Pride Month: Celebrating Family-Building Solutions for LGBTQI+ Persons
Around the world, June is observed as Pride Month, and it is a welcome opportunity to celebrate the amazing diversity of people as well as to affirm the rights of LGBTQI+ persons and couples, who often face challenges and obstacles when it comes to equal enjoyment of even fundamental human rights, including reproductive rights.
Our team at Medfem Fertility Clinic has many years of experience in assisting single LGBTQI+ persons and same sex couples to start their families in a caring and professional environment. In fact, we were one of the very first clinics in South Africa to do so! In this article, we proudly share some of the solutions we non-traditional families, to give them the best chance of having a baby.
Around the world, and here in South Africa, Pride Month is celebrated in June with marches, parades and other events that serve to raise awareness of the challenges faced by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) community and to support the recognition and protection of the human rights they are entitled to.
Among the most fundamental human rights are reproductive rights: the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children, and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. It also includes the right of all to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination.
At Medfem Fertility Clinic, we know that fertility options and issues facing single LGBTQI+ persons and same sex couples can be quite different from those available to traditional families. In addition to understanding the numerous medical treatment options, there are also financial, legal and emotional obstacles that require special attention and knowledge.
Below we provide more information on the different reproductive options we offer at Medfem which have ensured that thousands of single LGBTQI+ persons and same sex couples have successfully grown their families.
In most cases, lesbian couples or single women require only a sperm donation. This could be either from a known donor or an anonymous donor.
A known sperm donor cold be a friend or a family member. Sperm from a known donor will normally require a full panel of infectious disease screening, before being frozen. After a six-month quarantine, the frozen sperm is again tested for infectious diseases, before it can be used.
Sperm from an anonymous donor can also be selected from our sperm bank. The chosen donor sperm is purchased in vials, and can be stored and thawed as required. The sperm bank at Medfem Fertility Clinic has an extensive list of screened anonymous sperm donors, and provide information such as ethnic background, body build, eye colour, hair colour and skin tone, as well as education, profession and hobbies, among other details and attributes.
The intended recipient’s reproductive function is evaluated before a decision is made to fertilise the eggs either through artificial insemination, or more advanced reproductive therapies such as IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation).
Artificial insemination with donor sperm is a simple procedure, in which the sperm is placed directly into the uterus. Insemination can be performed during a natural menstrual cycle or a cycle in which ovulation is enhanced by oral medication or injectable ovulation induction agents that can significantly increase pregnancy success and often shorten the duration of treatment.
In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)
If the intended recipient is of an advanced reproductive age (ie older than 35) or experiences tubal factor or other types of infertility, other types of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) solutions can be considered, most notably IVF, which can be performed with a woman’s own eggs or with donated eggs.
During IVF, the eggs (whether own retrieved eggs or donated eggs) are fertilised with sperm in a lab to create embryos (fertilised eggs). The embryos are then transferred into the recipient’s uterus three to five days later.
Some, or all, of the embryos created during the IVF processes can also be frozen for later use. For example, the couple may not want to have children at the present time, but may have concerns about the future availability of a particular sperm donor, or may be reaching advanced maternal age (35+ years old) which can result in a reduced fertility.
In these cases, IVF treatment followed by embryo freezing is an excellent option.
A couple may also need an egg donation to build their family. It may be a known donor or an anonymous donor. The treatment process involves stimulating the egg donor’s ovaries to produce multiple eggs, collecting the eggs, fertilising the eggs with sperm in the lab, and transferring the embryo (immediately or after freezing) into the intended recipient’s uterus, whether the mom-to-be or a surrogate.
At Medfem, we work only with reputable egg donation agencies. Our team of specialists and our psychologist will also administer further extensive screening of prospective egg donors to ensure a safe and healthy outcome.
Traditional surrogacy is when a woman (called a surrogate mother) carries and delivers a pregnancy, conceived using her own eggs and artificial insemination, for a couple (the intended parents). The surrogate mother has a contract with the intended parents, and after the birth, she gives the child to the couple.
Traditional surrogacy is a simple and relatively inexpensive treatment option, which can achieve pregnancy with basic fertility treatments and little coordination. A traditional surrogate can also be treated with more advanced techniques such as ovulation induction (using oral or injectable medications) and IVF where necessary.
Gestational carrier surrogacy is when a woman (called a gestational carrier) becomes pregnant after an embryo (a fertilised egg) is transferred into her uterus. The embryo is created from donated eggs, which means that the gestational carrier is not genetically related to the child.
After birth, the child is given to the biological mother and/or father. Because this process involves coordination between the intended parents, the egg donor, and the gestational surrogate, it tends to be more involved and costly than traditional surrogacy.
At Medfem, our team of specialists and our psychologist will also assist with extensive screening of prospective surrogates on your behalf. We will also recommend that couples seek appropriate legal advice prior to treatment to prevent any future difficulties arising regarding parenthood and your rights. Counselling is also a routine part of any surrogacy arrangement with ongoing support available.
Where To Find Your Family-Building Solution
At Medfem Fertility Clinic, we have many decades of experience in third-party reproduction techniques such as egg and sperm donation and surrogacy.
We can help you achieve your family dream in many thoughtful ways. For example, we can assist gay and lesbian couples to share the treatment and parenting experience: for a lesbian couple, we can assist with one partner serving as the egg donor while the other acts as the gestational carrier, or in a gay couple, we can arrange for the use of a combination of both partners’ sperm. Similarly, if an egg donor is related to one partner, sperm from the other male partner can be used to fertilise the eggs, creating a genetic link in the offspring to both intended fathers.
Our caring and supportive medical staff have a long history of working with non-traditional families and we support our LGBTQI+ patients through the entire process of creating their family.
If you would like to meet one of our fertility specialists at Medfem Fertility Clinic, simply click here to book an initial consultation or contact us telephonically on +27 (11) 463 2244.
Our fertility specialists can also meet with you during a virtual consultation via Zoom or Skype. Click here to book a virtual consultation now.
We look forward to meeting you!