For same-sex female couples sourcing sperm for fertility treatment can be an difficult issue when they want to have children. Going through a regulated clinic provides assurances for both parents.
Always wanted to have children
When Melissa married her wife Zoe, they knew having children was not going to happen without a bit of assistance. Melissa (36), says she has always wanted to be a mum: “I am from a very big family, I am one of seven, and all of my jobs have involved working with children,” she says. “When I celebrated my 30th birthday I suddenly felt as though I didn’t want to leave it too late.”
It was London Pride that prompted the couple to consider their options.
“There were all sorts of stalls at the event about parenting, including adoption, and we started to think about how we were going to go about starting a family,” says Melissa.
Sourcing sperm for fertility treatment
Many lesbian couples find the issue of ‘sourcing’ sperm a difficult one. Some explore the option of asking someone they know or look online for a donor. Melissa and Zoe didn’t feel that these were options they wanted to pursue. “I think things can get a bit complicated,” says Melissa.
Melissa and Zoe had friends who recommended Bourn Hall in Colchester for fertility treatment with donated sperm. Going through a regulated-clinic provides assurances for the health of mother and resulting child, and also confirms the legal status for both the parents.
IUI less invasive than IVF
“Healthy women with regular periods can become pregnant with IUI, which is less invasive than IVF” says Dr Arpita Ray, Lead Clinician for Bourn Hall Clinic. “The ovaries are stimulated with medication and then monitored carefully to see when an egg is released. The donated sperm is introduced high in the uterus to maximise the chances of fertilisation.
“The sperm donors are carefully screened and the sperm quality assessed to ensure it is healthy and provides the highest chance of success. Patients can also use known donors subject to the same screening tests and assessments. Same-sex couples and single women often say that treatment is more affordable than they thought.”
After a consultation at Bourn Hall the couple decided Melissa would have the treatment and carry the baby.
Happily, Melissa’s tests revealed that her fertility health was good and so the next step was to choose a sperm donor.
Choice of sperm donor
Bourn Hall has its own dedicated sperm bank and also offers patients the option to source the sperm themselves from sperm banks which have been approved by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which can offer a greater choice, particularly of ethnicity, if required. The couple chose a donor through an approved sperm bank in the United States.
“The sperm donor profile you see is a bit like a Facebook profile,” says Melissa. “We chose our donor based on trying to match the physical characteristics with Zoe – height, hair colour, eye colour – so that we could potentially have some similarities.”
Ovulation induction used to judge the best time
The sperm bank sent vials of frozen sperm to Bourn Hall in Colchester and Melissa was prescribed ovulation induction medication Clomid to stimulate her egg production.
“I was given a ‘window’ for my ovulation and then I had to go in to Bourn Hall every day for scans and my egg follicles were monitored until the time was right,” explains Melissa. “I work in Colchester and it was so convenient being able to pop in to Bourn Hall for early morning scans before work, there was minimal disruption to my day.”
When Melissa’s body was ready, she was given an injection to stimulate release of an egg and then the following day she had IUI treatment. It worked first time and nine months later in April 2015 they welcomed their son Logan into the world and he is now four and a half.
A sibling for Logan
The couple returned to Bourn Hall for further treatment in 2018 and Melissa admits that she was more apprehensive because she was older. “I was 35 when I had my second treatment and didn’t take anything for granted when I underwent fertility tests again,” she says. “I knew that things change as you get older but thankfully my tests all came back fine.”
Melissa had IUI second time around using the same sperm donor and once again she got pregnant at the first attempt. Daughter Harley was born in June of this year.
So what does it mean to Melissa to finally have the family she dreamed of?
“Your life changes so much when you have children,” says Melissa. “When I see the two of them together it is just an amazing feeling. Logan is besotted with Harley, he just loves her so much. Our family is complete.
“Everyone at Bourn Hall Colchester was just fantastic. Everyone knew who we were, it was lovely to have that familiarity and they made us feel so comfortable. It was really good doing everything through a regulated fertility clinic, we felt more protected.”