Overview of IVF for Gay Men
1. How does surrogacy work?
Surrogacy allows gay men to become biological dads through “gestational surrogacy,” and GWK Academy will walk you through each step of your journey. Essentially, gestational surrogacy means the eggs of one woman are used to create embryos using the DNA specimen of one or two dads. The most viable embryo is then transferred to the uterus of a second woman who will carry and deliver the baby. In this way, the dad (or perhaps the dads, if a twin surrogacy uses the DNA from both) will have a biological connection to the baby, but the surrogate will not. If this sounds confusing and complicated, don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place!
2. What is gay IVF in the surrogacy journey?
In vitro fertilization (or IVF) refers to the process of creating embryos, by fertilizing an egg with sperm outside the body in a laboratory. The embryos develop in the lab over several days. Most often, these embryos will be cryopreserved (or frozen) until it’s time to transfer them to the uterus of your surrogate to attempt pregnancy. The first baby born via IVF was in 1979. Since then, over 8 million babies have been born thanks to this breakthrough reproductive technology — mostly to those struggling with infertility, but increasingly also to LGBTQ couples and individuals hoping to have biological offspring.
3. Building your gay IVF & surrogacy team
They say it takes a village to raise a child — but where gay male surrogacy/gay IVF is concerned, this is true just to conceive one! To help you with your surrogacy journey, you will need to pull together a team of family-building partners with specific expertise in third-party reproduction, which is the term that describes a surrogacy journey using an egg donor and a surrogate. This team will include an IVF doctor and clinic, a surrogacy agency, an egg donor agency, a social worker or therapist, a reproductive attorney, and an insurance expert.
It is possible to work with just one or two organizations that together offer all these services in-house, or you can select different providers from several different organizations. It is critically important that you choose your family-building partners carefully. In addition to having in-depth expertise with a long and proven track record of success within surrogacy and gay IVF, they must also be experts with third-party reproduction. Just as importantly, we strongly encourage you to work only with those organizations and individuals who share our passion for LGBTQ+ family-building.
Finally, your journey will also go more smoothly if you choose family-building partners that already have great working relationships
4. The role of the surrogacy agency in gay IVF
Think of your surrogacy agency as your team quarterback, and their job is not complete until after your newborn is home safe and sound. You will work closely with them throughout your entire journey. Here’s a list of many of the items that your surrogacy agency will manage:
- Recruiting and screening your surrogate.
- Providing legal guidance in-house or recommendations for outside
- Managing your escrow account for surrogate remuneration payouts
and expense reimbursements.
- Providing insurance guidance and recommendations and recruiting
and screening your surrogate, providing legal guidance or recommendations, providing insurance recommendations, and managing most aspects of your journey, start to finish. Though it may not be the most exciting part of your journey, it’s among the most important — your surrogacy agency will also help ensure you’ve obtained all the appropriate insurance plans you’ll need throughout your journey.
5. The role of the IVF doctor and clinic
A surrogacy journey is first and foremost a medical procedure. Your IVF doctor will screen you (and your partner/husband if you are coupled), your egg donor, and your surrogate; conduct the embryo transfer, and monitor early pregnancy.
6. How to find your egg donor
Selecting an egg donor is one of the most important and exciting parts of a surrogacy journey for gay men, after all, the donor will contribute to half of your child’s genetic makeup.
Here we share the different options you have for finding your egg donor. (Within GWK Academy we cover the screening process your egg donor will undertake by your IVF doctor and a social worker, as well as tips for selecting your donor that’s great for your family.)
- Fertility clinics: Many fertility clinics have egg donors exclusively available for their IVF patients. These donors may save you some money because they are already screened and approved, but clinics typically have a smaller pool of donors to choose from than other options. Experienced fertility clinics that do not maintain egg donor databases will be happy to help you find one from another source.
- Surrogacy agencies: In addition to matching you with a surrogate, some surrogacy agencies also have egg donor databases for you to choose from. Surrogacy agencies that don’t maintain their own database will be happy to help you find an egg donor elsewhere.
- Egg donor agencies: These agencies focus solely on egg donors, and for that reason tend to offer much larger and more diverse donor pools than surrogacy agencies or fertility clinics. They recruit from across the nation, and they will also help intended parents find donors who meet specific or unusual donor requirements. You can expect to get an extensive background on these donors.
- Frozen donor egg banks: These facilities offer intended parents frozen eggs that were left over from another donor’s previous egg retrieval process. This option is less expensive and does not provide the same level of background that an egg donor agency will provide.
- Known donors: Some gay couples want their baby to be genetically related to both — and may have a family member (of the man not providing sperm) willing to donate her eggs. Other gay men or couples may have a close friend willing to serve as a known egg donor. This can cut down on costs if your donor is willing to do so for free. This arrangement has many benefits, but all details need to be thoroughly discussed and agreed upon in advance, with the help of a lawyer
7. The cost of a gay surrogacy journey
There is no getting around it…gay surrogacy is expensive! You can plan to spend somewhere between $150,000 to $200,000 or even more, depending on your unique situation and requirements.
Given the variability in surrogacy and gay IVF costs, it is important the professionals you work with are very transparent about the costs involved in the process.
Your surrogacy and gay IVF journey will consist of four primary areas of expense categories:
- Agency fees: $35,000 – $55,000
These fees include various professional costs associated with the coordination of your journey that may include legal work, social work / mental health screening, egg donor matching, and the surrogate matching process. They will also coordinate with your hospital and can support travel and lodging associated with the birth of your child. Reputable agencies will ensure these costs are transparent and accessible, and you should expect a timeline of when expenses are expected to be paid.
- Gay IVF clinic: $25,000 – $50,000
The main fees incurred at your fertility clinic will be those associated with your medical screening and that of your egg donor and surrogate, as well as those incurred during the embryo creation and transfer processes.The variability in these fees are based on your particular situation and needs. A sampling of items that increase your IVF clinic-associated costs include: how many people require medical screening (if a couple, do you both want to donate semen?), whether you plan on a journey of a singleton baby or of twins, the state in which your carrier resides, your health insurance plan, your travel requirements based on where your baby will be born,, your donor and/or surrogate’s experience level, and more.
- Gestational carrier and egg donor: $60,000 to $80,000
These costs include the compensation to gestational carriers and egg donors, any needed travel costs, and any contingency fees that might arise — like bedrest or a c-section. Additional costs come from legal expenses, which are charged separately from the agency fee, and range from $8,000-$10,000 if all goes well.The location of your surrogate, donor and clinic will also impact your overall costs. Your surrogate and egg donor will go to your clinic at least twice — once for the medical screening, and again after the legal process is complete prior to transfer. Surrogates will typically need to stay in the same city as your clinic at least overnight, and maybe up to two or three days.Egg donors are typically required to stay nearby for five to 10 days, depending on how quickly their bodies mature eggs for retrieval. If your surrogate and donor don’t live nearby your clinic, you will need to cover their travel costs and hotel stays.
- Insurance: $15,000 to $30,000
You will need to make sure your surrogate has health insurance. Sometimes, a surrogate’s own insurance policy will cover her pregnancy, but this has become increasingly unlikely.You will also need to pay for insurance for egg donors, who aren’t allowed to use their own insurance for any part of the egg donation process.International parents may have additional insurance costs to consider, because their baby will often not be covered under their own home insurance plan. That means they will have to buy insurance for their baby or babies.
Yes, it’s true that a surrogacy journey is costly. If you’re interested in learning how to make your surrogacy journey more affordable, or how to plan it in a way that you can budget for, download our GWK Academy app and enroll in our Surrogacy & gay IVF Guide.
8. Surrogacy and HIV+ gay men
HIV+ gay men can become biological dads thanks to a procedure known as sperm washing. Here’s a high-level overview of how it works:
- Sperm washing: To conduct sperm washing, semen is first collected from the HIV-positive partner. Through a separation process known as centrifugation, the sperm is removed from the seminal fluid. Since the HIV virus is carried in the seminal fluid, and not the sperm, this allows for a vastly decreased risk of HIV transmission to either the gestational carrier in a surrogacy arrangement or the resulting child.
- Who conducts sperm washing? Your fertility clinic may conduct sperm washing in house — but many others will contract with an outside clinic that specializes in the procedure. One of the longest-established and most reputable programs is called the Special Program of Assisted Reproduction (SPAR) — a project of the Bedford Research Foundation Clinical Laboratory.
- Transmission risks: While professionals will never tell you there is no risk, the research is pretty clear on the subject — there have been no documented cases of transmission when sperm washing has been conducted as a part of an IVF procedure. In fact, in 2016, Fertility and Sterility published a meta-analysis of 40 studies on the subject — and found zero transmissions of HIV following 11,585 sperm-washing procedures with 4,000 women
For more information on the SPAR program, and how it all works, please enroll in the GWK Academy app’s Surrogacy Guide.
9. Surrogacy for Gay International Singles and Couples
Many gay single men and couples from Europe, Asia, Central and South America, South Africa, Israel, Canada, and others come to the U.S. for their surrogacy & gay IVF journey to take advantage of our surrogacy-friendly laws, ethical practices that come from strict agency-enforced guidelines, and the opportunity to work with the world’s top fertility clinics and agencies.
If you’re a non-US resident considering surrogacy in the US, read our in-depth blog post to learn all that you need to know to get started.