So, you’re a lesbian, and you’re ready to have a baby. Congrats! Now what?
Whether you’re coupled with the partner of your dreams or rocking your life solo, making the decision to have a child is one that most people don’t take lightly. And because getting pregnant usually requires some extra steps for lesbians, we have even more things to think about when preparing to have a baby. Most of the advice out there seems to be geared toward straight people. But what about us lesbians? Where do we begin, once we’ve decided we want to have a baby?
Stephanie Berman is the founder of the patented ejaculating sex toy POP Dildo™ (to help women conceive at home using donor sperm), and she tells GO everything you need to know to prepare for a little bundle of joy.
GO Magazine: What things should a lesbian couple (or a single woman) consider when they want to start a family?
Stephanie Berman: The biggest thing to consider is whether you are going to use fresh sperm from a known donor (family, friend) or purchase frozen sperm from a sperm bank. There are pros and cons to both, depending on what your personal vision is for your family dynamic.
For fresh sperm, it is often free, since it’s from someone you know. Conversely, that means legal documents and agreements will need to be obtained to protect both you and the donor. When working with a known donor, it’s also important to have the donor tested for all sexually transmitted infections and genetic diseases prior to using the sample.
With sperm banks and frozen sperm, they typically will take care of all the necessary testing and legal aspect of the transaction, however, the cost of frozen sperm can be quite expensive.
Pro tip: If you are planning on doing at-home insemination with frozen donor sperm from a sperm bank, you can purchase ICI (intracervical) ready sperm as opposed to IUI (intrauterine) ready sperm, which tends to be less expensive since ICI sperm is unwashed. Unwashed sperm simply means the sample was not run through a centrifuge to rid it of unnecessary debris (i.e., sugar, citric acid, etc..) and is only safe to be inseminated into the cervix. Unwashed sperm is not safe to be inseminated directly into the uterus which is why doctors who perform artificial insemination procedures will use IUI sperm but for doing this at home, ICI sperm is perfectly suitable, safe and less expensive.
GO: Is there anything a woman should do in the months leading up to trying to conceive?
SB: Do your research. Conception truly is a miracle, and there are so many factors that can contribute to its success or failure. The best tool to give yourself is education and being able to be your own advocate in whatever situation you choose.
There are several things that should be done in the months leading up to trying to conceive (TTC):
- Chart your menstrual cycle. Start keeping track of (charting) your cycle so you can pinpoint when in your cycle you are ovulating. The more regular your menstrual cycle is, the easier time you will have knowing when you are ovulating. Ovulation is one of the key factors for conception.
- Stay healthy. Eat clean, abstain from drinking a lot of alcohol, don’t smoke, and keep your stress at a minimum. Stress is a silent killer and can cause the body to shut down in all facets so staying as stress-free as possible is crucial.
- Get a clean bill of health. Visit your doctor to get a physical. Discuss your desires to try to conceive. Depending on factors like age, weight, and pre-existing conditions, the tests required may vary but a full blood panel and ultrasound of your uterus and ovaries are fairly standard.
- Use ovulation predictor kits. Use a kit for at least three months before TTC, so you have a good idea as to when your most fertile days are. The ovulation kit I always recommend is the Clear Blue Digital. It tells you your high and peak fertile days, which allows you to potentially do several inseminations in that one month.
GO: What are some of the challenges a lesbian/queer couple may face when trying to conceive?
SB: I have found that the decisions that need to be made (fresh or frozen sperm, which donor to use, how to inseminate, etc…) are quite challenging. There are a lot of factors that have to be considered when choosing a donor and how to inseminate, so I would say you should set aside plenty of time to figure out the best path for your dynamic. Since lesbian/queer couples path to conception is often quite methodical and planned out, it is important to do your best to find a balance between the planning but also keeping things light and fun… remember, stress is your enemy!
That is one of the reasons I am a big supporter of home insemination. It allows couples to really be in control and make “trying” as fun as possible. I recall times where my wife and I would inseminate in the backseat of a car because we wanted to use the sperm sample as quickly as possible, and we would laugh the whole time. Try to take the worry out of it, relax and have fun with it.
GO: If you could give one piece of advice to a queer couple/woman hoping to get pregnant, what would it be?
SB: Try to have fun! Whether you are using a turkey baster, needleless syringe, POP Dildo or working with a doctor, have fun with it and make the experience your own. Beyond that, I would remind folks that this process isn’t all roses and candy. It can be quite difficult and an emotional roller coaster if you are not successful in the first couple of tries. If you have a partner in this process, lean on each other when necessary, but also let one another have your own process.
As the non-carrying partner in my relationship, my experience when we didn’t get a positive pregnancy result was very different from my wife’s. We would give each other the space to have our process with the letdown, but I would also be cognizant that this was harder on my wife. She would often feel like a failure and be left wondering why her body wasn’t letting this happen. The best thing is to be supportive and go through it hand-in-hand together. If you are lucky enough to get that positive result, it makes it all the sweeter and worth every ounce of pain the journey might have caused.
GO: Can you tell us how your product(s) can help a single lesbian or lesbian couple conceive?
SB: I designed POP to somewhat be the modern-day turkey baster. I have 15 years of experience in the women’s reproductive health industry with helping couples get pregnant using assisted reproductive technologies such as artificial insemination and IVF. I took that knowledge and then used my own experiences with my wife to create a product I thought would be helpful to us, and ultimately to others. Since my wife and I had used actual turkey basters, needleless syringes and catheters to try and conceive, I felt I had a good idea as to what worked and also what was left to be desired. My product allowed the function we needed but also incorporated an aspect of fun and intimacy that we had not had with the other tools.
As the non-carrying partner, my product truly let me feel a part of the process in a way I can’t describe. It was almost as if we conceived like a heterosexual couple would have and having that experience together was unlike any other. I wasn’t the first to create a squirting dildo; however, mine was the first to use the highest quality materials like medical-grade silicone and also offers users the ability to remove and replace all the parts that come in contact with the sperm.
Getting pregnant may not be as simple a process for us lesbians as it is for straight couples, but the extra effort it takes to conceive is so worth it. For most of us, becoming a parent is worth all the effort, work, and lack of sleep that eventually comes, once your baby is here. Use the time it takes you to conceive to prepare your life, your home and your relationship for the arrival of your future child(ren). Be ready to embrace change with grace and faith to face the challenges and rewards that lie ahead for your biggest adventure yet: parenthood.