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LGBTQIA+Jul 3, 2024

How IUI treatment can help same-sex female couples start a family

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At TFP Fertility, we believe everyone should have the chance of having a family. There are many pathways to parenthood for individual, couples and co-parents in the LGBTQ+.  

If you’re in a same-sex female or lesbian partnership with no known fertility challenges, intrauterine insemination could be the right option for you.

What is IUI for same-sex female couples?

Commonly referred to as artificial insemination, IUI is a relatively simple procedure which involves injecting donor sperm directly into the uterus where it fertilises the egg naturally.  

Compared to IVF, IUI is a less expensive and less invasive procedure because treatment is shorter, less medication is needed, and egg retrieval isn’t required.  

Because the sperm is injected directly into the uterus, the genetic mother will also be the birth mother or parent with an IUI procedure.

As a same-sex female couple, if you wish to both be involved in creating and carrying a pregnancy, then reciprocal IVF may be the best option for you.  


How does IUI work?

Whether your chosen sperm is from a known donor or from a licensed sperm bank, it will have been frozen prior to treatment and will need to first be thawed.  

The healthiest and highest quality sperm is chosen from the sample by an andrologist and transferred directly into the uterus through a catheter. By introducing the sperm directly into your womb, the IUI procedure allows reduces the time and distance the sperm needs to travel to reach and the egg, increasing chances of fertilisation.  

IUI treatment is carried out at the point of natural ovulation to also maximise the chance of fertilisation.  

What are the success rates for IUI treatment?

Success rates for IUI treatment are about a third of the success rates for IVF. There are many factors affecting your fertility, including age. The younger you are, the higher your chance of becoming pregnant.   

It’s important to know that many women will have several cycles of IUI treatment before they have a successful pregnancy.  

Deciding which partner undergoes treatment

Deciding which partner or co-parent undergoes treatment is an important and personal decision and you must decide what is best for you and your family.  

Some individuals may not wish to put their body through treatment or pregnancy for personal reasons. On the other hand, you may wish to try for multiple children in which case both you and your partner or co-parent may decide to undergo IUI treatment at some point.  

A fertility assessment may help you in making your decision, providing a comprehensive view of both partner’s or co-parent's fertility health.  


Choosing a sperm donor

According to the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority, around 14,500 fertility treatments are carried out in the UK every year using donated sperm or eggs.

For many, particularly those in the LGBTQ+ community, using donated sperm or eggs is the only option for getting pregnant.  

Choosing your sperm donor is a life-changing and important decision. When it comes to choosing a sperm donor, you can use a known donor, for example a friend or a relative that isn’t biologically related to the birth mother or parent, or you can select from a range of donors at a licensed sperm bank.  

For many, the donor’s ethnicity, hair and eye colour and even height and weight can be crucial factors when choosing a sperm donor that best reflects their own genetics. When using a licensed sperm bank, you'll receive this information to help you make an informed decision.  

Before a potential donor can donate, they are required to meet strict qualifying criteria, including providing their full medical history and that of their immediate biological family. Several tests are carried out to screen for any illnesses, infections or genetic conditions that could be passed to either the birth mother or parent or baby.  

Find out more about finding a sperm donor with TFP Fertility.

Reserving donor sperm for future treatment

When purchasing sperm through a licensed sperm bank, you will typically receive a single sample of semen for use in a single fertility treatment cycle. You are not required to purchase more than one sample, however, there are several reasons why you may wish to consider doing so. For example: 

  • You plan to try for more than one child through different treatment cycles and want to ensure a genetic resemblance between siblings  

  • You want to have a back-up of your chosen sperm in case your first treatment cycle is unsuccessful 

  • You are from an ethnic minority with less options available for donor sperm that match your ethnicity 

What legal considerations should I be aware of?

Understanding your parental rights as a LGBTQ+ person or couple can be overwhelming. There are many factors that can influence your legal parent status that are worth being aware of. These include: 

  • In the UK, the birth mother or parent is always the first legal parent of any child born 

  • If the birth mother or parent is married or civil partnered, then their partner automatically becomes the second legal parent  

  • If the birth mother or parent isn’t married or civil partnered, then their partner or co-parent will need to apply for a parental order to obtain legal parental status 

  • When using a sperm donor through a licensed fertility clinic, the donor has no legal parental rights over any child born  

When undergoing fertility treatment with a licensed fertility clinic, the clinic will ensure you have access to all of the information you need and will help you sign the right forms at the right time to ensure legal parent status is obtained for both intended parents. 

Find out more about legal parenthood as an LGBTQ+ person.

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