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What Does LGBTQ Infertility Look Like?

Updated: Jul 6, 2020


Previously published on the site Gay Parents to Be

The term “fertility” is commonplace for myths, inaccurate information, and sensationalized stories to take a stronghold on the media and occupy our headspace. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to legislation, private policies, and cultural stigmas that create obstacles for people who require assistance to build their families. 

In this blog, we’ll review the many definitions of infertility, including how social infertility affects the LGBTQ community. We’ll also cover how infertility, in general, might play a factor in your biological family building journey. Lastly, we’ll review some of the common barriers to fertility treatment for LGBTQ singles and couples, and what you can do to overcome them.

Definition of Infertility

Infertility is described for most medical purposes as sperm and egg being exposed to one another for a year without conception. While some state language includes the term “insemination” as well, by and large, this definition doesn’t take LGBTQ population into account. Further, the diagnosis of “infertility” typically refers to a couple, which also excludes single parents from pursuing biological family building. 

Sadly, the medical definition of “infertility” has long been outdated -- but is often accepted as is, in black and white terms, by insurance providers. This inherently denies LGBTQ couples and single parents-to-be from equal coverage. 

LGBTQ Couples & Social Infertility

Social infertility is a relatively new term that accounts for the family building dreams of LGBTQ couples and single parents-to-be. In both instances, biological family building will require assistance from a donor and will most likely also require a fertility professional, legal counsel, and mental health professional. 

LGBTQ Infertility

Aside from social infertility that affects essentially all cisgender couples in the LGBTQ community, there are additional infertility issues that may affect the LGBTQ population. 

For LGBTQ dads-to-be, men make sperm every 90-days or so, but that doesn’t exclude them from experiencing infertility, too. Potential causes of male-factor infertility could be steroid/hormone usage, a past STD, age, smoking and/or drinking, or some combination of any of these factors. 

For LGBTQ moms-to-be, this includes hormone disorders such as PCOS and Endometriosis. Additionally, physical issues with the reproductive system could occur which might include fibroids or other uterine abnormalities. A previous STD could also hamper the reproductive system’s function.

Another possible cause of infertility for moms-to-be is advanced maternal age. While the “biological clock” concept is overplayed, it is also often misunderstood. The reality is that women are born with a set number of eggs, and unfortunately, quantity and quality decline with age. To illustrate this point with actual figures, at birth, there might be around 2 million or so eggs. However, that number drops by about 75% once puberty hits, leveling somewhere around 500,000. And though only one dominant egg is produced every month during adulthood, approximately 10,000 total eggs are lost each cycle. By 37 or so, that number is down to 25,000, and likely far less than that when you factor in viability (quality), which is the likelihood that an egg is genetically/chromosomally normal and could result in pregnancy.

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