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Fertility Treatments For Same-Sex Couples

By Jana Angeles 

Are you and your partner thinking of having a child but not sure what options are available to you? Choosing fertility treatments can be difficult especially if you’re not sure which one feels right. We give you the rundown on these options so you can be more informed about your choices regarding fertility treatments. Be aware that all laws are different in each state so these options may not be available to you depending on where you live.

For same-sex couples, these are some of the fertility treatments available:

  • Artificial insemination: This procedure is where a treated sperm is inserted into a woman’s uterus. This process improves the chances of conceiving a baby. The sperm used in the procedure is either fresh (from partner) or frozen (from partner or sperm donor).
  • In vitro fertilisation (IVF): This process uses assisted reproductive technology (ART) to treat an infertile individual, especially to those that have failed to respond to medical and surgical procedures. IVF is classified as “fertilisation in glass” and the fertilisation takes place in an incubator. The embryo then goes back into the uterus.
  • Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) – IVF: This is a specialised form of IVF and is used to treat severe cases of male-factor infertility. It involves the injection of a single sperm into a mature egg.
  • Surrogacy: This is another form of assisted reproductive technology (ART) where a woman makes the choice of being a surrogate. In this process, she carries the baby through pregnancy for a single individual or couple. Once the baby is born, she returns him/her to the intended parent(s).

Information on sperm donors

You have the choice of picking a sperm donor (friend or family member) or one that is de-identified. IVF Australia have a couple of regulations with sperm donors. These are:

  • The donor cannot be under 18 years of age, are a close relative of the recipient being treated or from a younger generation of the intended parent(s).
  • Anyone over the age of 50 years, has a past or current history of severe mental illness or any other medical condition that exists among their family.

How do de-identified donors work?

  • The identity of the sperm donor remains anonymous to the recipient(s) during the time of treatment. However, the information of the donor will become available once the child turns 18 years of age.
  • IVF Australia recruits their donors locally and internationally.
  • Because of the high demand for sperm donors, there is a waitlist involved to make the process fair for everyone.
  • Once you reach the top of the waitlist, you will be given access to the database of all the sperm donors currently available for you to choose from. You will be able to view in-depth questionnaires completed by the donor. These will include information about themselves, their family, physical attributes and their medical history.

Information on surrogacy

To be eligible to commission a surrogacy for IVF Australia, it is only approved if:

  • A woman is unlikely to fall pregnant, able to give birth due to a medical condition and carry a pregnancy.
  • As a couple, if multiple transfers of a genetically normal embryo have been ruled out.
  • A couple is in a same-sex relationship (male) or a single male

Of course, there are conditions that need to be satisfied when appointing a woman to be a surrogate. These include:

  • The surrogate is unable to use her own eggs but is allowed to use ones taken from a third party donor.
  • Must be older than 25 years of age, and younger than the age of natural menopause (52 years of age). The age can be pushed to 55 under special circumstances where a gestational surrogate is possible (either done by the mother or mother-in-law of the intended parent).
  • Neither the surrogate or the intending parents suffer from a psychiatric disorder.
  • The surrogate must have given birth already.
  • There is an established relationship between the intending parents and the surrogate no less than two years by the time of the embryo transfer.

Things you should know when finding a surrogate:

  • You have to find your own.
  • It is illegal for you to advertise to find one.
  • You cannot pay someone to be a surrogate.
  • A woman is also not allowed to advertise and provide a surrogacy service to others.

Laws you need to know on surrogacy:

  • Under the Surrogacy Act 2011, the commissioning couple of surrogacy is able to apply for parentage of the child. Until this legally takes into effect, the surrogate mother is still the parent.
  • In 2010, the NSW Health Department has managed to create a Central Registrar containing information on the donors and donor-conceived offspring. It lists the people who have used ART treatment using donated gametes and surrogacy.
  • If desired, the child conceived through surrogacy will be given access to the information of their surrogate mother on the register once they turn 18.

With the overwhelming information on fertility treatments, it’s really worth looking into these options if you and your partner are thinking of having a child together. With the challenges of parenthood, there’s no substitute for the amount of love and happiness you’ll receive when you have your little one in your arms.

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