Four questions: Options for same sex couples

Starting a family can be a challenge for any couple, but for same sex couples, the challenges and decisions may seem even more complex.

How can same sex couples reduce the complexity? Navigating the process comes down to answering four basic questions:

  • Where will the sperm come from?
  • Where will the egg come from?
  • How will the sperm and egg come together?
  • Who will carry the baby?

By framing the discussion around these four questions, same sex couples can sort through the complexities much more easily.

For lesbian couples

Let’s start by addressing the four questions from the perspective of a lesbian couple.

Where will the sperm come from?

Lesbian couples may turn to someone they know to donate sperm, or may use an anonymous donor from a sperm bank.

Using sperm from a known donor can be an appealing option, because couples then know much more about the health, personality and other characteristics of the donor. But using a known donor opens up a host of potential legal and practical considerations, too. Will he be known as the father of the child, and involved in parenting decisions? Will he have a legal claim to the child, and potentially sue for visitation and custody? Scenarios should be thought through carefully in advance, and agreements should be crafted with the help of an attorney that specializes in this area.

Where will the egg come from?

Based on age, health and other factors, lesbian partners/spouses often each explore the option of using their eggs for conception. If neither is a viable source for eggs, a lesbian couple may also wish to consider using a donated egg.

How will the sperm and egg come together?

Sperm and egg are brought together in one of two basic ways: insemination or in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Artificial Insemination

What is artificial insemination? During this procedure, sperm is inserted directly into a woman’s vagina, cervix or uterus. The success rate is comparable to couples who conceive via natural insemination, which is about 15-25 percent chance of pregnancy per cycle.

In Vitro Fertilization

The second option available to lesbian couples is in vitro fertilization (IVF). In IVF, eggs and sperm are combined outside the body in a laboratory. The resulting embryo or embryos are then inserted into the uterus.

Who will carry the baby?

For lesbian couples, one partner has the option of carrying the baby. Maternal age, health, insurance coverage, personal preference and a host of other factors may influence the decision. Couples may also choose to use a gestational carrier.

Options for gay men

Let’s take a look at the same four basic questions, this time from the perspective of a gay couple.

Where will the sperm come from?

Based on health and personal preference, one or both partners may wish to contribute sperm. Partners who wish to contribute sperm will need to undergo an exam and evaluation of sperm heath.

If neither partner is a viable source for sperm, they may also choose to use a donor.

Where will the egg come from?

Gay men will need to seek a donor egg. They may use an egg from an anonymous source through an egg donation agency. This is the most common route. Gay men may also seek a donated egg from someone they know.

Again, knowing the egg donor may be an appealing option, but it also opens up additional questions for consideration. What role, if any, will the egg donor play in the child’s life? What legal claim might the donor have? It’s important to work with an attorney with expertise in this area of the law to address these questions.

How will the sperm and egg come together?

Gay couples will use IVF to bring together sperm and egg. The egg and sperm will be combined outside in a laboratory, then inserted into the uterus of a gestational carrier.

Who will carry the baby?

For gay men, surrogacy provides a path to parenthood.

Gestational carriers are implanted with an embryo or embryos created outside her body. A donor egg is used, along with sperm from one of the men.

How do couples find a gestational carrier? Methods vary. Some turn to trusted friends and family members. Others seek the help of surrogacy agencies to identify women who may be willing to serve as gestational carriers.

Further considerations

While the landscape has changed significantly in recent years, same sex couples still may face additional legal complexities. Alongside support from fertility specialists, same sex couples need experienced legal guidance to sort through issues related to adoption, parental rights and perhaps surrogacy. For more information or to schedule a meeting with one of our specialists, please call 502-996-4480.



Author Info

Jenny Shanks