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While there are multiple ways LGBTQ families can grow, including adoption and gestational carriers, as a midwife I specialize in helping LGBTQ families grow through pregnancy. I primarily work with women, gender-nonconforming or transgender people who are either single or partnered with somebody whose body doesn't produce sperm.

While there are some extra hurdles to overcome in building your queer family through pregnancy, it is a journey well worth taking.

Here is a step-by-step, actionable guide for LGBTQ families interested in building your family through conception.


Step 1: Choose a donor

If you are single or your partner's body doesn't produce sperm, the first step in making a baby is choosing a donor. There are two paths for obtaining donor sperm: from someone you know, or from a sperm bank.

A known donor is somebody in your community—a friend, your partner's family member or an acquaintance—whose viewpoints about being a sperm donor align with what you want for your family. Many people value the ability to meet their donor in person, getting a sense of who they are before embarking on creating a child. However, there are some legal factors to consider when choosing a known donor—more on that below. You'll also want to make sure you're knowledgeable about your donor's health habits, medical history and overall well-being. Here's a helpful list of questions to ask a potential known donor.

An unknown, or anonymous donor is someone you can find through a sperm bank. Sperm banks offer a wide array of donors you can search for by various criteria. Some people prefer the relative anonymity—and legal simplicity—of getting sperm from a bank.

Step 2: Get your legal stuff in order

Once you choose your donor, it is important to get your paperwork in order before beginning your inseminations.

If you opt for a known donor, I recommend consulting a lawyer who specializes in working with LGBTQ families in your state. Although same-sex marriage is legal nationwide, each state has different laws concerning donor sperm and LGBTQ families. NCLR provides a great resource list of LGBTQ-focused lawyers across the United States. You'll also want to make sure you have a contract that spells out specifics—here's a sample of a contract you will want to sign with your known donor.

It's also important to research the laws in your state regarding legal parentage procedures after the baby is born, whether you are working with a known donor or a sperm bank. In many places, it's an advantage to be legally married before your baby is born—it can make the second parent adoption process much simpler.

Step 3: Track your ovulation

For me, this is the fun stuff! As a midwife specializing in LGBTQ insemination, I spend hours each week consulting people on how to track their fertility.

Since you need to plan ahead to procure the sperm before you inseminate, it's extremely helpful, especially when using frozen sperm from a bank, to have a regular menstrual cycle with a predictable ovulation window. For people with irregular cycles, I recommend weekly acupuncture (or acupuncture as often as possible) combined with the herb Vitex to help regulate your hormonal cycle.

Once your period is regular, coming between 26-34 days every month, you can start tracking your ovulation.

Most people ovulate about 14 days before the first day of your period. So, if your cycle is generally 28 days, your ovulation would occur on day 14 of your cycle. I recommend using any or all of the following methods to get a clearer sense of your ovulation:

Ovulation predictor kits
Ovulation predictor kits (OPKs) are a very simple way to track when your body is producing the luteinizing hormone (LH), the hormone produced right before ovulation. There are tons of different kits on the market, but all do essentially the same thing: they measure the amount of LH in your urine. When you're approaching your expected ovulation window, test twice a day (morning and evening) to get the most specific results. Once you get a positive on the ovulation predictor kit, your body will most likely release an egg within 12 to 36 hours.

Cervical mucus
During the days leading up to ovulation, our bodies produce a different kind of cervical mucus than we do at other times during our cycles. Fertile mucus is often clear and stretchy, and helps transport sperm from the outside of your cervix to the inside of your uterus. For people using frozen sperm from a bank, cervical mucus doesn't actually aid in the process of conception—but it can help you figure out when you are ovulating.

Monitoring basal body temperature
Another way to monitor your fertility is to take your basal body temperature (BBT) with a specialized thermometer. When we ovulate, our temperature rises slightly, which indicates an ideal time for insemination. Be aware, though, that tracking your BBT only works for people who have regular sleep schedules and who aren't experiencing sleep disturbances. For my clients who have young children or work the night shift, I usually recommend using alternate methods to track their ovulation.

Visualizing the cervix with a speculum
When we ovulate, the opening of our cervix visibly enlarges to allow for easier passage of sperm. That's why for many clients, I recommend purchasing a speculum and using it to visualize their own cervix (here's an article that explains exactly how to use a speculum at home, including what to look for). This can also be a fascinating way for partners to get involved in the tracking process.

Step 4: Insemination

Once you have a sense of when you ovulate, you are ready to start inseminations. If you are using frozen sperm from a bank, I recommend having your sperm shipped to you about three days before you expect to ovulate in preparation for your intrauterine insemination (IUI). If you have a known donor, it can be helpful to let them know a few days ahead of your expected insemination for their own planning purposes.

There are two main ways to inseminate: You can do it yourself via an intracervical or a vaginal insemination, or with the help of a midwife or doctor who can perform an IUI.

If you are using sperm from a known donor, it's easy to do the inseminations at home with no outside help. Once you get your positive ovulation test, you can plan to inseminate anywhere within that 12 to 36 hour window. When doing one insemination, I recommend about 24 hours after the positive OPK for most people. However, if you are over 35 years old, some evidence suggests that inseminating closer to 12 hours after your positive OPK increases your chances of conception.

Doing an at-home insemination with a known donor is simple: just get the sperm up there any way you can. Many people use a needle-less syringe or a menstrual cup to place the sperm as close to the cervix as possible. It can be helpful to have an orgasm soon after the insemination, because the muscular actions caused by orgasm help your cervix bring more of the sperm into your uterus.

If you are using frozen sperm that has already been washed and prepared for IUI from a sperm bank, I strongly recommend getting a professional to help you with the insemination. An intrauterine insemination is a simple procedure that involves using a sterile catheter to transport the sperm through the cervix and directly into your uterus. Many midwives do IUIs in the comfort of your home, or you can contact a fertility clinic near you to plan the procedure.

You can choose between doing one or two inseminations during each ovulation cycle. Doing two inseminations doesn't actually double your chances of getting pregnant, and especially if you are purchasing sperm from a bank, the prices add up. But two inseminations does enable you to cover a wider ovulation window, which does increase your chances of conception.

If using sperm from a bank, I recommend doing your first insemination about 12 hours after your positive OPK, and another 12 hours after that. If using a known donor, doing your first insemination right after getting your positive, then the next 24 hours after that has the highest success rates.

It's always helpful to rest for 20 minutes after doing any type of insemination, and using that time to connect with yourself and your partner, or visualize sperm meeting egg and growing into your future child.

Good luck, fam!

Looking for help along the journey? These products can help.

Natalist ovulation tests

Natalist ovulation tests

We love the simple, easy-to-read design of these ovulation tests. They're clinically proven to detect your LH surge which occurs approximately 16-48 hours before ovulation. This box includes seven tests.

$18

Natalist Get Pregnant bundle

Natalist Get Pregnant Bundle

The Get Pregnant Bundle includes everything you need to jump-start your conception journey. Each bundle comes with one month's worth of products, including: 7 ovulation tests, 3 pregnancy tests, 1-month supply of prenatal multivitamin and a 1-month supply of Omega DHA, 3 single-use packets of fertility-friendly lubricant, The Lube, Conception 101 Book, Parent Plans Heterosexual Edition

$78

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

You are rocking this new-baby learning curve, mama! Even if you never changed a diaper pre-parenthood, you can probably now do that with one hand, in the dark and still half asleep.

While these early days can feel like you're just going through the motions of feedings and diaper changes, take heart, mama: You and baby are developing a strong, special bond—as those early smiles go to show. (Did you have to pick your heart up off the floor when your baby cracked a grin for the first time?)

As your baby continues to adjust to life outside the womb, you might start feeling more confident with this new chapter in life, too. Making the transition to "mama" for the first time is full of sweet moments, and you really should take heart that you are doing an incredible job.

As you continue to adapt to parenthood, here are some of the items we swear by (for you and baby) for the 2-month mark:

To introduce nursery naptime: Infant Optics video baby monitor

baby monitor

You know that nursery you designed and decorated during pregnancy? It's probably been sitting unused while baby is bunked up in your bedroom per the AAP's recommendation. If you're now ready to put them down for naps in their nursery crib, a good video monitor can help ease your mind.

$165.99

To free up your hands: Infantino 4-in-1 carrier

baby carrier

As you and your little buddy get into a comfortable rhythm, a carrier that is also comfortable for you both is priceless. We love carriers that allow babies to face inward for snuggling and snoozing while you take care of things around the house, or outward as they get older and want to observe.

$29.99

To take on tummy time sessions: Fisher Price play dome

Fisher price on the go dome

Now that your baby is awake for longer stretches of time, a colorful and comfortable play space is a must-have. Make it even more fun by getting down on baby's level to serve as a cheerleader during tummy time sessions!

$59.99

To look and learn: High-Contrast Books Cluck and Moo

baby books

During the first three months of life, infants have an easier time focusing on shades of black or white and can only see a few inches beyond their faces. That makes a high-contrast book that you can read with them a perfect source of visual stimulation.

To soothe with lullabies: Hatch Rest sound machine

Hatch Rest

It's no coincidence your little one drifts off to sleep better when there is some soothing background noise. After all, they spent months and months listening to ambient noise in the womb!

$59.99

To keep it comfy + stylish: Ingrid + Isabel postpartum leggings

postpartum leggings

Simply put, high-waisted leggings are a gift to postpartum mamas during that limbo period when maternity clothes are too loose and pre-pregnancy clothes aren't quite right. We are so grateful to live in an era when leggings are considered stylish, no matter how long you choose to wear them.

$34.99

To help the nursing mama’s wardrobe: Ingrid + Isabel nursing tanks

nursing tanks

For breastfeeding mamas, feeding baby requires some easy access to the milk supply. Our pro tip is to stock up on nursing-friendly tanks and tops so you can feed your baby without halfway undressing.

$24.99

To get a sharable diaper bag: Eddie Bauer backpack

backpack

Where baby goes, so too should supplies—even if it's just a neighborhood stroll. We're partial to backpacks that are roomy and comfortable to carry.

$64.99

To give yourself a little TLC: Honest Mama soaking salts

honest mama

Put an at-home spa session on your schedule, mama. Draw a bath, add some aromatic soaking salts and an eye mask—and enjoy this important moment of self-care.

$14.99

To put a little pep in your step: A New Day sneakers

new day sneakers

When life means constantly balancing all the things, slide-on sneakers are both practical and super cute. We'll take a pair in each color!

$24.99

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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