The U.S. Census Bureau reported that about 292,000 children had parents living with a same-sex partner or spouse, and approximately 15% of same-sex couples have at least one child under 18 years. The advances in assisted reproduction technology have provided multiple pathways for LGBTQ+ couples to start building their family.
This article reveals the various fertility treatment and family-building options available for gay male couples.
Do You Need a Semen Analysis?
Gay male couples wanting to build a family require a fertility assessment as fertility issues may not be evident in same-sex couples. The fertility assessment process typically entails clinical evaluation and conducting diagnostic tests. After the clinical examination, the doctor will order a semen analysis.
Semen analysis is the standard diagnostic test for assessing male fertility. For gay male couples, one or both partners may opt for the semen analysis. Before carrying out the test, the doctor will counsel you on the following pretest preparations:
- 2-5 days of sexual abstinence
- Submission of semen samples within 30 minutes of collection
The laboratory scientist analyzes your semen for the following:
- sperm count and concentration
- sperm motility
- sperm morphology (shape)
- presence of white blood cells.
The findings from your semen analysis and clinical evaluation will determine your fertility status and if you require further investigations.
Building a Family for Gay Men
Gay couples can start a family with the help of assisted reproductive technology.
Assisted reproductive technology (ART) involves handling eggs and sperm cells to achieve fertilization outside the human body. Fertility experts perform ART procedures in the laboratory under specific environmental conditions. Here are some of the standard assisted reproduction techniques for gay male couples.
In Vitro Fertilization
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a fertility procedure that involves fertilizing the (donor) egg and sperm in a laboratory environment under particular conditions. The IVF procedure typically involves the following steps.
- Ovarian Stimulation involves using hormonal medications or injections to stimulate the ovary to produce multiple eggs.
- Monitoring and Egg Retrieval is when the fertility physician uses an ultrasound scan and conducts blood tests to monitor the growth of the egg donor’s response to the stimulation. The doctor retrieves the eggs after maturation using a minimally invasive procedure.
- Sperm collection from the male partner.
- Fertilization. The fertility specialist places the donated eggs and sperm cells together for fertilization in a specialized culture medium in the laboratory, or the doctor injects the sperm directly into the egg.
- Embryo Culture: The fertilized eggs grow and evolve to become an embryo.
- Embryo Transfer: The physician retrieves the maturing embryos and transfers them into the woman’s uterus (usually a gestational carrier) for implantation and pregnancy.
Gay men will benefit from combining IVF and egg donation from a healthy egg donor.
The success rate of IVF and egg donation varies, but the average success rate of live births utilizing this procedure is 49-50%. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine stated that the average cost for one in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle is more than $12,000. However, this cost may vary for each fertility clinic.
IVF - Split Cycle
IVF - Split cycle is an IVF technique that involves splitting retrieved eggs into two groups and fertilizing each group differently. The fertility expert fertilizes one group of eggs by placing them together with sperm cells naturally and fertilizes the second group by injecting sperm cells directly into each egg.
Fertility experts believe that the IVF-split cycle reduces the risk of fertilization failure and improves the odds of achieving pregnancy. A 2022 retrospective cohort study found that the IVF-split cycle effectively prevented the low fertilization rate among intended couples.
Donor eggs are critical for gay male couples to start a family. The procedure for obtaining donor eggs is through egg donation. The egg donation process involves using a female to donate eggs to an intending couple for conception purposes. The egg donation process requires multiple health screenings and investigations to ascertain the most suitable egg donor . The cost of egg donation differs but typically ranges between $10,000- $15,000
A gestational carrier is a female responsible for carrying and giving birth to a baby for the intended couple or individual. The gestational carrier is not the child’s biological parent. Her role is to carry a pregnancy from an embryo(s) obtained from the intended parent’s donated sperm and donor egg.
The cost of using a gestational carrier differs but could range between $140,000- $160,000 depending on the location and other expenses such as medical screening and legal fees.
Gay male couples may also opt for non-biological options such as adoption and foster care. Various adoption agencies specialize in child adoption. These agencies can assist gay male couples and reduce the stress of adopting a child.
The legal procedures typically vary for each location. Therefore, getting familiar with your region's legal processes is ideal. Generally, the legal process for gestational carrier and egg donation will involve using a lawyer or an attorney.
The attorney typically helps with the following:
- Review and verify the contract terms for the procedure
- Draft a legal contract
- Complete the contract signing process and serve as a witness
Some legal requirements may include the need for official documents such as proof of identity and address.
Starting Your Journey to Parenthood
Gay male couples have various fertility treatment options to achieve their dreams of starting a family. Consulting an experienced fertility specialist to assess your health and recommend the most appropriate fertility treatment is a crucial step.
At Institute for Human Reproduction, we have a proven track record of using innovative and modern assisted reproductive techniques to help couples start a family.
Schedule a consultation today to get started in reaching your family's dreams.