Many lesbians wanting to start a family choose to go to a clinic for treatment and use donor sperm, but with many clinics competing for your business how do you decide where to go and what treatment to have?
Helen Priddle, Embryology Lab Manager at the Centre for Reproduction and Gynaecology Wales (CRGW) advises.
“Many people choose the closest and/or cheapest clinic however it’s important to consider clinic success rates, which vary. Going to an open evening will also help you get a feel for the clinic and their understanding of lesbians’ needs.
Most lesbians opt for donor insemination and clinics should tell you their success rate. Ask for donor insemination success rates rather than insemination with a partner’s sperm, known as intrauterine insemination (IUI). Rates for IUI will be lower as those statistics include heterosexual couples who have been failing to get pregnant. About 38% of heterosexual couples with no known fertility issue will conceive first time. You would think that donor insemination would be similarly successful, however the national average is around 16%, so it’s important to find a clinic with good success rates in excess of 20%, and to have realistic expectations.
In vitro fertilisation (IVF) has higher success rates, but is more physically invasive and costly. IVF allows both partners in a lesbian couple to be involved through intra-partner egg donation – one partner provides the eggs to the other who carries the child (see true-life story, Making Tayt, page 18 of issue 6). This is a great way to share the experience and the latest research suggests it may be beneficial as exposure to fertility drugs may temporarily reduce the receptivity of the womb of the partner supplying the eggs.
Some clinics have their own sperm donor bank, others access sperm from international banks, and some do both. Most lesbians choose a donor matching physical characteristics – hair colour, eye colour, etc – to the birth mother, or to the non-birth mother, however proven fertility is really important. A minority of donors who have not yet started families may actually be infertile, despite their sperm appearing normal in conventional tests. On the day of treatment, get feedback regarding the sperm quality. Occasionally a vial imported from a donor bank may not meet the clinic’s quality standards.
Most clinics are amenable to you bringing your own donor. Regulations demand a strict regime of screening, for your own protection, so factor in extra time and costs. Most clinics offer egg sharing and some offer sperm sharing schemes to subsidise costs if you meet certain criteria.
For lesbian couples, when your baby arrives, provided you have signed legal parenthood forms, both partners can be on the birth certificate. Don’t let an ill-informed registrar tell you otherwise!
All clinics offering private treatment are obliged to treat lesbians. NHS funding is available if you have a fertility issue. Around 10% of couples experience infertility, so make no assumptions about your own.
To search for clinics use the Find A Clinic option on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority website: www.HFEA.gov.uk
The CRGW team regularly treat single women and lesbian couples: www.crgw.co.uk firstname.lastname@example.org 01443 443999
This article was printed in We Are Family magazine issue 6, Summer 2014. Details may have changed - please do not rely on this information solely when making decisions - do your own research, make your own checks and get legal or health advice as appropriate.