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Lesbian pregnancy: options & considerations for starting a family


So you and your partner are ready to become mamas. Congrats on making this big, exciting (somewhat terrifying) decision! 

The good news is there are plenty of ways to conceive without having sex these days, making lesbian pregnancy options more accessible than ever before. The bad news is… it’s not quite as simple as just deciding to come off the pill.

So, how does lesbian pregnancy work? 

There are a few options available to you when it comes to getting pregnant. The more pressing question might actually be ‘who’s going to endure the nine months of pregnancy hell?’ (We kid, we kid – pregnancy is actually pretty cool. Albeit weird. And uncomfortable a lot of the time. But cool.)

In this guide, we’ll explore how to get pregnant as a same-sex couple, and some things to consider as you embark on this exciting journey. (You’re gonna do great, by the way.)

So let’s look at what’s involved in lesbian pregnancy planning.

Weigh up all your options for becoming parents

Whether you’re in a same-sex or a hetero relationship, it’s worth considering all the different ways you could become a parent. Here are some options to ponder over.

Adoption

Same-sex couples are four times more likely to adopt than heterosexual couples in the US. But perhaps as technology becomes more widely available to enable lesbian pregnancy options (not to mention society getting with the times) these stats might shift a little. You may still prefer this route, however, over getting pregnant.

There are a few ways to go about adopting a child. You can apply through a private adoption agency or through the United States child welfare system. Or you could look into fostering a child until they’re ideally reunited with their birth parents (which happens in 50% of foster cases).

Surrogacy

This is when you have another woman carry and deliver a baby for you. You and your partner will cover the cost of medical bills, and may be listed as the child’s ‘intended parents’ on the birth certificate. You might also play a role in choosing the sperm donor. But once that baby’s out, you’re the ones left to raise this kid. Yep, even when they throw tantrums. 

Laws around surrogacy are a little blurry in the US, and it’s treated differently in different states. Check out your local legislation to see what’s possible/legal in your state.

Pregnancy

You and your partner might decide that pregnancy is indeed the right path for you. But before you look at how to get pregnant, you should probably discuss who to get pregnant.

It might be obvious who’ll carry the baby. Then again, maybe you’ll resort to flipping a coin or tag-teaming pregnancies (if you’re planning to have multiple children). Think about pulling your doctor into this discussion, particularly if there are any health conditions to take into account. 

Once you’ve decided who’s on baby-making duty, your doctor will help you explore pregnancy options, and may refer you to a fertility specialist for treatment. They can also get your pregnancy planning underway by prescribing prenatal vitamins, outlining pregnancy diet considerations, answering any questions you have about potential pregnancy complications, and starting you or your partner on medication to elevate fertility if needed.

Then, it’s time to work out how to get one of your eggs fertilized.

Lesbian pregnancy options

Artificial insemination

This is one of the more affordable and accessible ways for a lesbian couple to conceive. Essentially it involves getting sperm into your uterus without the involvement of a penis. (Who needs ‘em these days anyway?)

There are two main ways of doing this.

Intrauterine insemination (IUI)

This involves a doctor inserting washed and concentrated sperm directly into your uterus using a catheter. Where does this elusive sperm come from? You can use sperm from a known donor, like a family member or friend, or access donated sperm through a sperm bank. (Just testing out how many times we can say ‘sperm’ in a sentence.)

Typically you’ll try and time the IUI for a day or two after signs of ovulation – so if you try this method it can be useful to track your ovulation cycles. There are some great apps that can help!

The actual insemination process feels a bit like a pap smear. You (or your partner) will lie down on a bed, and try to relax while your doctor implants the sperm into your uterus via catheter. You may be asked to stay lying down for a while after the procedure to really give those spermy bad boys time to find an egg to fertilize. You may experience some light cramping or spotting, but generally, you’re free to go about your day as normal after this.

The average cost in the US for this procedure is between $300 and $1,000 per try, and it could be covered by your health insurance so be sure to check out if you’re covered.

Intracervical insemination (ICI) 

This technique is slightly less clinical and precise than an IUI and may not be as effective. In saying that, you can do it in the privacy of your own home (sans strangers poking around down there). You can buy at-home insemination kits which allow you to use a friend or donor’s sperm to try and fall pregnant while maybe having some fun sexy times with your partner. Some fertility clinics may offer this as well (the ICI procedure, not the sexy times, to be clear).

As with a UIU, you’ll lie on your back for the procedure, and for best results, you’ll be encouraged to remain lying down for half an hour afterwards. 

You may be charged between $200 and $350 per procedure at a clinic, or get insemination kits for even less. The real cost comes with using donor sperm, if you choose to do so. And if you have it washed (to increase its potency) that’ll add more too.

In vitro fertilization (IVF)  

IVF is more complicated than artificial insemination, but it’s also a more effective way to get pregnant.

For this procedure, you’ll go through a specialist fertility clinic. A doctor will collect you or your partner’s eggs from the ovaries, fertilize them with a donor’s sperm in a lab, and then implant them into your uterus. This procedure is paired with medication to ensure your body is producing the right hormones for pregnancy.

Reciprocal IVF

Okay, this procedure is pretty neat. It allows both you and your partner to contribute to the pregnancy. One of you carries the baby (the birth mother), while the other’s eggs are used (the biological mother). Cute! 

Studies are underway to see how DNA can be combined from both same-sex partners to produce a fertilized egg (embryo). It’s only successfully been done in mice so far, but one day this may be an option for people too – wild!

Having sex

Um… what? This might be a bit too weird for you, but having sex is one of the legit pregnancy options available to lesbian couples. Some choose to bypass the cost and complexity of medical insemination and just find a willing male sexual partner to make a baby with. 

If you have a friend or meet a nice stranger who might be willing to help you out, just make sure you have clear discussions about what their involvement would be in the baby’s life. That stuff can get messy if you don’t work it out in advance (refer to below).

A note on legalities

When weighing up which lesbian pregnancy options might suit you best, keep in mind the legal complexities that could be attached to how your baby is conceived. Exact details may vary from country-to-country and state-to-state, but in general:

  • A birth mother is usually considered a baby’s legal guardian, even if a partner’s egg was used through reciprocal IVF.
  • A baby’s birth father might also be considered a legal guardian – whether you decide to have him involved in your baby’s life or not.
  • A mother who didn’t give birth to the baby may need to apply for adoption before being legally recognized as a guardian.
  • It may be more difficult to prove you’re a parent if you’re not married to the birth mother.

Check your state’s laws for the specifics. 

To be frank, same-sex parenting laws are still a bit behind the times in a lot of areas. While it may not matter to you what’s recognized on paper (and damn straight – you’re this child’s mama no matter what their birth certificate says!), ensuring you’re legally recognized as a parent can help you avoid awkward situations in the future.

Prepping for mama life

Once you’ve got the details of your lesbian pregnancy (or adoption, or surrogacy) sorted and you’re on track to start a family, it’s time to face the big questions, like:

  • What will you name this precious human?
  • Will you find out its sex in advance?
  • How will you announce the exciting news to friends and family?! 
  • Will you have a baby shower?
  • Will you both be called ‘Mom’? Or will there be a ‘Mom’ and ‘Mommy’? 

DECISIONS!

Ah, we’re just so excited for you and wish you all the best in building your gorgeous family. Soak up this incredible time in your lives, and connect with other excited/nervous moms-to-be on Mumli.


Read next: 5 ways to get pregnant without sex

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