Childbirth for Queer Couples is an Expensive Endeavour
A lesbian couple navigate the expensive waters of pregnancy.
I always knew I wanted to have kids, and when I met my partner, it was clear to me that we would one day become parents. While that day hasn’t arrived yet, we know that we have a few options when ready to try, and like other gay couples, our path to parenthood as two women is very different from that of our straight friends who are not experiencing infertility.
The costs of becoming parents is something that I’m sure most people never think about, and yet we will likely spend thousands of dollars to grow our family.
How much we need to save depends on what our insurance will cover and which route to parenthood works the best for us.
BEFORE WE EVEN DECIDE ON WHICH ACTION TO TAKE, WE ARE ALREADY LUCKY: WE HAVE TWO UTERI TO CHOOSE FROM.
We decided that I will be the one carrying, but if Emet really wants, she has that option, too.
We will also need to decide if we want a sperm donor who is anonymous, open, or known. An anonymous donor means our child will never have the ability to reach out to him, even after our child turns 18. An open donor is willing to meet our child after they turn 18. Anyone can go to Cryobank.com and look at the options there.
We already know that a Jewish donor is important, and friends of ours want a donor who is the same ethnicity as the non-biological parent. But there are still a lot of other decisions to make:
Do we want a donor from a sperm bank who has many other children out there? Do we want our child to know those half-siblings? These are questions we have to think about. We know couples who have playdates with their kids’ half-siblings and share information about health and personality. We also know couples who have decided to never learn the identity of the other children whom their donor conceived. It’s a deeply personal decision.
Another option is a known donor – a friend who is willing to be known to the child, either as a co-parent or an “uncle.” Legal issues and our own desire to be seen as the child’s primary parents make known donor relationships tricky for us, but may be a great option for other lesbian couples.
WE KNOW WE DO NOT WANT A CO-PARENT RELATIONSHIP, ALTHOUGH SOME COUPLES WOULD LOVE THE EXTRA SUPPORT.
If one of us is to become pregnant, we have two options: intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
IUI is the cheapest option. Without fertility problems, this procedure can be done at home without any medical intervention. If it doesn’t work at home, any reproductive endocrinologist will be able to assist, though that would increase the cost, including blood work, medications, and office visit charges. IUI success rates are five to 25 percent each month, depending on age and fertility issues, but that’s not so different from natural conception.
If IUI doesn’t work, we have the option of IVF, which is a process by which eggs are retrieved from the ovary, fertilized, allowed to grow for three or five days outside of the womb, and then returned to the uterus with the hope that the embryo will attach to the uterine wall. Some lesbian couples might also want to do reciprocal IVF, through which one partner carries an embryo using her partner’s egg. For someone facing infertility issues, IVF can absolutely increase the odds of pregnancy. Depending on age, clinic, and fertility issues, a woman’s chance of conceiving each month with IVF varies from 13 to 75 percent.
Some lesbian couples may choose to adopt rather than try to get pregnant. In my county, there are many children to adopt at no cost because of their age or special needs. It’s much more costly to adopt a newborn. One provider I saw based their fees on a sliding scale, but the least expensive option was still over $13,000.
International adoptions aren’t any better, and some agencies charge upwards of $30,000, depending on where the child lives.
Gay couples have the option of surrogacy, whereby a woman will carry a child for the couple, who will pay all medical and legal fees. The surrogate will not have any relationship with the child, unless previously agreed upon. This is by far the most expensive option for growing a family, but the most desired option for some couples.
Whether or not to have a child is a big decision for every prospective parent, but I never imagined how much it would cost or how much we would need to save. Insurance rarely covers infertility treatment, let alone when elective conception procedures, so many of the costs will likely be out-of-pocket.