LGBTQ+ Baby Making Options

This article is inspired by Tampa Bay Birth Network! You can find more information about the organization at their website: Tampa Bay Birth Network

Some people view not being able to get pregnant while in an LGBT relationship as a positive thing. Natural birth control right?! We must reconsider our words, as some LGBT couples really struggle through the fact that they cannot accidentally conceive or easily begin to try doing so, like a lot of heterosexual couples can. But, there ARE options!!

Choices Beyond Adoption

LGBT couples are four times more likely than heterosexual couples to adopt, likely many due to this challenge or by preferred choice, but what if your family simply does not want to adopt, but wants to have biological children? Your feelings are valid and there are choices beyond adoption!

First, it is very important to make a game plan when trying to conceive as an LGBT couple. What are the realistic options? What are the most cost-effective options? If the cost-effective options do not work, what will be the next step, and can you afford the more expensive treatments? How much money do you need to start saving for the treatments? Set goals for when you or your partner would ideally like to be pregnant! Start eating healthy, whether you are the partner contributing sperm to a carrier, you are the partner getting pregnant, or you just want to be extra healthy for that brand new baby that is going to be coming into your life.

Sperm Banks

If you will be using a sperm bank, there are a lot of different options, and a plethora of things to be looking for. Check the pricing! Is it affordable? What does the initial fee cover? What extra fees are there to view potential donors and once you have decided on one, what are the legal fees involved? What are the sperm shipping costs? How is their matching process? Do they have facial matching options? (This is where you can put a picture of anyone you want, including your spouse, and get matched up with donors that look like that person). Do you want the donor to be completely anonymous, have their contact information released when the child turns 18 (known as an Open-Identity Donor), semi-involved (in their life, but not as a parental figure), or do you want to co-parent with the donor? Do you know someone who will be a donor for you PERSONALLY? Most sperm banks have very strict qualifications as far as medical history, including relatives, luckily! Not all sperm banks are LGBT friendly though. Biogenetics, California Cryobank, Cryobiology, Idant Laboratories, Pacific Reproductive Services, Rainbow Flag Health Services and Fairfax Cryobank are known to be LGBTQ friendly.

Fun fact, there are also such things as Donor Sibling matching sites, where families that used the same donor, can talk about their kids and meet, if they would like to!

Types of Insemination

IVI – This is intravaginal insemination, meaning that donor sperm is placed in the vagina, as close to the cervix as possible, to travel up through the cervix, into the uterus, to meet an egg! This can be done at home with the right equipment, or in-clinic. A midwife, if they are willing, may also assist you, if you feel you want a professional alongside you, depending on state laws. IVI typically has a 10-30% success rate, depending on whether the sperm is washed or not (washed sperm increases chances, but this will have to be done in-clinic and can be more costly).

ICI– Intracervical insemination. This involves the use of a speculum, catheter and syringe to place sperm into the cervix, and then placing a sponge under the cervix to prevent mucus and sperm from leaking out, then is removed a couple hours later. ICI has a 5-30% success rate.

IUI– An intrauterine insemination also consists of a speculum, catheter and syringe, but the catheter will go a bit further, into the uterus for the best chance at sperm meeting an egg, and a sponge is again placed, and later removed. IUI success rates range from 2-40%.

IVF – In-vitro Fertilization is a bit more complex than any of the above listed methods. It requires eggs to be extracted from a donor or the intended carrier, whichever is best for your family, then matching those eggs with sperm from a donor or from one, or both, fathers! Embryos will develop to approximately 3-7 days old, and then be transferred into the carrier’s uterus. This is relatively the same process as surrogacy and involves a protocol of medications and lots of monitoring. It is certainly the most expensive but is sometimes the only option. IVF typically has a 40% success rate, but it truly varies per clinic and their different protocols.

Surrogacy

If you are considering surrogacy to grow your family, here are the things you should be considering!

Traditional Surrogate VS Gestational Carrier

  • Traditional Surrogacy involves using the carrier’s egg, so she would be biologically related to the baby. This may involve home insemination, in clinic insemination, IUI, or the full IVF process (extracting her eggs, creating an embryo or multiple embryos, and transferring the embryo(s) into her uterus).
  • A gestational carrier is simply hosting the embryo(s) and they are not directly biologically related to her; though if it is a a cousin, sister, daughter or any other relative, they will be distantly related. This involves basically the second half of IVF where ovulation is suppressed, lining is thickened, and embryo(s) are transferred. Progesterone and estrogen are supplemented to sustain pregnancy.

Review the laws of surrogacy in the SURROGATE’S home state, as those will be the laws that apply, not your home state. Read laws state by state here.

The process leading up to becoming an intended parent are as follows:

  • Decide on an Agency or Choose to go Independent (aka “INDY”)
  • Medical Evaluation
  • Disease/Drug Screening
  • Psychological Screening
  • Match With Your Surrogate of Choice & Pay for her to go through her process
  • Build up an escrow account for surrogate compensation, medical expenses and a little extra to cover bases
  • Decide on a lawyer to do your contracts
  • Provide sperm and/or eggs to clinic of choice to make into embryos to freeze or use fresh

You might be wondering, what is the process that the surrogate goes through?

  • Requirements: Must be between 21 and 50 (generally), not be on any type of government financial assistance (food stamps, WIC, or any variety of that), have had at least one healthy, complication-free and term pregnancy and be raising said child. People who have had gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, antenatal depression, pre-term delivery, hyperemesis gravidarum, placenta accreta, or any other complication may not qualify.
  • Background Check
  • Medical Evaluation (includes hysteroscopy, pap smear, pelvic exam, blood work)
  • Drug/Disease Tests
  • Psychological Screening
  • Follow all steps necessary to complete all necessary evaluations, contracts and follow RE protocol to raise chance of pregnancy

Contracts are so very important, so be sure to discuss these and more, in-depth, when considering matching with a surrogate.

  • Place of Birth (Hospital, birth center, home?)
  • Compensation (plus lost wages, gas, transfer fee, complication fees, any other fees that may need to be considered.. How will it be broken up, monthly, bimonthly, lump sum, etc?)
  • SET or DET (This is how many embryos you will transfer)
  • What circumstances is termination requested?
  • Involvement & Contact
  • Medical Decisions
  • Surrogate Providing Breastmilk
  • Placenta?
  • Ask questions if you are confused, make sure you and the surrogate are in AGREEMENT before either of you sign, or this may cause future conflict. Do not rush!
  • Contracts must be notarized

Once the surrogate gives birth, you will work out any final payments or paperwork that needs to be done, and you will take home your baby/babies!

Interested in Adoption?

If you decide that adoption IS for you, after considering these options, be sure to check out the laws in your state! You can find a state-by-state guide here.

Final Thoughts

A note about pronouns, respect and understanding for LGBT families in pregnancy, birth and postpartum: Please be sure you use a provider that respects you and your family enough to use proper pronouns. If you prefer non-binary or alternative pronouns, or non-gender specific references as opposed to ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ for example. If they cannot respect you enough to make this simple change, they will likely not respect you in birth, either!

Enjoy building your family!

With all our love and support, HERBAL.

 

High Sex Drive During Ovulation: A Biological Desire to Procreate

Most articles claim that there is nothing biological that naturally gives women a desire to conceive. – I beg to differ. Our bodies are set up to desire sex around time of ovulation. Those with regulated hormone function anyway!

Our hormones work in harmony throughout our cycles to accommodate each stage. After menses, the level of estrogen rises higher and higher. This is due to the FHS hormone that is stimulating the follicles, preparing the egg to be released! The LH surge is what kind of, kicks the egg out! This surge happens around 12-36 hours before the egg is released.

Together, Estrogen and the LH surge are shown to naturally increase the desire to be intimate. Studies have shown for there to be an increase in libido in the days prior to ovulation/around ovulation day.

Peak Coital Rate Coincides with Onset of Luteinizing Hormone Surge – NCBI

A 6-day window of increased sexual desire when with an exclusive partner is what studies have found, beginning 3-4 days before the LH surge. Naturally, our bodies desire to procreate! Not only this, but our cervical mucus changes before/during ovulation, as well. The cervical mucus that is present prior to/during ovulation is best to accommodate sperm.

In the photo below you can see how the cervical mucus changes throughout the cycle. In the bottom right image, you see peak fertile fluid. This just so happens to arrive around ovulation! This type of fluid is prime environment to transport sperm to the egg!

This cervical mucus change to provide a more wet environment. The change in fluid to this wet mucus correlates with increased pelvic blood flow, as well as increased vaginal sensitivity. All of the above sounds like a recipe for enjoyable intimacy to me! It is also found that women feel more secure, have a higher sense of wellbeing, and lack of loneliness closer to ovulation. This could contribute to a higher libido, no doubt!

Changes in Women’s Feelings about their Romantic Relationships Across the Ovulatory Cycle – Hormones and Behavior

Everything works together to help us naturally desire sex around ovulation time! Those with irregular hormone levels such as super high progesterone levels might not see this correlation though.

Those who track their menstrual cycle can see when ovulation is approaching and see the correlation. I know for myself personally, I desire sex most prior to/on ovulation day.

That is also the time where my brain rationalizes another pregnancy. “Maybe having another baby would be a great idea.”
Preventing pregnancy with a natural desire to procreate with your loving partner is a challenge in itself! Temping and tracking to prevent pregnancy can go out the window around ovulation time for many. That is a topic for another day though 😉

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby!

Sex is such a taboo topic in our society, isn’t it?? But… why?? If we were more open and proud about our sensuality and sexuality, perhaps we would be able to solve more issues such as painful sex, boring sex, or even, lack thereof. There are so many variables and subjects to discuss in sex, but let’s really dig into motherhood and sex, because, well, we are more experienced in that variation of sex, than let’s say, exhibitionism for example, but hey, if that is your thing – own it!

Trying to conceive, whether it is your first or last, can be rough on your sex life because it can turn sex into a chore, when it should be fun, and bonding. The best way to re-vision this is that you are not scheduling sex, you are scheduling bonding and intimacy time. Make it into a date, if you can, even if it is just a “Netflix and Chill” kind of date in your living room, after the older kids are in bed. Throw on a film thats inappropriate, funny or scary, and cuddle up with some pistachios and chocolate (yum… well-known and science backed aphrodisiacs) and enjoy each other.

Preventing Pregnancy

When you are trying to PREVENT conception, sex can be intimidating, especially considering us natural-minded mamas that choose not to use hormonal birth control, but really are not prepared to get pregnant again, yet, or ever. Condoms are an option… but have you heard about Neem? Neem has been studied and proven to kill sperm on contact. A male can safely ingest this in neem caps, or by tincture (but just a heads up, it does not taste or smell great, at all), or you can use a Neem oil based lubricant.

Our friend over at How He’s Raised makes this lubricant that is safe and effective.

Also, you really need to consider tracking your fertility, with temping, watching your cervical mucus and checking cervical positioning! We have a video all about it that you can watch here.

Sex During Pregnancy

For pregnant women, sex can be difficult too. You may be overstimulated, exhausted, sore, nauseous, all of the above, and then some. When you feel up to it, sex is amazing for labor preparation, as it stimulates oxytocin release, and semen has natural prostaglandins in it that soften the cervix. Do not worry though, baby will not be harmed. Your cervix and the amniotic and chorionic sacs are protecting baby in your belly and they actually benefit from the oxytocin release, as well.

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Having Sex Postpartum

Sex postpartum!! This is one of the worst experiences I went through, personally. With my first, I had an episiotomy and husband stitch (GAG) so I was sore beyond even bearing my own touch after using the bathroom for about 12 weeks or so, let alone attempting sex! Eventually my scar tissue kind of broke itself up enough to be “comfortable” but I was still in pain, every time, especially in positions that increased depth. It wasn’t until 3 years later, when I finally saw a Pelvic Floor Therapist after birthing the surrogate twins, that I realized how much scar tissue I had, and how much I could actually ENJOY sex again. It can make us feel like lesser when we cannot participate in sex postpartum, the way that we used to, especially after our first baby. We may believe that sex will never be the same again and that our spouses will always be longing for someone else. It is okay to be a different type of sexy, you are mama sexy now! You have wider hips for holding, bigger thighs for squeezing, stretch marks for kissing, and such. Paint your body into the beautiful womanly figure that it is. Practice mirror therapy to encourage self-confidence.

Final Thoughts

Attend a sex retreat if you can! Seriously, my husband and I had one of the most fun and bonding times together as a couple, at a sex retreat. Now, this is definitely not what you are envisioning when you think sex retreat. We did not take a field trip to the dungeon and have a mass orgy for three days straight, but we went out into nature with other couples and singles, played games involving learning about different sexual fetishes, aligned our chakras, practiced couple bonding, chatted with others about their stories and where they came from, did yoga in the nude, had some really yummy food, and made love under the stars. I highly encourage looking into Moksha Magick if you ever get an opportunity, the ceremonies are mesmerizing and enlightening.

Eye gazing can stimulate bonding and increased sexual energy whether you are TTC, freshly postpartum or just doing it, in general.

Sex is a beautiful thing, and not something to be shameful of, by any means. If you are struggling with pain, lack of libido, or anything else that makes sex unpleasurable, please seek someone to help! There are many herbs that can balance hormones to increase libido, and a pelvic floor therapist can do wonders for pain during sex.

Love yourself and make love as you please!