Ask an RE: What are my options for becoming an LGBTQ parent?
Ask an RE: What are my options for becoming an LGBTQ parent?
Part 1: Dr. Mark Leondires discusses the pathways to biological parenthood for LGBTQ couples and single parents-to-be
Between 2 – 3.7 million children worldwide are being raised by an LGBTQ parent. Many of these families are grown through adoption, but with the advancements of reproductive medicine and the help of reproductive endocrinologists and fertility clinics, more LGBTQ parents are able to have biologically linked children.
And while making the decision to start your family is exciting and inspiring, figuring out the logistics of your family building options can also feel overwhelming.
In honor of Pride Month, we spoke with Dr. Mark Leondires, founder, medical director, and reproductive endocrinologist at Reproductive Medical Associates of Connecticut, as well as the founder of Gay Parents to Be, which he started after becoming a parent with his partner and realizing just how few educational resources were available for LGBTQ people looking to build a family.
In this two-part edition of Ask an RE, Dr. Leondires joins us to share an overview of LGBTQ parenting options and some advice on how to find the right fertility clinic and medical team to partner with during your family building journey.
Celmatix: Before a couple or single parent-to-be starts the family building process, it’s important to understand all of the options. Could you outline the various paths to biological parenthood that you cover with your LGBTQ patients?
Dr. Leondires: Our families are special and are built through intention and effort, either using adoption or biological parenting pathways. Biological options allow LGBTQ parents to be genetically linked to their children. The following parenting pathways are helped along by a passionate group of reproductive endocrinologists, fertility clinics, surrogacy agencies, and several other entities, who can help you understand which option is best for you and your partner.
Options for cisgender gay, bisexual, or queer single women or couples:
Cisgender female parents-to-be have the option of becoming pregnant and carrying their biological child. Sometimes this is achieved using assisted insemination (AI), where donor sperm is used to achieve a pregnancy that one partner carries. Other times, if fertility challenges are experienced, cisgender female couples may pursue an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle in which one partner’s eggs are combined with donor sperm to create embryos in a lab, and then transferred back to the partner who has elected to carry the baby.
In other journeys, where both women want to biologically participate in the pregnancy, one partner’s eggs may be used with donor sperm to create embryos, and the other partner then carries the pregnancy. This way, both partners are linked to the child in a special way.
Options for cisgender gay, bisexual, or queer single men or couples:
Cisgender male parents-to-be may achieve fatherhood with the involvement of a gestational carrier, an egg donor, and sperm from a parent-to-be.
A gestational carrier is a woman who agrees to help another individual or couple have a baby by achieving a pregnancy using an embryo created with a donor’s egg and either of the male partner’s sperm. As a result, the gestational carrier has no genetic link to the baby. Gestational carriers are women who have had at least one successful pregnancy and delivery. Occasionally, fathers-to-be use a relative or friend to carry their pregnancy. Carrying another person’s child for nine months is no easy feat, so it’s also important that gestational carriers are both medically and emotionally healthy!
Another path to parenthood for gay men includes working with a woman who is both the egg donor and the surrogate. This is called traditional surrogacy. In this situation, the woman is genetically linked to the child and also carries the pregnancy. This is something that most IVF centers will not participate in, because of the potentially complicated legal issues involved in assigning parentage.
In all surrogacy relationships, a reproductive attorney is required in order to protect parental rights and complete birth certificates assigning parentage to the intended father(s). Why? Because the legal issues associated with third party reproduction and gay parenting differ from state to state, and working with an experienced attorney can help you make sure that your rights, and your child’s rights, are protected to the fullest extent.
Options for parents-to-be who are considering transitioning genders:
One of the most important things to consider is the cryopreservation of either eggs or sperm prior to the start of hormone blockers. Preserving these gametes now will be the key to completing your biological family building journey in the future. Your reproductive endocrinologist can help tailor your plan to parenthood for you.
Once you’ve decided that you’re ready to start building your family, the next step is to pick a fertility clinic and a reproductive endocrinologist to help make that dream a reality.
Celmatix: What resources would you recommend for LGBTQ parents-to-be who are just getting started with their family building process?
Dr. Leondires: There are many good online resources in regards to LGBTQ family building, including Gay Parents to Be, Path2Parenthood, Men Having Babies, and Gays with Kids. Parents-to-be should consider connecting with their local LGBTQ center for family building resources and support in their area! When the time is right to take that next step, connect with a reproductive endocrinologist who has knowledge and experience working with our community.
Patients are also always welcome to connect with me through Gay Parents to Be!
Celmatix: Could you give us a preview of Part 2 of this blog series, in which you’ll provide advice for LGTBQ parents-to-be on how to choose the right fertility clinic and RE?
Dr. Leondires: Here at RMA of Connecticut, we’re are lucky enough to live in an area of the country that is inclusive and supportive of family building for LGBTQ parents-to-be, with an abundance of advanced medical practices, providers, and resources. For LGBTQ parents-to-be who live in areas similar to ours, at first glance, there may be many clinics that can help to build their family. In this case, it’s important to be just a little bit pickier when it comes to choosing a healthcare provider, and understanding the right clinic metrics to look for and questions to ask during your initial consultation to get to know the physicians and team you’ll be working with.
For parents-to-be who live in areas with fewer LGBTQ inclusive clinics and resources, it’s important to know where and how to start your search for the right medical team, and how to prioritize clinic travel into your financial plan for family building.
We’ll cover all this and more in the next edition of our LGBTQ family building options blog series!
Dr. Mark Leondires is the Founder, Medical Director and Partner in reproductive endocrinology at Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut and Gay Parents to Be. When he became a parent with his partner, he recognized the limited options available to the LGBTQ community, which led him to create and launch Gay Parents to Be, an educational resource supporting LGBTQ couples and individuals to make family building choices.