There are many barriers for LGBTQ+ people who want to become parents – and many inequalities. This article explores the tricky road people have to take to LGBTQ+ parenting.
In the US, there are currently efforts underway to make sure some health plans cover fertility treatments for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Yet a 2021 petition to secure inclusive fertility treatment in the UK failed to reach the 10,000 signatures required for parliamentary discussion.
Another barrier, however, is a lack of awareness. As Pride celebrates its 50th year, supplement firm Fertility Family revealed some of the options available to would-be parents.
What are my options for LGBTQ+ parenting?
- Donor insemination – for single women or lesbian couples
- Surrogacy – for gay men or women with fertility issues
- IVF (in vitro fertilisation) – for lesbian couples
- Adoption or fostering – options for anyone
Of course, all of these options are potentially open for trans/non-binary people too.
How much do these options cost?
With the threat of recession on the horizon and the cost of living rising, this puts pressure on household finances. For LGBTQ+ people, the costs of fertility treatment might be prohibitive.
Although this carries no cost if you do it informally, with a friend donating their sperm and home insemination, by far the safer option is a clinic. The sperm itself can cost around £800-£1,000, with additional charges for tests and scans. Intrauterine insemination (placing sperm in the uterus), which ranges from about £1,500 to £3,000.
You can, however, have donor insemination through the NHS if you need get a referral your GP and meet certain criteria.
Unlike in the US and some other countries, it’s illegal to pay people to act as surrogates in the UK. However, you will be expected to pay for all your surrogate’s ‘reasonable’ expenses, which could total anything from £7,000 to £15,000.
IVF can cost up to £8,000 per cycle of treatment. You might need a number of different cycles, too.
For same-sex couples seeking IVF on the NHS, you must have tried to conceive 12 times through artificial insemination, funded by yourselves. This must have included six attempts at directly placing sperm into the womb, making the process considerably more expensive than it is for heterosexual couples. Your local NHS trust will decide whether you qualify.
Adoption or fostering
You don’t pay anything to adopt or foster a child in the UK. For fostering costs, you’ll receive financial help from the government, which will be a minimum of between £137 and £240 a week, and depends upon various factors. If you plan on adopting a child, meanwhile, you could be eligible for adoption pay and leave.
How long does it take to become an LGBTQ+ parent?
IVF is usually the option that takes the longest, particularly on the NHS. Private IVF clinics often have no waiting lists, so if the treatment is successful, it’s simply a case of waiting for your child’s arrival, just as it is for artificial insemination.
If you opt for informal surrogacy with a friend or relative, the process can be as quick as getting pregnant for heterosexual couples. If you go through an organisation such as Surrogacy UK, there will be a ‘getting to know you’ stage before you sign an agreement.
The adoption process in the UK for anyone, regardless of sexuality, takes around six months. To be approved as a foster carer, you’ll have to wait around eight months.
Would a donor have any legal rights to my baby?
If you’re using a sperm or egg donor and a HFEA-regulated clinic, the donor will have no parental rights to your child. When the child turns 18, however, they will be able to contact the donor.
In the case of surrogacy for LGBTQ+ parenting, the surrogate will be the legal mother of the baby at birth, until legal parenthood is transferred with a parental order or through adoption. When registering the birth, the surrogate will be named as the mother, but the baby can immediately take the surname of their biological parent/s.
Can you have more than one baby from the same donor?
Yes, absolutely. Many LGBTQ+ parents prefer to do so, since it gives siblings a further biological link.
What is the success rate of surrogacy/IVF/donor insemination?
Much depends upon the age of the mother or egg donor.
IVF is more successful than donor insemination, which has a success rate of around 11-12%. According to HFEA data, about one in every four embryos transferred through IVF resulted in a live birth in 2018. Successful pregnancies are more likely from the first cycle of treatment, when the average patient from 2018 was aged 34.
With surrogacy, finding the surrogate can sometimes be the hardest part: success rates involving donated sperm and eggs are usually around 60-70%.
Are there any support groups for LGBTQ+ parents?
Stonewall has useful information on fostering and adopting, as well as fertility treatment for LGBTQ+ would-be parents
Rainbow Families provides education, resources and support
New Family Social is a charity led by LGBTQ+ adopters and foster carers