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In vitro fertilization (IVF)May 22, 2024

How does IVF work for female same sex couples?

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Two female same sex couples, who are all best friends, now have three baby boys between them. Kim, Charley, Zoe and Steph share their experiences of fertility treatment.


Kim and Charley’s story

Kim knew she wanted children. When she was approaching 30, she shared with family and friends that solo motherhood may be the route she’d choose.

Then she booked Charley, a professional decorator, to paint her kitchen: and, as she puts it, Charley never really left.

Seven years later, this happy Oxfordshire couple have two boys, both conceived thanks to an anonymous sperm donor and simple intrauterine insemination procedures.

“Charley was only 21 when we met,” explains Kim, “She wasn’t interested in carrying a baby. But my biological clock was ticking and I wanted a child, so it was logical that I should be the biological mum.”

The couple investigated IVF clinics and chose the one nearest to their home in Oxfordshire – TFP Fertility Oxford.

Story - Baby boys

Screening tests run by the clinic showed that Kim was healthy and there was no reason she shouldn’t conceive.

The couple wanted to ensure they’d be legally co-parenting and that there wouldn’t be any way of the sperm donor being involved in raising the child.

Kim says, “We had thought about home methods of conception, but we were aware that if we didn’t do it through a clinic, there was nothing to say Charley would be a named parent on the birth certificates because we aren’t married.

“Going through the clinic made it easy and stress free. It was just a case of filling out the forms and they took care of the rest. 

“This then made it easy to register the births of our children, because all we needed to confirm was that we conceived them through a clinic. If there were any problems, the clinic assured us that they could deal with it.”

“This gave us all the reassurance we needed,” says Kim.

“We used TFP Fertility’s own sperm bank”

“We chose a donor with similar features to Charley, but understood that those looks wouldn’t necessarily be passed to the child,” explains Kim.

“We were just very grateful that the clinic had its own in-house donation service, to make the process easier for us. We’re thankful that people do choose to donate, helping people like us to become parents."

For the first try at IUI, Kim took medication to stimulate her egg production. However, her body responded by producing too many eggs and two IUI procedures were postponed as a result.

When the IUI did finally take place, it wasn’t successful.

The couple were keen to try again and this time Kim’s egg production wasn’t stimulated.

Story - baby boys

Kim says, “In the end it was very simple – I just needed the sperm donor, that was all.”

 

Kim and Charley’s baby boy, Arlo, was born in November 2020.

And ten months ago, Kim gave birth to their second boy, Teddy, also conceived through IUI.

 

The couple found the process of IUI very straightforward and inclusive.

 

Charley says, “Although I wasn’t the biological mum, they included me very much through the whole process and I was always an equal in the room.

 

“I would recommend TFP Fertility to anyone and if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to become a same-sex family and have our wonderful boys.”

“We are being slowly outnumbered by boys”


Zoe and Steph’s story

Zoe and Steph, 31 and 32, say they’ve been together for more years than they can remember. They married in August 2022.

Zoe, a primary school teacher, has always loved children and knew she wanted to be a mum. It felt natural for her to carry the baby.

The couple researched fertility clinics and, in the end, chose TFP Fertility Oxford for their treatment because Kim and Charley’s experience there had been so positive.

However, because Zoe has polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), she rarely ovulates and was unsure whether fertility treatment would be successful for her.

Zoe and Kim with baby boys

After tests and a consultation with a TFP Fertility clinician, the way ahead became clear: Zoe would need IVF treatment to stimulate her egg production and make sure her uterus was prepared to receive an embryo.

At the couple’s first fertility planning appointment, they had a surprise.

Zoe says, “The nurse who was scanning me pointed to a little black star shape on the screen. She told me this meant that I had ovulated.

Zoe had never had a positive result to an ovulation test, so she was over the moon. She says, “I thought, I don’t do that! I can’t have… But I had.”

The clinic had expected to use medication to induce her period, so that her fertility treatment could be started on day one of her cycle.

Instead, as she was ovulating naturally, Zoe simply called the clinic when her period started and they instructed her to start her injections at home. These would stimulate the growth of her follicles.

“We were so grateful for the care we received”

Zoe recalls, “I really don't mind needles so I thought it would be fine but injecting myself was really different. It doesn't hurt but it becomes everything about you.

“I went to a birthday party and had to do an injection at the same time so went with a lunch box of medication and injected in the bathroom.”

After the trigger injection, which stimulates the release of the eggs, Zoe had her egg collection procedure at the clinic.

“When I came round, the wonderful Lara, the fertility specialist, came and told us she’d managed to retrieve 14 eggs. We were so very grateful.”

The eggs were mixed with sperm chosen from TFP Fertility’s own sperm bank. Five embryos were created: three grade As and two grade Cs.

Zoe describes the transfer procedure as ‘emotional’.

“I filled up with water for a full bladder and Lara came to do our embryo transfer. We watched the whole procedure on the screen and saw a little embryo placed into the perfect location.

“Once it was finished, Lara and the sonographer with her gave us a big cuddle and wished us luck. Steph and I were overwhelmed and cried a lot.”

The couple took a home pregnancy test eleven days later and were over the moon to be pregnant with Oakley.

Parallel lives

The four friends have all been part of each other’s fertility journeys, offering friend support, partner support and ‘mum support’.

After Arlo was born, they all went on holiday together – a trip they refer to as ‘Four Women and a Baby’.

Later, Kim and Zoe became pregnant at the same time, with Teddy and Oakley.

Kim says, “It has been a real blessing for me to have someone there who understands and doesn’t judge.”

Zoe adds, “It’s great to be able to see each other and not to worry because we haven’t hoovered or we feel bad on that particular day.”

The couples view themselves as a big extended family and are now Godparents to each other’s children.

Zoe and Kim pregnant

Reflections

Zoe and Kim are both currently on maternity leave and sharing the first few months of their babies’ lives.

Reflecting on her experience as a woman in a same-sex relationship going through of IVF, Zoe says, “It’s difficult going somewhere and always having to say, ‘I don’t have a husband’, or ‘I don’t have a boyfriend’ and keep reminding someone that it isn’t a mummy and daddy situation.

“TFP Fertility Oxford weren’t like that. I don’t think at any point anyone made the mistake of talking about a man. It was a relief.”

She adds, “You feel like IUI or IVF is going to be this huge step and actually, it is lots of little steps along the way.

Suddenly they’re telling you that you’ll need to take a pregnancy test in two weeks and you’re thinking, how did that happen so fast? It is not as daunting as it seems.”

Kim says, “Fertility treatment for same-sex couples just isn’t out of reach anymore. In fact, it feels no different now than the service offered to a heterosexual couple.

"When you turn up at the clinic, they can help you have your dream of a family and a child. Go and speak to someone. It is not as scary as you think it will be.”

“Just go into the clinic. Walk through the door. That’s the big step”

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