Pride 2020: IVF for lesbian couples with fertility issues

As the events for Pride Month 2020 that Bourn Hall was to support this year have been postponed we are sharing some of our LGBT+ fertility treatment stories with you online instead

“It’s constant but it’s amazing,” says Melanie of her life with the three-year-old twins she has with her wife Laura. “The enjoyment that we get watching them role-playing, making things up – their imaginations are magical and its surprises us on a daily basis, it’s just wonderful to watch.”

Twins Isaac and Jasmine were born after Melanie had IVF treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic using her eggs and donor sperm from Bourn Hall’s own sperm bank. Melanie, aged 28, describes Bourn Hall as “an incredible place, the best in the world”.

The couple strongly recommend lesbian couples use a regulated clinic. “When the twins are 18 if they want to know more about the sperm donor then they can apply to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and find out the identity of the donor. That is a lot better than saying to them ‘well, mummy went on the computer…’ Going to Bourn Hall was a lot safer and we got a lot of support from them throughout the process. I would recommend it so much.”

Melanie and Laura with Jasmine and Isaac

IVF for lesbian couples 

The couple met seven years ago and immediately hit it off. “The subject of children came up fairly early on in our relationship,” says Laura, aged 35, who had always imagined herself being a mum. “But it wasn’t until a couple of years later that we started looking at what the options were for us.”

Lesbian couples know they will need donor sperm and their own health and fertility issues can also impact the decision over which type of fertility treatment is appropriate for them.

As Laura had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 21, the couple had decided Melanie should be the one to carry a baby. However, tests revealed that Melanie was having irregular periods due to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common factor in infertility, and that she was not producing any eggs.

As a consequence, the couple were told that they would be eligible for NHS-funded IVF treatment, but only once Melanie lost weight, as there are strict NHS criteria about BMI limits for funding IVF treatment.

“In 12 months I got my weight down from 15 stone to 12 stone and Laura lost three and a half stone too,” remembes Melanie. ” Laura was a brilliant support for me; every time I was tempted to reach for the fast food she would say ‘how much do we want this baby?’ and that would be my motivation.”

When Melanie reached her target weight the couple were told they could be referred for IVF. “We were given a choice of clinics,” she says, “and we chose Bourn Hall because of its success rates and its connection with Louise Brown, the world’s first IVF baby.”

Choice of donor sperm 

Bourn Hall has its own sperm bank that is regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). All donors are asked about their medical and family history and Bourn Hall performs a medical examination and screening tests. By using a licensed UK IVF clinic lesbian couples are assured that the correct procedures are followed to ensure they both have legal parenthood of resulting children and the donor has no legal status.

Another advantage of using a clinic is that donors are anonymous at the time of treatment. They are invited to write a short goodwill message for any resulting child, who is able to request identifying information about the donor once they are 18 years old. Non-identifying information is provided to assist selection of the donor.

Melanie explains: “We filled out the forms detailing the general things we were looking for in terms of physical appearance and character. Because we were using my eggs we wanted the donor to reflect as much as possible Laura’s side of the family. We were given three profiles to choose from. The nurse said if we were not happy with any of them we could have another three to review. We were told about hair colour, eye colour, skin colour, hobbies, occupation and education and one of them really stood out for us.”

The couple cannot praise Bourn Hall highly enough: “I would strongly recommend other lesbian couples about the safety aspect of using a regulated clinic,” says Melanie. “The sperm donor has no legal rights over a child born through a UK fertility clinic. You have that security that no one is going to knock on your door or ring you and say ‘that child is mine and I am going to fight you for it’.

Life under lockdown

Twins Isaac and Jasmine were born in September 2016, and the couple describe parenthood as ‘life-changing, incredible and amazing’.

“I cannot remember life before them,” laughs Laura. “Isaac is an explainer – whatever he does he will explain it in so much detail, and he is just the right amount of cheeky. Jasmine is a ‘let’s just do this and think about it later’, and she has just the right amount of sass. They are both amazing little people and now their personalities are showing and growing you can see how different they are and how differently their minds work, which is so interesting to see.

Melanie adds: “They are so close as siblings. We feel blessed every day to have them in our lives, and that’s thanks to everyone at Bourn Hall!”

IVF for lesbian couples Melanie and Laura with Isaac and Jasmine

More information

Every year, during the month of June – chosen because that is when the Stonewall Riots took place in 1969 – the LGBT+ community celebrates Pride in a number of different ways. This year outdoor events, such as Cambridge Pride and Essex Pride that Bourn Hall was supporting, have been cancelled but there will be a number of online events happening between 28 June and  Sunday 5 July 2020 so look out for Pride Inside.

Bourn Hall has a strong track record of offering patient-centred treatment and there are many different options for LGBT+ couples.

IUI or IVF? – some myths busted 

Be safe – legal questions answered by Sarah White of Family Law

Finding a sperm donor – Rachel and Clare’s story 

Two dads – Gary and Matt talk about their experience 

Improving support for transgender patients

Find out more about Bourn Hall’s donor treatment options.

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