Lesbian Parenting Options Being a lesbian woman or couple does not have to mean going through life without having a family of your own. There are many options for lesbian women wanting to become parents. Although adoption or fostering may be an option for some people, many have an overwhelming desire to have their own biological child, even if the child has only half of their parent’s genes. Options for having your own child include donor insemination and co-parenting.
Adoption is a way of providing a new family for a child when living with their own family is not possible. For many children, adoption may be their only hope of experiencing secure family life. If you are over 21 years old and you can provide a permanent, stable and caring home, you can be considered for adoption. It doesn’t matter whether you are married or single, in or out of work, or whatever your race, religion or sexuality. Same-sex couples have been able to adopt a child jointly since 2002. The key question an adoption agency will ask is: can you provide a stable home for a child until adulthood and beyond? All sorts of people can make a success of adoption. Couples can apply to adopt through a local authority or an adoption agency, and applications can be made within any local authority not just the one you live in. Although most local authorities are keen to find lesbian and gay adoptive parents for children, the process can be lengthy and gruelling. However it is worth bearing in mind that many children available for adoption in the UK have had traumatic backgrounds and often bring challenging behaviour as a result.
Donor insemination involves using another man’s sperm to conceive a child. The donor can be an unknown person through a fertility clinic or alternatively you can receive donated sperm directly from a friend or someone you have met through a connection service such as Pride Angel. Donor insemination can be performed within a fertility clinic or home environment using a home insemination kit. If you receive donor insemination through a HFEA registered clinic then you can ensure that the donor has been screened to check they are free from sexually transmitted infections and certain genetic disorders. The sperm is quarantined for 6 months and used only once you have tested negative for HIV and other infections. If you’re inseminated from an anonymous donor at a fertility clinic, the ‘donor’ father has no legal or financial obligations to the child (although any child born before April 2005 now has the legal right to track down the biological father at the age of 18). With home insemination, the male donor, whether he’s a friend or anonymous, may be classed as the child’s legal father and therefore has parental rights. This is dependent upon whether you are single, married or within a civil partnership therefore it is important to get legal advice. For lesbian couples parenting is a choice that has to be given serious consideration. There are many things to consider such as the feeling of the non-biological mother, whether to use a known donor or anonymous sperm donation. Some couples may even choose to have the father involved within the child’s life, by entering into a co-parenting arrangement.
Many women may wish to use a known donor such as a friend or a donor found through a parenting connection site such as Pride Angel. Using a known donor has many advantages, such as the ability to understand more about the donor’s personality. Women may also choose to use a known donor as they wish for them to be involved in the child’s life, maybe like an ‘uncle type’ figure in their lives, without having full parental responsibility. It is important to realize the legal implications of using a known sperm donor. The law varies dependant on whether the woman is single in a civil partnership and whether the insemination took place at home or within a fertility clinic. Read more about how the fertility and parenting law and how the law effects you if you are using a known donor.
Surrogacy is a method or agreement whereby a woman agrees to carry a pregnancy for another person or persons, who will become the newborn child’s parent(s) after birth.
Intended parents may seek a surrogacy arrangement when pregnancy is medically impossible, Surrogates can be found through surrogate agencies, online or through friends and family. Monetary compensation may or may not be involved in these arrangements. If the surrogate receives money for the surrogacy the arrangement is considered commercial surrogacy; if she receives no compensation beyond reimbursement of medical and other reasonable expenses it is referred to as altruistic. The legality and costs of surrogacy vary widely between jurisdictions, sometimes resulting in interstate or international surrogacy arrangements.
There are laws in some countries which restrict and regulate surrogacy and the consequences of surrogacy. Some couples or individuals wanting a child in this manner but who live in a jurisdiction which does not permit surrogacy may travel to another jurisdiction which permits it.
Reciprocal IVF, also known as shared motherhood, partner IVF, and ROPA (reception of oocytes from partner) is a method of family building that is used by couples who both possess female reproductive organs. The method uses in vitro fertilization, known as IVF, where a person’s eggs are removed from the ovaries, fertilized in a laboratory, and then one or more of the resulting embryos are placed in the uterus to hopefully create a pregnancy. Reciprocal IVF differs from standard IVF in that two people are involved: the eggs are taken from one partner, and the other partner carries the pregnancy. In this way, the process is mechanically identical to IVF with egg donation.
A study published in February 2018 found a 60% live birth rate in a group of 120 couples who underwent reciprocal IVF
Co-parenting is typically an arrangement between a gay man and a lesbian woman or gay and lesbian couple, who team up to parent the child together, however this is not an exclusive option as many single people also choose this option as they may not have found the ‘right person’. In this situation parental responsibility is shared and many details need to be worked out such as , what role each parent will have, how much contact with the child will they have and how financial costs will be split. As this can be complicated it is advisable to get legal advice before entering into any co-parenting arrangement. Being able to discuss with your co-parent what you expect from the start, can prevent a lot of problems occurring further down the line.