Many same-sex couples want to become parents. Biological constraints mean that same-sex couples have to pursue parenthood with more vigor than heterosexual couples do. Fortunately, a number of options exist that allow same-sex couples and queer couples with biological limitations to pursue parenthood. New technology on the horizon will continue to open exciting doors for queer couples who want to reproduce.
When gay men want to have a baby related to one parent they take the surrogate route. Surrogacy means finding a woman willing to carry the child after being artificially inseminated with one partner’s sperm. Sometimes a family member or friend agrees to carry the baby, and sometimes the couple can find a stranger willing to carry the baby. Another option is pairing up with a lesbian couple and co-parenting the baby.
Sometimes queer women find a sperm donor and simply inseminate one partner. When both women want to be involved in the pregnancy, reciprocal IVF allows one partner to donate the egg and the other partner to carry the baby as a surrogate. The couple needs a sperm donor to fertilize the egg. With reciprocal IVF both women need to take medication to prepare them for the process: one woman takes medication to stimulate her ovaries to release lots of eggs for fertilization. The other takes medication to increase the chances that the fertilized egg will implant in her uterus.
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Adoption hasn’t always been easy for queer couples, and in many areas of the world gay couples still face roadblocks that prevent them from adopting a baby. Queer couples can apply to adopt children locally or internationally. Some queer couples choose to foster children before adopting. In the US, the only state that doesn’t have legislation allowing same-sex couples to jointly adopt is Mississippi. Some states have broader adoption laws that take into account same-sex couples more specifically, including California, New York, and Pennsylvania.
When a baby is biologically related to only one member of a same-sex couple, sometimes the other half of the partnership doesn’t have parental rights or has to apply to adopt the child. New technology that turns skin cells and fibroblasts into embryonic stem cells may change all that. Scientists have been able to make embryonic stem cells into germ cells, the precursors to eggs and sperm.
In mice, scientists have taken this technology so far as to create zygotes that were carried to term and born as healthy baby mice. Though scientists have a lot of research to do to achieve this result in humans, the possibility is on the horizon. Soon, same-sex couples may be able to have children biologically related to both of them!
Every year more doors are opening for queer couples who want to become parents. The joy of raising a child is something that many partnerships want to experience, whether they choose to adopt, use artificial insemination, or pursue IVF. Advances in technology will provide new, amazing parenting options for queer couples.