Routes to parenthood: insemination at home
For cis-gender lesbian or bisexual women (and other LGBT people who have a uterus), arguably the most straight-forward (and least expensive!) way to become a parent is to conceive a child at home. You can do this either by self-inseminating using sperm from a donor or by having sex with a man. However, before going it alone there are several things you need to think about.
Finding a donor
Although it is possible to self-inseminate using sperm from an anonymous donor, in the UK it is only legal to obtain anonymous sperm via a registered organisation, usually a fertility clinic. This is also the case with anonymous sperm from overseas – it has to be imported via a licensed organisation. Many fertility clinics will not provide you with anonymous sperm to use at home, therefore often women find that the only way they can self-inseminate at home is by using a known donor. Click here to see listings of all registered UK clinics.
A known donor is someone known to the person or couple who are seeking to get pregnant. This person could be a friend, acquaintance or even a relative of the non-birth mother. There are also websites, like Pride Angel, which aim to match potential sperm donors with women who are looking to get pregnant.
If you are planning to use a known donor, it is of course important that you are both clear about what role, if any, he will play in the child’s life. You may decide that you want to co-parent a child with a male friend or male couple – click here for more information on co-parenting. Even if you don’t want to fully share the upbringing of the child, you and the sperm donor may agree to him having some role in the child’s life. It’s important that you discuss what this may look like and come to an agreement before you start trying to conceive. It’s a good idea to draw up a Sperm Donor Agreement, which sets out what is intended of each person concerned. This will not be legally binding but could be used by a court as evidence of intention if a dispute arises in the future. Click here for details of LGBT Foundation’s free legal advice surgeries which you may be able to access for initial information.
If you are planning to parent as a couple who both want to be recognised as parents of the child and are not using a registered clinic, you need to be married or in a civil partnership when the child is conceived. If you are not married or civil partnered and do not use a registered fertility clinic you cannot both be named as parents on the birth certificate and there is a possibility that the sperm donor would be recognised as the child’s other lawful parent (alongside the birth mother). Same sex partners may be able to gain parental recognition by applying to adopt the child as a co-parent once the baby is born but this is a longer process and you will usually need some legal advice.
If you and your partner are married or in a civil partnership at the time of conception she will usually be named as the second parent on the birth certificate, even if the child was conceived at home (although this may not be the case if the child is conceived via sexual intercourse and the man involved requests to be named). If you are not married or civil partnered but conceive using a registered clinic, your partner can be named on the birth certificate (as long as the appropriate paperwork has been completed). Click here for details of using a fertility clinic to conceive.
It’s a good idea to get some legal advice to ensure you have considered all the legal implications before you start to try to conceive. LGBT Foundation, in association with O’Neill Patient Solicitors, offers free legal advice surgeries twice a month – click here for more information.
If you are planning to get pregnant, there are some ways you can help prepare your body for conception and pregnancy. You may want to talk to your GP for information and advice. Click here for NHS guidance on steps to take to plan for pregnancy. Your sperm donor may also want to speak to his doctor about his medical history and anything he needs to consider before trying to conceive.
You also need to make sure that you are protecting yourself, your sperm donor and your baby from sexually transmitted infections. You and your sperm donor should both get a full sexual health screening, including a HIV test (sexual health screenings are available free of charge via the NHS – click here to find sexual health services local to you). Following the screening you also need to discuss how you will both stay safe during the period whilst you try to conceive – it is not uncommon for this to take a year or more for this to happen.
Trying to conceive
Before starting to try to conceive, it’s advisable to track your menstrual cycle so you can see when you are ovulating. This allows you to self-inseminate at the time most likely to result in conception. Although we've all heard jokes about a turkey baster, in fact the most effective item of equipment for self-insemination is an oral syringe. Stonewall’s ‘Pregnant Pause’ guide does a great job of explaining the process of tracking ovulation and self-insemination – click here to download a copy.
If it doesn't work
Even if you are tracking your ovulation and inseminating when you are most fertile, it is likely to take several months or even longer for you to get pregnant. NHS guidance suggests that if you have had six attempts at insemination whilst ovulating and not fallen pregnant you may be eligible for referral for fertility treatment, although it's a grey area as to whether insemination at home counts for this. Either way it's a good idea to see your GP if you've has at least six failed attempts at conceiving whilst you're ovulating to see if there's anything they can recommend. Click here for more information about conceiving through a fertility clinic.
- 'Pregnant Pause' - Stonewall's guide for lesbians on how to get pregnant
- Pride Angel - website which matches potential sperm donors, egg donors and co-parents
- 'We Are Family' magazine - for LGBT parents and parents-to-be