What’s involved in getting pregnant
Pregnancy happens when a sperm fertilizes an ovum (an egg). For most this usually occurs around the time that a man and a woman have intercourse (have sex). While for those in same-sex relationships this happens in others ways, for example through insemination or IVF.
Usually, heterosexual couples in committed relationships have many opportunities to have sex to become pregnant. This has helped professionals gather a lot of scientific data about how long it usually takes couples to become pregnant.
But unfortunately, not everyone who tries to get pregnant, either through insemination, IVF or intercourse, will be able to become pregnant. In some situations, there may be problems with the fertility.
In the UK, the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence defines infertility as the failure to conceive, despite regular unprotected vaginal sexual intercourse for one year, in the absence of any known cause of infertility.
This definition is very relevant for heterosexual partners, but it is less relevant for LGB people in a same-sex relationship. This is because it doesn’t reflect the ways that many LGB people try to get pregnant.
The definition of infertility used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US is perhaps a more relevant definition for LGB individuals and couples.
The CDC defines infertility as not being able to get pregnant after one year of trying or after six months if a woman is 35 years or older. Women who can get pregnant but are unable to stay pregnant may also be infertile.
But even with a relevant definition, working out whether or not LGB people have fertility problems is complicated for a number of reasons, including factors related to sexual history and practical matters.
1. Sexual history
As many lesbian and gay individuals may not have had sex with someone of the opposite sex before or even regular unprotected sex, it’s difficult to know whether they will have fertility difficulties due to their sexual history.
2. Practical considerations
Unlike heterosexual couples who are usually living together while they are trying to get pregnant, it is often the case that lesbian and bisexual women and their male donors will be living apart. Similarly, usually gay men will not be living with their genetic donor.
Living apart while trying to conceive creates additional pressures and practical considerations. It involves additional planning, costs and effort. Some LGB same-sex partners who are trying to get pregnant travel great distances to get to their donor every month to try and get pregnant, for example.
How long will it take?
Most published research relating to pregnancy has involved heterosexual couples. This means that the relevance of some of the data for LGB individuals and couples is less clear.
Nevertheless, it may still be useful to consider the statistics regarding pregnancy for heterosexual couples. For heterosexual couples, about 8-9 couples out of every 10 will get pregnant within one year of trying with regular unprotected sex.
But, as there is no reason to think that many lesbian and gay individuals have fertility problems it may be that many lesbians who try to get pregnant through artificial insemination, for example, will get pregnant relatively easily. However, of course there is no guarantee that this will be the case.
In relation to the use of surrogacy to get pregnant, it can take anywhere from one to eight months or even years to find the right surrogate. Also, not everyone who embarks on the journey of getting pregnant through surrogacy will succeed. However, there are many gay-focused, not-for-profit organizations in many countries, including in the UK, the US and Australia, that can help you with being successful with surrogacy.
Whatever method you choose to use, it helps to be realistic in that it may take a substantial amount of time to find the right method to use, find a suitable donor and or surrogate, get pregnant and then have a successful birth. You may be one of the lucky ones where this all happens quite quickly and with relative ease. Whatever you choose to do, Pink Families wishes you well in your journey ahead.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infertility FAQ’s 2013. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/Infertility/index.htm.
National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). Fertility: Assessment and Treatment for People with Fertility Problems. NICE Clinical Guidelines 156. London: National Collaborating Centre for Women’s and Children’s Health; 2013.