Five Steps to Parenthood for Gay Male Couples

August 25, 2014

gay men can have biologically related childrenGay male couples who want to start a family have more options than many are aware of.  While adoption and foster-parenting have always been viable options, many couples are unaware that through assisted reproductive technology (ART), men have the opportunity to be biologically related to their children. Dr. Samuel Pang offers advice and information about the process and how to get started

“Perhaps the most exciting news for male couples who want to become parents is that through Dr Samuel Pangsurrogacy and egg donation, they can now have genetically related children,” said Dr. Pang (at right), who was the first Reproductive Endocrinologist the northeast to provide in vitro fertilization (IVF) services to a gay male couple. “There are many steps to be taken and many people involved in the process,” he continues. “My first recommendation would be to contact specialists at a fertility center who can help navigate the journey to becoming parents.” From choosing an egg donor and gestational surrogate/carrier, to learning about financing and legal issues that need to be considered, Dr. Pang stresses the importance of working with a professional fertility treatment team, which he says is the safest and most reliable way to ensure the health and safety of the carrier, the donated eggs, and ultimately the baby.

Following are 5 important steps for gay couples to take when embarking on the journey to parenthood:

1.    Get a Semen Analysis
Whether one or both partners are providing their sperm, it is important for both to be aware of any medical issues that may lead to infertility such as past illnesses, chemo therapy/radiation, genetic or other health conditions. Dr. Pang also recommends that the partner providing his sperm have a simple semen analysis test which will determine the health of the sperm. The test can be done through a primary care physician or a fertility specialist and will determine the number, movement and development of sperm. If fertility issues are detected, it is helpful to know that many male-factor infertility issues can be treated by a fertility specialist. Many couples who choose to have more than one child will take turns providing the sperm so both men will want to have the semen analysis.

2.    Choose a Gestational Surrogate, Egg Donor, or Frozen Donor Eggs
There are two types of surrogates: traditional surrogates who use their own eggs and carry the baby to term and then must surrender their parental rights upon the birth of the child. The more widely used surrogate is a gestational carrier who does not use her own eggs, but those of an egg donor, and therefore, does not have a genetic link to the baby. “Some couples choose to have a relative or friend for their surrogate and egg donor while others choose a gestational surrogate and anonymous egg donor through an agency or frozen egg bank. "Couples who choose a relative or friend to be the egg donor or gestational surrogate should seek legal counsel regarding the legal implications of using a relative or friend,” explains Dr. Pang.

3.    Learn About Financing “Cost is an important issue to understand from the very beginning,” says Dr. Pang. “Most health insurance plans do not pay for assisted reproduction technology services for gay men because their inability to conceive is not due to a disease. Therefore the cost of having a biologically related baby through ART will be significant, and couples should be prepared.” He suggests that couples speak to an independent financial counselor or a fertility clinic financial counselor to understand the financial commitment and financing options that may be available. 

Recently perfected technology enabling effective freezing and viable thawing of  donor eggs is particularly useful for gay couples. Using frozen donor eggs through MyEggBank at Boston IVF, for example, can save a male couple about $15,000 compared to the cost of choosing and using a "fresh" donor.

4.    Seek Professional Legal Counsel
“Couples are often surprised by all of the legal issues they have to deal with when starting a family through a surrogate and egg donor,” Dr. Pang says. Couples are strongly advised to seek professional legal assistance to address a number of important issues including: Living wills to determine the fate of the embryo(s) or the baby if the intended parent(s) become incapacitated or die before the baby is born, and second-parent adoption. It is important to understand that surrogacy laws vary from state to state. Surrogacy is illegal in some states, and other states are not "surrogacy-friendly" so this information is critical when selecting a surrogate: which state does she live in, and which state is she going to deliver the baby.

5.    Emotional Support
Pregnancy and preparing for parenthood are exciting and stressful for all parents-to-be. For couples becoming parents through assisted reproductive technology, the excitement and stress can be doubly so. “Not only can the actual process take a long time, but it is one that will involve the couple and fertility specialist team, and potentially many other people including egg donors, gestational carriers, lawyers, and often financial counselors. That’s a lot of personalities and information to deal with,” Dr. Pang explains. Having the support of friends and family is essential, and seeking professional counseling to discuss fears, emotions, and expectations will help couples cope with the complexities of the journey to parenthood.

“While this may all seem daunting at first, taking these steps and understanding the process will help very much and result in a healthy baby and happy family,” Dr. Pang concludes.

At Boston IVF,Samuel Pang, MD was the first reproductive medicine specialist to help a gay male couple have a baby using IVF in 1998. Dr. Pang also introduced Reciprocal IVF, which enables both partners in lesbian couples to have a role in the conception and birth of their babies. Boston IVF also provides fertility preservation consultation and services for transgender men and women.

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Gay Fertility News from Boston IVF
Gay fertility news from Boston IVF.