Recommendations provided here are not intended to replace conversations with your own medical care provider.
Sometimes, it doesn’t just take a village to raise a child. It takes a village to make one, too. That’s where third party reproduction can help.
For people who aren’t in a straight relationship, getting pregnant is a little more difficult because there are pieces missing from the biological egg meets sperm equation. Even for straight couples, there can be many reasons why reproductive parts may not be used. Luckily, we are living in an age where the concept of family-building offers more options than it ever did. Yes, you still need an egg and a sperm to make a baby, but that doesn’t automatically translate to needing a man and a woman to be present when said baby is made.
Third-party reproduction is defined as any human reproduction in which DNA or gestation is provided by a third party or donor other than the one or two parents who will raise the resulting child.
Intended parent(s) can use eggs, sperm, and even embryos donated by another party to obtain a pregnancy. The pregnancy can then be carried by someone else entirely. There are multiple ways that this can be done, depending on the specific needs of the intended parent(s). This also explains why third-party reproduction has its name.
Anonymous donor sperm can be obtained from a number of reputable, FDA-certified banks across the country. For single women, women in same-sex relationships, or straight couples where the male partner isn’t able to produce sperm, this is a great option for family building. Clients can select their donor based on physical characteristics, education, family history, or other criteria using extensive profiles offered by the banks.
Donor sperm can be used for intrauterine insemination or IVF. Making sure you are getting the right type of sample for your specific cycle plan is important, and this is something you can discuss with your provider.
Gay couples, single men, and women who are unable to produce their own eggs have the option of using an egg donor to build their families. Egg donors can be anonymous or someone known to the intended parent(s). Donor eggs can also be obtained through a bank, similar to donor sperm. The donor undergoes IVF stimulation and egg retrieval. Once the eggs are retrieved, the intended parent(s) and their providers will choose to inseminate and transfer the fertilized egg as they wish.
Women who want to get pregnant with the help of fresh donor eggs take medications to sync their menstrual cycle up with the donor’s cycle and to prepare the uterus to receive an embryo. Embryos can also be created and frozen for use in a later cycle.
Lesbian couples who both want to participate in the family-building process can choose to do a variation of this called reciprocal IVF. One partner would go through the stimulation and egg retrieval. The other partner would undergo the same process as a donor egg recipient to sync and prepare the uterus for transfer and implantation. In this way, partner A can carry partner B’s fertilized egg.
Women who agree to carry a child for someone else without using their own genetic material are called gestational surrogates or carriers. This is a great option for gay couples, single men or women, or women who are unable to use their own uterus to carry a pregnancy.
Gestational carriers can be a friend or family member of the intended parent(s) or can be found using an agency that works to match intended parent(s) with women who are interested in surrogacy. Agencies like the Vermont Surrogacy Network are always looking for people who fit the criteria for surrogacy. Intended parent(s) can also use donor sperm and eggs with a gestational surrogate if needed.
There are no laws overseeing gestational surrogacy at the federal level. Every state has different laws and guidelines for surrogacy, as well as for establishing parentage after the baby is born. It is important to know what is accepted in your state and to understand that you may need to travel elsewhere in order to create your family. Here is a great link to understand where Vermont stands: Vermont’s Legal Help Website: Parentage
As the definition of family changes, so too does the way in which those families are created. It is now more possible than ever for men and women to have the option of having and raising a child, regardless of their circumstances. You and your providers can work together to see if third-party reproduction is the best choice for you when it comes to filling in the missing pieces in your reproductive puzzle. Contact the Vermont Surrogacy Network if you would like to find out more about third party reproduction or if you are interested in becoming a gestational surrogate. You can find out more on the Vermont Surrogacy Network blog.
Vermont Mom would like to thank Vermont Surrogacy Network for making this series possible.
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