The terms associated with LGBTQ+ family planning may be confusing when trying to navigate your path to parenthood.
You’ve probably heard some of the family planning terms. But getting the full picture behind each of them can reveal some important details and help you feel much more knowledgeable and empowered to make important decisions on which options work best to build your family.
Here are the top ten LGBTQ+ family planning terms you should know.
IUI is a technique that places sperm directly into the uterus. By facilitating better sperm delivery to the fallopian tube, it helps the sperm and egg interact in closer proximity. It’s a standard treatment for mild or moderate deficits in a semen analysis (low volume, motility, or morphology of sperm). IUI is often used in conjunction with medications that increase the number of eggs and trigger ovulation. IUI with medications is a triple threat approach: better sperm delivery, more eggs available for sperm, and idealized timing.
IVF is a complex process involving medications, monitoring, and procedures. A person’s ovaries are stimulated to produce multiple eggs, a process called “superovulation.” The eggs are then retrieved via an outpatient procedure, and combined with sperm in a laboratory to create embryos. Those embryos can then be transferred to a uterus to start a pregnancy.
Two more important terms related to IVF:
- Egg Retrieval: When eggs (oocytes) are collected from the ovaries with a minimally-invasive procedure.
- Embryo Transfer: The medical process of placing an embryo (or embryos) into a uterus.
Preimplantation genetic testing for aneuploidy (PGT-A) tests embryos to figure out which ones have the normal amount of chromosomes. “Normal” embryos have the best chance of leading to a healthy and full-term pregnancy. Embryos with missing or additional chromosomes often result in miscarriage or simply not getting to pregnancy. Note: PGT-A was previously referred to as “PGS” (Preimplantation Genetic Screening).
Preimplantation genetic testing for monogenic diseases (PGT-M) is when embryos are tested for single gene defects. This test can help to identify which embryos carry those genes to prevent specific diseases from being passed along to your future child. Note: “PGT-M” was previously referred to as “PGD” (Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis).
A sperm donor is a person who donates sperm to another person(s) for a pregnancy. Sometimes donors are known and sometimes they’re anonymous. The fertility clinic you work with may have its own sperm bank, but if not, they will be able to refer you to an FDA-registered and compliant sperm bank to select the donor who’s right for you.
An egg donor is a person who donates eggs to help lead to a pregnancy for another person(s). Like a sperm donor, sometimes egg donors are known, and sometimes they (or you) prefer to keep things anonymous.
This is the person (or people) who will be legally responsible for caring for and raising the child. Intended parent(s)often have a genetic link to their future child.
A surrogate is a person who carries a pregnancy to term for another family. You’ve probably heard the term “surrogate” and “surrogacy” a lot. But the medical terminology has evolved beyond that basic definition, so now the word “surrogate” is often interchanged with “Gestational Carrier.” A surrogate is not genetically linked to the child she carries.
A gestational carrier is also a term for a person who carries a pregnancy to term for another family. This is a newer term, but essentially synonymous with “surrogate.” In the past, some families were formed using traditional surrogacy, where the surrogate contributed both eggs and uterus to the process. However, this process is legally complex, as the surrogate is genetically linked to the child in those instances. It is much less commonly practiced today as a result.
With reciprocal in vitro fertilization, one person donates eggs to their partner, and their partner carries the pregnancy. For some LGBTQ+ couples, this is a great way for two cisgender women to physically participate in the process. One partner goes on fertility medication, then has an egg retrieval. Those eggs are then combined with the couple’s designated donor sperm source in the IVF laboratory. The second partner then goes on special medication to prepare her uterus for healthy implantation, and finally, the embryo(s) are transferred.
By understanding the terms most commonly associated with LGBTQ+ pathways to parenthood, you are more likely to have a smooth and successful journey to becoming a parent. Remember that your fertility clinic is there to answer any questions you have and support you through any ups and downs you may encounter along the way.
Dr. Mark Leondires, Founder, Medical Director and Partner in reproductive endocrinology at RMA of Connecticut