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Why LGBTQ+ Couples Are Going To Dangerous Lengths To Access IVF

After a pandemic set their relationship to a real challenge, they decided children was something they wanted in their lives as the next step in their partnership. Speaking to GLAMOUR, Cleo says “I have endometriosis, and it had been a long time since I checked on my fertility, so I wanted us both to be checked out, especially as I was soon to be turning 35 which is “geriatric” in the fertility world.”

So the two went to get fertility tests – Cleo with low expectations due to her underlying medical conditions, and Sam with them quite high, due to her lack thereof. When the results came back, it was both women who had a low egg count though conceiving the way they had originally planned was looking less and less of an option.

“We got told that both of us had really poor or very poor chances of getting pregnant through IUI or at-home insemination. And if we wanted to try IVF, we had to act fast.” But, they wouldn’t be eligible for NHS treatment until they’d self-funded their own attempts at IVF through private clinics.

Cleo adds, “We were both studying. We were renting a one-bedroom flat. We weren’t really thinking about having to do it so soon, and then it’s like, how do we get the money together? How do we do this? It seemed impossible.”

The couple started trying to work out how they could start saving money towards treatment cycles when they found an initiative by The Ribbon Box – a website guiding couples through fertility struggles, pregnancy, and inclusive parenting. They were partnering with clinics to offer a free cycle of IUI to an LGBTQ+ couple struggling financially.

The couple tried to keep their hopes down, and their expectations managed as they entered the competition to receive IVF at Agora Clinic, but the two ended up winning. They underwent a free cycle of IVF and paid their own money for an IUI attempt.

And, against the odds, it was successful. A few weeks ago, they welcomed their daughter, Maude, into the world. “When we found out we were having her, I was over the moon. Over the moon I mean, I was convinced as soon as I saw the positive result that we were going to have a baby girl like I was manifesting. I wanted a daughter.”

Campaigns like The Ribbon Box’s are wonderful, but they shouldn’t be necessary, which is why Stonewall, is campaigning to change outcomes for couples who seek fertility and help like Laura, Melissa, Sam, and Cleo from the NHS. They’re asking the public to email their MPs about the unfair postcode lottery of queer fertility services.

Ultimately, seeking support from a clinic throughout your surrogacy journey – if those avenues are accessible to you – is incredibly important. Antonio Marsocci, founder of Think Positive! Surrogacy, notes, “‘DIYing’ implantation doesn’t give you any legal rights, poses countless risks to the pregnancy [as you don’t benefit from informed guidance], and doesn’t incorporate a health screening [for donors].”

“Working with a clinic means you’re laying the appropriate foundations for a healthy pregnancy, birth, and baby; ‘going it alone’ will only make for uncertainty and risks,” he further warns. With postcode lotteries, bottom spots on waiting lists and cold rejections of any fertility support for LGBTQIA+ couples, it’s unsurprising that so many have to sideline that all-important safety, to be able to have a child at all.

That’s why Stonewall’s campaign to bring equality to clinic services is so important to queer families in the making. With genuine equality in fertility services, dangerous makeshift at-home inseminations, and queer couples draining their bank accounts just to get an attempt, could become a thing of the past. 

As Cleo puts it, “We’re over the moon to have our baby but it shouldn’t have been this difficult. We have a lot of friends going through the same problems we did, and a few friends going through much worse. A lot of people seem to think LGBTQ+ people are demanding more from fertility services than what heterosexual couples get. That’s not true. We just want to be able to access equal services. That’s it.”

*Names have been changed

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