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The IVF process for gay couples

PFCLA
13 Aug 2021

More and more gay couples around the world are bringing their biological children into the world through the gift of surrogacy and egg donation alongside In Vitro Fertilization. 

While the path to parenthood using an egg donor and a surrogate may seem complex, an established clinic and agency can help you navigate the process with ease.

Three elements within the gay IVF process

There are three critical parts of same-sex parenthood through in vitro fertilization. These include: 

  1. Gestational surrogacy: A woman will carry your baby to term but will not share any biological connection to the baby. 
  2. Egg donation: In order to create embryos your clinic will fertilize donor eggs with your sperm to transfer an embryo into the surrogate’s uterus during the frozen embryo transfer (FET). It is strongly recommended that you use fresh eggs to create your embryos for higher odds of success.
  3. In vitro fertilization (IVF): The egg retrieval, embryo creation and transfer are all part of the IVF cycle. In addition, monitoring, fertility medications, blood testing, ultrasounds and other processes are required.  

Let’s explore what to expect as same-sex male couples pursuing parenthood.

The IVF process for gay couples

1. Initial consultation

During your initial consultation at PFCLA you’ll cover the medical process with a reproductive endocrinologist where you’ll discuss goals, considerations and more. You will also have a process and pricing consultation with a member of our team who has personally been through the egg donation & surrogacy process. 

Because you’ll need both a surrogate and an egg donor your consultation will discuss the gestational surrogacy process in detail, introduce you to our in-house egg donor and surrogacy agency Hatch (if you don’t already have an agency in mind), and walk you through various considerations for selecting your egg donor and surrogate. The consultation will also discuss how our Peace of Mind program protects your journey from unexpected costs. 

2. Egg donor and surrogate selection 

Most gay intended parents (IPs) choose an anonymous egg donor for their cycle, but they can also choose to use a known donor. We will walk you through how to select your ideal match while screening for legal and logistical considerations.

We always encourage intended parents to explore as many reputable egg donor databases as possible to find your perfect match since the egg donor will be half of your baby’s DNA. You can choose to work with us for all of the medical, surrogacy, and egg donation aspects. Or you can mix and match -- it’s completely up to you. 

Finding your egg donor and surrogate through a reputable family-building agency helps ensure that your cycle will be successful due to the medical, legal, and psychological screenings in place. We conduct detailed interviews with you and our surrogacy candidates to make sure we understand everyone’s journey preferences and considerations.

When we present a candidate for match a lot of the legwork has already been done to ensure that it’s a great fit before starting the legal and medical processes. At our in-house program, nine out of ten intended parents successfully match with the first surrogacy candidate presented to them because of our extensive screening process completed upfront. 

Many considerations will be taken into account. For example, some couples prefer to include their surrogate within their lives for the first few months to nurse the child, while others may prefer a cleaner break at delivery. Some surrogates are happy to pump milk, and others would like to return to their normal lives. Discuss these considerations with your agency before selecting your surrogate.

3. Embryo creation and split fertilization

Once you’ve selected your egg donor, the egg donation cycle will begin and in about 30 days, you’ll be able to create your embryos! 

It's often assumed that you have to choose which of you will be the biological father. In fact, IVF clinics can do split fertilization, fertilizing some embryos with sperm from each of you. The embryos are created using IVF. Eggs are retrieved from the egg donor while under anesthesia, sperm will be collected from one or both of you and then the donor eggs are fertilized in the lab before being tested and frozen.

4. Frozen Embryo Transfer

Around the time of your surrogate’s period, she’ll begin preparing to undergo a frozen embryo transfer through fertility medications and monitoring. This will ensure that her cycle is in the best possible place for the embryo transfer. The embryos will have been frozen so they can be stored almost indefinitely until your surrogate is ready for the transfer. 

Sibling journeys with remaining embryos

Any embryos created during the egg donor’s retrieval are your property and stored either onsite at the lab or an offsite storage facility. Our in-house clinic PFCLA stores all their embryos onsite for close monitoring by our team of embryologists.

Most intended parents choose to save any leftover embryos by freezing and storing these for a later sibling cycle, so you don’t have to select another egg donor or go through another egg donation cycle. This also means your children will be biologically related even when using your partner’s sperm for a sibling.

Typically, discounts are provided on your surrogacy journey when undergoing a sibling journey. The medical costs are also greatly reduced when you do not have to create new embryos. 

Preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) and gender selection

Intended parents undergoing IVF can opt for preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) to increase the chances of a successful cycle by identifying the healthiest embryo to transfer. The cost of PGS is included in most of our egg donation and surrogacy packages. PGS is a process where an embryologist cleaves a small number of cells off each embryo before freezing.

Those cells, known as an embryo biopsy, are tested for the number of chromosomes and a large panel of genetic disorders. In addition to identifying genetic disorders and increasing success rates, PGS also allows you to choose the gender of the embryos you select for transfer.

5. Monitoring and pregnancy

Because surrogates are medically screened and have already had a healthy live birth of their own, IVF with gestational surrogacy is one of the most effective fertility treatments available. 

Your surrogate will visit your IVF clinic during the first trimester (typically until about 10 weeks), where she’ll undergo routine monitoring and blood testing. After the first trimester, your surrogate will be transferred to her OB/GYN for prenatal care leading up to birth. When matching with a surrogate our agency will ask you what kind of contact you would like to have with your surrogate throughout the pregnancy. Many intended parents choose to develop a strong relationship with their gestational carrier due to the emotional and exciting nature of the journey.

When choosing an IVF plan make sure it covers scenarios where the pregnancy is unsuccessful. It should cover events such as miscarriage, failed transfers, and stillbirth. If the pregnancy does not go well, most likely you will want to be able to use your remaining embryos to attempt more cycles. And if you run out of embryos you will want to be able to create new ones without incurring more medical costs. Our “Unlimited Peace of Mind Plan”, in addition to covering these medical expenses, also covers non-medical expenses that could arise such as additional travel fees, new surrogate expenses, and extra compensation. 

In most cases, surrogacy-led pregnancy proceeds normally. Some people recommend having the surrogate play recordings of the intended parents' voices to help the baby bond, visiting the 16-week ultrasound, and touring the hospital your surrogate will give birth at. 

6. Birth and postpartum

Once your surrogate gives birth, your legal contract and the related legal work ensure that you are the child's legal parents. In addition, your lawyer will ensure that the transfer of parental rights goes smoothly. From the beginning of this process we make sure that you are matched with a surrogate in a state where your rights are protected. Creating and transferring embryos in California also assists in protecting your rights as intended parents.

If you are an international intended parent, your lawyer will also ensure that your baby has a passport and any visas needed so you can bring your baby home. 

Learn more about bringing your children to life with IVF 

if you're beginning to consider IVF and surrogacy as a way to bring your family into the world, we'll walk you through every step of the way. To learn more about gay IVF at PFCLA, check out the following resources: 

To get in touch with a specialist, please request a consultation. 

Note: This is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Information provided is for general educational purposes only and is subject to change without notice. Speak to your doctor directly with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Any information contained herein does not replace any care plan as determined by a physician. 

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