dads with kidsLove comes in many forms, and not all of them are traditional. There are more options than ever before for same-sex couples to conceive biological children together. While conception takes a different course in these cases, assisted reproductive technology treatments open the door for all the forms of love to start a family together.

For gay women, once you have determined your sperm donor, which can be either from someone you know or someone from a sperm bank, you can pursue a couple of different options, including:

Intrauterine insemination (IUI): Also known as artificial insemination, this option requires the birth mother to know when she is ovulating to be successful. This can be achieved by ovulation kits or by monitoring changes in your body during your regular cycle (including cervical mucus changes, changes in the cervical position, and a spike in the basal body temperature). Once you have determined that you are about to ovulate, you can either insert the sperm yourself at home or in the doctor’s office. After two weeks, you can take a pregnancy test to see if you were successful. It’s common to need a few different attempts before IUI results in a positive for pregnancy.

In vitro fertilization (IVF)
: Your fertility specialist might recommend IVF for conception for lesbian couples if he or she suspects there might be any fertility issues. In IVF, the eggs are retrieved from the biological mother, fertilized in a lab with donor sperm, and then transferred into the uterus of the birth mother with the hopes they will implant and thrive into a healthy pregnancy. In some cases, the couple may also choose to have a surrogate carry and deliver the child as well.

Reciprocal IVF: With IVF, you also have the option to use the eggs from one mother and implant the embryos in the uterus of the other mother, commonly referred to as reciprocal IVF. Some couples choose this route to allow both parents to play an active role in the birth of their child. However, it does require certain evaluations, including a legal one, a full health workup, and certain psychosocial evaluations. Your fertility specialist or fertility clinic typically will help you understand and coordinate the requirements needed for this process.

For gay men, the options are more limited. In any case, the couple will need a surrogate. These surrogates can either be traditional surrogates or gestational surrogates. However, depending on the type of surrogate they use, they can have their choice of different ART treatment options.

Traditional surrogates are women who use their own eggs and carry the child for the couple. They are the “biological mother” of the child. A traditional surrogate can participate in either artificial insemination or IVF, depending on the choice of the parties involved.

Gestational surrogates are women who only carry the fertilized embryo to term but do not have a biological connection to the child. They are considered the “birth mother” only, as the biological mother is the woman whose egg was used for the fertilization. For a gestational surrogate, an egg donor and IVF are required to complete the process.

Most fertility specialists and fertility clinics have resources available to help connect couples with a willing surrogate to carry their child.

There has never been a better time for same-sex couples to explore their options for conceiving a biological child together. Whatever route they choose to achieve conception, the result will be a family brought together and formed of love — with a little help from assisted reproductive technology.

“Gay Mom-To-Be? Yes, You Can Give Birth!” Web. 16 November 2015.

“Using a Surrogate Mother: What You Need to Know.” Web. 16 November 2015.