Fertility options for gay fathers

As we continue to support Pride Month, today we are focussed on the fertility treatment options for male couples.

Stonewall, a website dedicated to supporting the LGBTQ community states, “Gay men often play an important part in their families as brothers, sons, uncles, nephews and godfathers. Gay men also provide love and support for the children in their extended families. But many gay men are also, or want to be, dads to children.

Single and gay men have the most complex route to parenthood of any group that turns to fertility services for help. In order to achieve parenthood gay men are often faced with a longer wait because of the number of processes involved and also potentially higher-end expenditure.

What comes first? The egg or the surrogate?

Let’s start with surrogate, the potential fathers need to select a surrogate to have the baby for them. This can be a traditional surrogate who uses her own eggs or gestational surrogate who use a donor egg. In both cases the sperm is provided by one of the male partners or in the case of multiple embryo transfer, there is an option to have embryos fertilised by both male partners. This, of course, is only possible where the clinic agrees to multiple embryo transfer, and where the sperm is viable, which may not be the case for both partners.

Surrogacy is a serious issue with complex international laws to consider. For instance, in the UK, it is illegal to advertise for a surrogate mother, which means that it is tempting to travel abroad where laws are sometimes less strict.

However, this comes with its own minefield of issues regarding the potential child’s nationality, immigration status and rules regarding payment.

It is important to remember that just because one’s own country’s laws do not apply abroad, they certainly do on one’s return! With that in mind it is important to take specialist legal advice at an early stage. In the US it additionally important to bear in mind that laws vary according to the individual US state in which the mother/surrogate lives.

When it comes to locating an egg donor there are two choices. Firstly one can consider the ‘known donor’ route, which involves using the eggs of someone known to the male partners. That can often mean a relative of the partner not contributing sperm. The nice thing about this option is that both partners have a genetic connection to the child.

The second option is to utilise an agency or an egg bank. This option is more expensive than using a known donor because it involves paying a third party to do the matching. Clinics can often help here recommending donors that have been closely vetted, and the clinic handles most of the logistics to obtain the donor’s eggs.

However if the couple opt to use a standalone agency the pool of donors is often larger so the potential parents have more choice. These options obviously come at a cost, which varies according to the location, applicable laws and circumstances for egg donation.

The good news is that many clinics offer specialist services for gay couples and are well versed in the additional complexities that these potential parents face compared to heterosexual couples.

Some clinics and donor agencies/consultancies in the US even offer online educational courses, which can be taken in advance so that couples are fully aware of all aspects of the journey towards parenthood that they are about to undertake.

Is it all worth it?

Let’s leave it with a quote from one gay couple from the US that went through the process.

“It took us two and half years from the day we first signed up with the agency to the moment when Charlie entered our lives. The process really challenged our patience and resilience, which is probably not that different from straight couples trying to have a baby and great practice for parenthood. Not to be trite, but it really does take a village to raise and in our case make a child!”