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Think you want children?

10 things you need to know if you're planning to be a lesbian mum

Lily Pritchard

Mon, 21 Jan 2013 17:27:54 GMT | Updated 4 years today

Every year numerous single lesbians, bi women and same-sex couples conceive and bring children into loving families. For us, conception isn't necessarily easy but planning ahead pays off. Here, DIVA guides you through some things you will need to bear in mind…


How to prepare.

Firstly, it is a good idea to discuss your plans to start a family with your GP. You (and your partner, if you have one) should take a sexual health test to make sure no STIs are passed on to the child. You may also want to take a fertility test (which can be expensive). If your fertility is low, you may qualify for help with conceiving from the NHS.


How to make sure you have the best chance of pregnancy.

Lifestyle, diet, weight, smoking, drinking and age will all affect your chance of conception. There is also no point in trying to conceive if you don't know when you are ovulating. You can work this out by purchasing an ovulation test or basal body thermometer. You ovulate anywhere between 12-24 hours, however sperm can survive inside the body for up to six days prior to this.


How to find sperm.

There are two types of sperm donor, known or unknown. A known donor would be a friend, relative or someone you met through an advert -someone whose identity is known to you - and an unknown donor is a stranger who donated sperm via a sperm bank or fertility clinic. While sperm from known donors is usually free, donor sperm from sperm banks or clinics can cost from £50 to over £100 per vial, with one vial required for every cycle of treatment. Purchasing sperm online that isn't from the UK can be cheaper but it is crucial to use a registered clinic. In the UK, the law has changed so that when a child born from donor sperm turns 18 they can find out the identity of the donor. Outside the UK it is still possible for men to donate anonymously, so your child would not be able to trace their donor. If you don't know anyone suitable to be your known donor, you may find one via any number of online forums devoted to linking donors with would-be mums. In this case, it is up to you to negotiate what presence (if any) he will have in your child's life. You may want to consider a co-parenting arrangement, where you raise the child together with the donor, by prior agreement.


Sperm safety.

It is absolutely crucial that any donor sperm you put into your body is tested for STIs. If you are being treated at a registered fertility clinic, they will screen for STIs and inherited diseases. If you are inseminating at home your donor should get tested for STIs and inherited diseases by a GP. There may be a charge for this service.


How to conceive.

Artificial insemination (AI) is a low-tech option that can be done at home, where sperm is inserted in to the vagina with a needle-less syringe. Clinics are more likely to use a technique called intrauterine insemination (IUI) in which the sperm is introduced directly into the uterus via the cervix. No fertility treatment is guaranteed to work first time, or, indeed, at all. IUI success rates are 8-15% depending on your age and fertility levels, so it may take a few months of trying. Privately, IUI can cost up to £1000 per cycle, though many clinics offer treatment packages which include initial consultation, tests and screening. The NHS currently allows individual Primary Care Trusts to decide locally what treatment to offer for free. This means that there is no nationwide policy and although you may be entitled to six free cycles of IUI in one area, a few miles away you may not be entitled to anything at all. Legally though, PCTs cannot discriminate against lesbians, so if they allow straight women free treatment, they must allow you the same or an equivalent. If you are hoping to access free treatment, contact your PCT and find out what their policy is.



Keep track of your attempts to conceive. If you are unlucky you may be entitled to a number of free cycles of IVF on the NHS. (Individual PCTs will have an upper age limit and may enforce other restrictions.) At private clinics, cycles cost on average £4000. IVF is a technique whereby your eggs are collected and combined with sperm in a laboratory. After several days, if the embryo is growing normally, it can be inserted in to the uterus. Often several embryos are implanted at once and the treatment is more likely to result in multiple births than other methods of conception. IVF success rates vary and you can work out how successful it may be for you here: When the mother is infertile, donor eggs can be used. Egg donors in the UK are subject to the same laws as sperm donors and must agree to be traceable when any resulting child reaches 18. Women who donated via foreign clinics may be anonymous.



Reciprocal IVF (RIVF) is where one partner provides eggs and the other partner carries the child, allowing both women to be physically involved in the pregnancy. The process is basically the same as IVF except the couple must synchronize their menstrual cycles. The partner donating eggs will take medication to stimulate the maturation of multiple eggs and the partner who is having the embryo implanted will take medication to prepare the uterus for implantation.


Laws affecting you and your child.

If you are having a child with a known donor, or if you and your partner are not civil partnered, it is a very good idea to get legal advice before attempting to conceive. The law surrounding parenting can be complex but in many instances you will have the same rights as heterosexual parents. The mother who gives birth to the child, regardless of whether she used a donated egg, is automatically considered a legal parent. The non-birth mother will automatically be considered a legal parent if they are in a civil partnership or if they conceived at a registered fertility clinic, which can supply legal papers that both parents must sign. However, if you conceived through sexual intercourse with a man or are not in a civil partnership and inseminate at home, this may mean the non-birth mother will not be considered legally a parent unless she adopts the child. If you use a known donor, you will need to thoroughly discuss what role he will play in the child's life, if any. You would be well-advised to have a lawyer experienced in LGBT family law draw up a parenting agreement, signed by all parties. In the event of a serious disagreement, this can prove the original intention of all parties, although it is not legally binding.


What happens if you break up with your partner.

If you are in a civil partnership at the time of conception and then break up after the child is born you will both still be considered legal parents. This also applies if you went through a fertility clinic and signed to acknowledge your parenthood. If you inseminated at home and were not in a civil partnership then the non-birth mother would have no legal rights unless she had previously adopted the child.



Some single lesbians and same-sex couples choose to adopt a child. This is a great idea as there are currently around 7000 children in the UK waiting for adoption. This can be a lengthy procedure but it can also be highly rewarding. For more information about adoption and fostering, visit:



Lastly, you may want to know that the average cost of raising a child to 18 is £67,700 (don't let that put you off, it's the same for everyone!) and research shows that children from lesbian parents are not disadvantaged in any respect compared to those raised by straight parents.


For more information and advice, we recommend Stonewall's parenting pages

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  • Upton North - Sun, 09 Nov 2014 07:57:18 GMT -

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    Great article, more single and lesbian couples are choosing private donors for all the benefits including mutually agreed donation, repeated cycle attempts and flexibility...