For a large proportion of the population, regardless of their gender or relationship status, having a baby and starting a family is something that they see as an integral part of their future. 

For heterosexual couples, in most cases this can be achieved through intercourse with their partner, although many heterosexual couples still have to go through ART (Assisted Reproductive Techniques) like IUI, IVF or ICSI, to deal with issues of infertility.

For the LGBTQ community, however, it’s not as simple as that. Having a baby can involve a great deal more planning, organisation and expense, even if there are no obvious fertility issues involved.

What options are available to help lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or queer individuals or couples to become parents?

Where conception through unprotected sexual intercourse with your partner cannot or does not lead to conception, there are a variety of other options available.

Methods include:

  • Fostering or adoption, where there is usually no biological link between the foster parent/adoptive parent(s) and the child.
  • Donor insemination
  • IVF with donor sperm 
  • Reciprocal IVF/shared motherhood
  • Co-parenting
  • Surrogacy

The UK is not united when it comes to funded fertility treatments 

In Scotland and Wales, the NHS offers fertility treatment with fewer exemption categories than in England.  In England, the NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidelines are set and must be met, however, the individual clinical commissioning groups across the country (NHS Trusts), are at liberty to add in additional exemption categories. This makes it harder for people living in some areas of the country to receive this treatment than for others living elsewhere – it’s a postcode lottery. What’s more, some trusts do not fund IVF treatment for same-sex couples or single women, unless they have privately funded at least 6 unsuccessful IUI treatments first. The reason given, is that they have to prove that they are infertile before they are eligible for NHS funding, which heterosexual couples can do without expense through sexual intercourse, over the given period of 6-24 months, depending on the age of the female. 

Cost implications and parental rights for the LGBTQ community

Unless you qualify for funded NHS treatment, most of the options available for those unable to conceive through sexual intercourse, come with a huge financial cost. Some of these options may also mean that you have no automatic legal parental rights to your child. Getting donor sperm incurs a cost, as do options like IUI in a clinic and IVF, though going through a clinic in the UK ensures that the sperm are rigorously screened for infection and the best sperm are selected and it can also offer the benefit of parental rights in some cases. 

Trying to save on treatment costs can lead to huge risks. By going for co-parenting as an option or by getting sperm from someone you know, it can lead to even more potential for custody disagreements later down the line, unless legally binding agreements are put into place. Paying for surrogacy in the UK is illegal, however, the surrogate can claim costs, which should be agreed and written into the surrogacy agreement.  Also, with surrogacy, the parental order cannot be issued until the baby has been born, so there is a risk that the surrogate will decide to keep the baby. 

Where can I find out more about my fertility options? 

Here at the IVF Network, we offer a range of information and advice on all aspects of fertility, through our dedicated channel of experts, our website and our blog posts.

For members of the LGBT+ community, the following organisations can offer specific information and support around conception and parenting:


Brilliant Beginnings

Surrogacy UK


The LGBT Mummies Tribe

Two Dads UK

New Family Social