Trying to conceive brings lots of questions and concerns. On top of that, information about fertility, conception, and parenting hasn’t been tailored to the needs of the LGBTQ+ community. We hear you!
In Modern Fertility’s LGBTQ 2019 survey, 63% of LGBTQ+ respondents said that they were planning on having children at some point in the future — but many, 36% of the cisgender lesbian or queer women they surveyed, in fact, feel hesitant about where to go for guidance.
This list of 6 poignant tips is best suited for cisgender queer and lesbian women who are looking to carry children themselves.
We recommend checking out this guide on family building options for transgender, gender-nonconforming, and nonbinary individuals.
1. Figure out what type of sperm donors you feel comfortable with
Sperm can either come from an anonymous or known donor.
An anonymous donor can be found at a commercial sperm bank while a known donor comes from someone you know. There are few things to keep in mind with these two options.
For an anonymous donor, neither you nor your child will know who the donor is unless you choose to have an “open donor.” If you do, your child will have the ability to contact the donor after they turn 18, typically.
When choosing an anonymous donor, it is helpful to have criteria in mind of what you are looking for. For instance, according to Dr. Broughton: “If something runs in your family that you’re potentially concerned about — a risk of a certain type of cancer or something like diabetes — it’s important to look at the donor and hopefully not have overlapping risk factors for those types of things.” Check out this article for more information on how to choose the right sperm donor.
For a known donor, it is often free, since it’s from someone you know. Legal documents and agreements will need to be obtained to protect both you and the donor.
When working with a known donor, it’s also important to have the donor tested for all sexually transmitted infections and genetic diseases prior to using the sample.
2. Choose an insemination method that best works for you
The acronyms ICI, IUI, and IVF represent the main insemination methods available for queer women.
ICI, or IntraCervical Insemination, is the process of sperm being inserted directly into the cervix, usually at home. At-home inseminations like ICI often use a known donor sample that’s fresh, meaning it hasn’t been stored by a sperm bank. This procedure can be done at home or in a doctor’s office and is typically the easiest and cheapest method of insemination.
IUI, or IntraUterine Insemination, is the process of sperm being placed directly inside the uterus by a doctor or midwife. This procedure can be done at home or in a clinic. IUI is typically more expensive than ICI. However, its success rate is often higher than with ICI.
IVF, or In Vitro Fertilization, is the process by which a woman’s egg is fertilized outside the womb and then inserted into the uterus. It is costly and more invasive than IUI or ICI. Typically, queer women use IVF when other methods of conception have not worked, or there is a fertility problem that makes ICI or IUI ineffective.
3. Evaluate your financial situation
For queer women wanting to have children, the cost is an issue to consider. You should take into account what it costs to have a procedure in addition to financial planning for having a baby.
A 2015 IVF study showed that the average price of in vitro fertilization in the U.S. costs $11–12k. Although, every clinic will have its own pricing structures, financing options, and arrangements with insurance companies.
In general, donor sperm costs anywhere from $400-$700 per vial. Known or directed donor sperm costs roughly $400-$600 per vial for ICI, $500-$700 per vial for IUI, and $400-600 per vial for IVF. Couples should be prepared to purchase more than one vial in the likely event that they do not get pregnant on the first try.
Additional costs, including insurance, background checks, and medical and psychological screenings, may also be required.
Many organizations provide financial resources for couples who may not be able to afford fertility treatment. For example, Gay Parents To Be offers a number of different plans to help accommodate the unique financial circumstances of lesbian couples in the Tri-State area, and Nest Egg Foundation offers IVF grants specifically for same-sex couples. Many other grants welcome applicants of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
Here are 3 tips for how you can start financially planning:
Start or update your budget
Immediately open a savings account when you decide to have children. Create a recurring direct deposit from your income or an electronic funds transfer from an existing account into your new account. The sooner you start saving for these child-related expenses the better off you will be. Look into which TCC option is most affordable for your budget.
Pay off your debt
The less debt you have before having children, the easier it will be to choose one of the more expensive options to grow your family or if you apply for a personal loan to do so.
Verify your health insurance coverage
Some health insurance plans provide limited financial coverage for family planning. See if your health insurance provider may cover related expenses.
4. What to Read When Your Queer and Expecting
We all know the quintessential What To Expect When You’re Expecting book. Resources like these provide helpful tips and a sense of support to women trying to conceive. Often they are not written with queer people issues in mind who want to start a family.
We want to shed light on books that prioritize What To Read When You’re Queer and Expecting.
Journey to Same-Sex Parenthood: Firsthand Advice, Tips and Stories from Lesbian and Gay Couples, by Eric Rosswood
Eric Rosswood guides and helps prospective LGBT parents to explore these five popular options: Adoption, Foster Care, Assisted Reproduction, Surrogacy, and Co-Parenting. There are stories from same-gender parents woven throughout the book, as well as practical advice.
The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy for Lesbians: How to Stay Sane and Care for Yourself from Pre-conception Through Birth, by Rachel Peppe
This covers everything queer women need to know about trying to conceive. It has a lot of practical info about fertility treatments, the process of pregnancy and labor, and lots of other really useful, practical info. It was last updated before same-gender marriage was recognized across the U.S., so some of the legal and partner stuff isn’t true anymore.
And Baby Makes More: Known Donors, Queer Parents, and Our Unexpected Families, edited by Susan Goldberg and Chloë Brushwood Rose
This collection of personal essays includes stories from gay dads, lesbian moms, single parents, donors, and children of parents who have used donors to explore the way that donor-created and surrogacy-created families queer and change the family structure.
5. Find LGBT friendly doctors and medical spaces
As you embark on the process of starting a family, the most important thing is that both you and your partner feel safe, informed, and comfortable. With more than 50 percent of LGBTQ people experiencing some form of healthcare discrimination, it is important for you to have a knowledgeable, culturally competent, and queer-affirming doctor.
One of the best places to start is by talking to your queer friends about who they go to. If you don’t have a network of queer folks you can talk to, search for “queer exchange [name of your city]” on Facebook and request to join. Here, queer folks can post questions to their local queer community members and ask for recommendations for LGBTQ-friendly doctors in the area.
The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association offers a provider directory that lists providers who are welcoming to the LGBTQ community. All GLMA providers have to affirm their commitment to creating a welcoming environment for the LGBTQ community.
You can also google “clinic near me + LGBTQ” or visit your local Planned Parenthood, which offers affordable care and LGBTQ services in all 50 states.
6. What you should do in the months leading up to trying to conceive?
Do your research. The best tool to give yourself is education and being able to be your own advocate in whatever situation you choose.
There are several things that should be done in the months leading up to trying to conceive:
- Get in tune with your menstrual cycle to pinpoint when you are ovulating. Ovulation is when you are most likely to get pregnant. Order Stix’s ovulation test kit to help you find out when you’re ovulating.
- Visit a doctor to get a check-up on your health. Discuss your desires to try to conceive.
- Find a community of other LGBTQ+ parents to ask questions. It can really help you feel less alone during the process and offer space to vent about things that others will understand.
- Stress is a silent killer and can cause the body to shut down so staying as stress-free as much as possible is important.
We hope these tips will help you while you navigate trying to conceive as a queer woman. You deserve to feel knowledgeable and in control of what happens during your pregnancy.
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