As the Alternative Parenting show opens this week we are beginning to wonder if ‘alternative’ is becoming a dated expression.
More female same-sex couples are seeking fertility treatment according to figures from the HFEA, which shows a 45% increase over the last two years.
Additionally, in a report to support the launch of the National Sperm Bank it commented that a third of all patients using donated sperm were single women or women that had registered with a female partner.
Bourn Hall Clinic has also seen an increase in demand for treatment from same-sex couples and Medical Director Dr Thomas Mathews was asked about this for a documentary about changing family structures.
Dr Mathews commented that in the past women without a male partner would have come to the clinic as ‘single women’. He suggests that the difference now, particularly after the introduction of Civil Partnerships, is that couples are more open about their relationship and so both partners can take a more active role in treatment.
He says: “It is not unusual for one partner to have egg stimulation and collection and for the other to carry the baby. It is now easier for us to talk to the couple about what they want and to support them through treatment.”
A few years ago Bourn Hall held a focus group to ask same-sex couples, who had children as a result of fertility treatment from a number of clinics, how they had found their treatment and what would have improved it. “More case-studies on the website” was one of the suggestions and we have done this with some really heartwarming stories.
Bourn Hall has its own sperm bank but it welcomes the opening of the National Sperm Bank as our Consultant Andrologist, Mr Oliver Wiseman, explains: “The opening of the new national UK sperm bank is a welcome development. Having a national clinic, supported with government funding, will help recruit more donors, especially from different ethnic backgrounds, so giving our patients a greater chance to use donor sperm and have a family. This is a significant development for infertility treatment in this UK, and is very welcome.”
National BBC coverage of the launch included an interview with our patients, Peterborough couple Sophie and Elaine Greenwood. Below they describe why they decided to go to clinic for sperm donation and fertility treatment.
Fertility treatment for same-sex couples
Fortunately, a work colleague of Sophie’s sister recommended Bourn Hall after having treatment there. The Greenwoods had been in a civil partnership for several years when they decided to have a baby but weren’t sure how to go about it as Sophie explains: “When Elaine and I decided we would like a baby we didn’t know where to start. Research on the internet threw up a lot of dodgy websites!”
“As Elaine had had a hysterectomy when she was 30, we knew that it would be me who would be trying to get pregnant,” says Sophie, aged 33. ” Things moved really quickly once we had had our initial consultation.”
Sophie underwent blood tests and an investigation of her fallopian tubes which all came back as normal. The couple, who funded their own treatment, then had to fill out forms detailing their physical characteristics, such as eye colour, so that Bourn Hall could find them a sperm donor match. Using donated sperm through a clinic provides many benefits including both health checks and ensures legal parenthood.
Sophie was treated using a method called IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) which involved injecting prepared donor sperm into her womb when she was ovulating. It was successful on the second attempt and the couple are now delighted parents of twin boys Billy and Robin.
“We can’t sing the praises of Bourn Hall enough,”says Elaine. “We got an appointment quickly, the staff were so caring and we felt completely at home.
“We’re over the moon to have Billy and Robin – they have made our family complete and we have Bourn Hall to thank for that!”