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lgbtq conception guide

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.

We're so glad to live in a time when modern baby gear exists. Sure, no one is going to argue that having a baby is easy—but it can be easier with support from some gadgets designed to help your baby and put your mind at ease.

As you build your baby registry, look for products that go the extra mile to make your life a whole lot easier. For example, what's better than a bassinet? A bassinet that can rock by itself. And what's better than a traditional baby monitor? One that allows you to actually take a peek at your baby. Believe us when we say these upgrades can make all the difference.

Here are 10 baby gadgets that will make your life so much easier… relatively speaking, of course!


A bassinet to promote safe + sound sleep

HALO Innovations Bassinest Swivel Sleeper Essenta Series Nautical Net

The safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your room, but not in your bed. Thanks to the swivel function of the Halo Bassinest, you can easily tend to your baby during the night—which means more sleep for you, too. Trust us when we say that is the best gift you can give a new parent.

$239.99

A smart swing for your baby

4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

Believe it or not, many babies are born with strong opinions about how they want to be rocked, swung or shushed to calm down. With the mamaRoo's various motions and reclining positions, you'll be able to find a setting your baby loves when you need to free up your hands for a bit.

$219.99

A complete travel system for car + sidewalk

Chicco Bravo Travel System - Indigo

No matter where the day takes you—or what mode of transportation you need to get there—getting a complete travel system for your baby will equip you for anything.

$379.99

A swaddle you don’t have to wrestle

Love To Dream Swaddle UP Original

What do babies and Harry Houdini have in common? A knack for breaking out of tight constraints—which can be a headache when swaddling is the best way to help promote good sleep. Thanks to a breakout-proof swaddle that allows your baby to sleep with their hands up, you don't have to work up a sweat just to get your baby comfortably swaddled.

$29.99

A nursery wherever you need it

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

During the early days of parenting (when you are feeding and changing your baby around the clock), having convenient access to everything you need with a go-anywhere nursery station can save you serious time and energy.

$99.99

A little help for stuffy noses

Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator

Up until the point years down the road when your child is able to blow their own nose, the sniffles can be a real struggle—but not with a nasal aspirator that makes it easy for you to get that snot out of their nose.

$15.99

A way to keep an eye on your baby

VTech 5" Digital Video Baby Monitor - VM5251

Trust us when we say you'll sleep better when you know your baby is also sleeping soundly. That's why we're so thankful for modern-day video monitors, which allow you to check in on your sleeping baby without running the risk of waking them up when you sneak in for a peek.

$79.99

A bassinet for hands-free rocking

Simmons Kids Silent Auto Gliding Elite Bassinet - Odyssey

Babies are soothed by rocking motions. But what does that mean for you if you can't rock them throughout the night? With an auto-gliding bassinet, they can comfortably drift off to sleep... and continue snoozing.

$99.99

An easy way to contain diaper smells

Diaper Genie Expressions Pail

Sometimes it's the little conveniences that make a big difference in the quality of your day-to-day life. That's why a great diaper pail should not be undervalued: By containing the smell, you will save yourself dozens upon dozens of trips to the garbage can.

$24.99

A white noise machine that pulls double duty

Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light & Time-to-Rise

A phone-controlled sound machine may be something you never considered until now, but it will be a major lifesaver for years to come, especially as it can also function as a time-to-rise clock that promotes good sleep habits for your child.

$59.99

And as for securing all these awesome products? Well, a Target baby registry is the way to do it. By creating your baby registry with Target, you will also enjoy their Year of Benefits registry program, which includes perks like a welcome kit with more than $100 in savings and samples, two 15% off coupons to complete your registry, and a full year of returns. The benefits are better than ever right now: Target just launched the Year of Exclusive Deals perk as one of its registry benefits, and this includes a year's worth of discounts on baby essentials (think diapers and formula) and comes complementary when you sign up for Target Circle.

Because while parenting may not be "easy," deciding to register with Target definitely is an easy decision. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with a Year of Benefits featuring a Year of Exclusive Deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

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

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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

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10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

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