their own sperm or a donation.

Recent changes in Civil Partnership laws mean that same sex couples have the same rights as married couples when it comes to IVF. Post 1990, eligibility to use IVF treatment looked at the financial stability of a couple to see if they were able to provide the baby with an adequate upbringing However this included "the need of the child to have a father", which discriminated against lesbian couples. The chair of the British Fertility Society, Allison Murdoch argued that as long as the child is going to be brought up in a loving, caring environment then their parent’s sexuality should not be seen as an issue.

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