As gestational surrogacy becomes an ever more popular means of family building for married and committed gay men, the modern decision of whose sperm should be used in the fertilization process remains an early psychological stumbling block for many couples. It doesn’t have to be this way. Through direct and open communication, input from your fertility doctor, as well as consideration of a few other key variables, the decision to use yours, his, or both, can be made without any undue stress or anxiety.
As adults in a committed and loving relationship you and your husband or partner, are likely experienced at navigating potentially tricky topics together. That said, parenthood and even the prospect of it can sometimes inspire primal and unexpectedly strong emotions. Licensed Mental Health Professional, Alicia Denefe, MBA, M.S., LCPC, suggests that couples addressing this issue, “commit to receiving one another's input as graciously as possible, while honestly advocating for themselves and their preferences.” Alicia further encourages “to take the time to sit down and address the issue from all sides. Both parties should share their fears, hesitations, and concerns. Try not to shy away from potentially awkward or especially emotional aspects of the issue. Discussing this openly and honestly is the only way to come to a true consensus”.
Read more about Alicia Denefe on our website. She is not only a licensed mental health professional but also a surrogacy matching expert. This open dialog should ideally occur well in advance of any fertility procedures. Walking into your fertility clinic with a plan to "wing it" or "call an audible" is not encouraged.
Just as important as open communication is informed direction from your fertility doctor. If you are ready to take the next steps, both you and your partner should make appointments with a reputable fertility clinic for a workup. The good news is that male fertility testing is generally noninvasive and will likely only include the taking of family history, a short physical exam, as well as a semen analysis that considers sperm count, morphology, and motility. Input from your fertility doctor after this analysis may make for an easy decision.
Looking for a fertility clinic and not certain where to start? Check out the Center For Disease Control and Prevention's interactive map. Not only will you find providers near you but you can also access their rates of success.
This can be an area of deep discussion and reflection. If either you or your partner is endowed with an extraordinary gift (e.g. are an exceptional athlete, a genius, or a musical savant), or possess a trait treasured in your family (such as curly hair or generous height), you may want to include this in your decision-making. The same holds if a trait runs in the family that you do not want to pass on, such as a gene for a heritable disease. Your use of gestational surrogacy and egg donation warrant these inheritable traits be considered. We recommend that you include them in your early discussions and we encourage you to reach out for the guidance of a licensed mental health professional if you feel overwhelmed about approaching the subject.
Before further discussion of whose sperm to use, it is worth making clear that "both" is an option. Speak with your fertility doctor and surrogacy agency about arranging for a twin surrogacy journey or a concurrent journey, so that both you and your partner may have a genetic link with your children. If you are not ready for twins, creating embryos with your respective genetics enables your family to be spaced out however you are comfortable.
The combining of both partner’s sperm and the fertilization of the egg without knowledge of which father’s genetics was used is not recommended by most medical professionals. Although this method seems to be popular in fictional media, it is not a good idea. It is best for children to be aware of their genetic history for future medical benefits. Besides, a simple at-home DNA test would quickly dissolve any engineered biological uncertainty. Not to mention, such behavior may also needlessly complicate legal processes. This option is simply not worth the trouble.
Although not entirely foolproof, and certainly not standard protocol, a simple genetic panel or even a more complete, expanded screening, one which tests for flawed genes relating to more than 400 other disorders may provide valuable insights, peace of mind, and maybe worth including in your early steps, especially if there are any reasons for concern. There are now more options for reproductive testing than ever before. This is a link to a nice round-up of all of the sizable, direct to consumer genetic testing companies.
As a gay couple, you will likely be using a donor egg but perhaps a close female friend or a relative has offered to donate her eggs. In instances in which your known donor is a relative, the choice of the non-related father as the provider of sperm is obvious. In the less obvious situation of a close friend acting as your egg donor, parties would be wise to consider the potential interpersonal realities of each decision.
With guidance from your informed fertility doctor, analysis of a full genetic panel, and through the means of open and honest communication and an open mind, your partner and yourself will find the path that is right for your family. No matter how big this decision may seem now, chances are that you will look back and find it to be relatively insignificant. Your child(ren) will be your shared child(ren), no matter whose sperm is used. The incredible bond between a parent and a child has far less to do with genetics and so much more to do with the love, care, and time that is invested in the relationship. Do not worry. You will make the right choice no matter what you choose.
Learn more ConceiveAbilites’ surrogacy program by visiting unique needs of same-sex fathers throughout the surrogacy by visiting our website. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at any time as we are here to make your goals conceivable!
All Things Conceivable is a blog dedicated to sharing the knowledge and expert opinions of the dedicated team at ConceiveAbilities, a Chicago-based egg donation and surrogacy agency.