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11 LGBTQ+ Family Planning Terms You Should Know

August 25th, 2022 | 7 min. read

By Lisa Rosenthal


The language of LGBTQ+ family planning can be a little dense and daunting. There are a lot of medical terms and acronyms, and if you don’t know all the jargon, it’s possible that you don’t know all your options and next steps for growing your family!

You’ve probably heard some of the terms on this list, as many of them are becoming more common knowledge. But sometimes the actual field definitions are a little more specific and reveal important details. Part of our job here at Gay Parents To Be is making the process of family building easier for everyone we work with, and for the LGBTQ+ community in general. With that goal in mind, we’ve put together this mini dictionary of standard LGBTQ+ family building terms.

Keep reading to get more familiar with these important terms and acronyms. And bookmark this guide so you’ll always be ready for a quick brush up when needed. Maybe even sneak a peek on your phone in the waiting room before a doctor’s appointment so you feel more prepared!

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What is a Reproductive Endocrinologist?

We’re starting with the professional title of the doctors you'll be working with here at Gay Parents To Be (more specifically, at our partner fertility clinic, Illume Fertility). This definition is a little longer, but the more you know about our doctors’ extensive training and experience, the better.

First, endocrinology is the field of studying and treating hormone-related issues in the body. So a board-certified Reproductive Endocrinologist (REI) is a doctor who studies and treats hormonal issues related to the human reproductive system.

REIs specialize in:

And Reproductive Endocrinologists go through a lot of training – meaning they have to be pretty dedicated and passionate about what they do. After working through a typical medical residency program, future REIs then apply for highly competitive 3-year programs for additional training. Once they’re in, they focus exclusively on studying hormones and the reproductive system.

This means that REIs have approximately 15 years (or more) of medical training. To officially become an REI, these doctors then have to pass rigorous testing and receive board certification from the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology in two fields: Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. Phew!

What is IUI?

In short, IUI is a specialized technique that delivers sperm directly into the uterus. You might know this by a more general term like "artificial insemination" or "assisted insemination." IUI allows for better sperm delivery to the fallopian tube, helping the sperm and egg interact in closer proximity. It’s a standard treatment for mild and moderate deficits in the semen analysis, which can indicate low volume, motility, or morphology of sperm.

IUI treatments are typically used in conjunction with medications that increase the number of eggs per cycle and trigger ovulation. IUI is a triple threat approach: better sperm delivery, perfect targets for the sperm, and ideal timing. 

What is IVF?

IVF stands for in vitro fertilization and refers to a series of procedures that all share one common goal: achieving a pregnancy.

The first phase of IVF involves stimulating egg production via fertility medications (taken either by an egg donor or a person with ovaries who wants to biologically contribute to create your future child). This process is called “superovulation” (yes, this totally sounds like a fertility superhero).

In the second phase of IVF, those eggs (or oocytes) are collected from the ovaries with a minimally-invasive surgical procedure, then combined with sperm in a laboratory to create embryos. Those embryos are then cryopreserved, genetically tested, or transferred into the uterus of the carrying person soon after. 

In the third and final phase of IVF, an embryo can be transferred into the uterus of a gestational carrier or intended parent to try to achieve a pregnancy!

Which one is right for you?

IUI vs IVF Fertility Treatment

What is PGT-A?

Preimplantation genetic testing for aneuploidy (PGT-A) is when embryos are tested to figure out which ones have a normal amount of chromosomes – meaning they have the best chance of a healthy and full-term pregnancy. Missing or additional chromosomes in embryos are a major cause of both miscarriage and implantation failure.

Note: As you know, science advances quickly, and terminology changes all the time! This test is now referred to as PGT-A, but was previously called "PGS" - or preimplantation genetic screening. So you may occasionally still see other articles or materials referencing the term "PGS." 

What is PGT-M?

Preimplantation genetic testing for monogenic diseases (PGT-M) is when embryos are tested for single gene defects. This test can help to identify the embryos carrying those genes and prevent that disease from being passed along to your future child, reducing the risk of serious health conditions.  

Note: PGT-M was previously called "PGD" - or preimplantation genetic diagnosis.

What is a sperm donor?

A sperm donor is a person who donates sperm to a help create a pregnancy for another person(s). Sometimes their identities are known and sometimes they are anonymous. While our partner clinic Illume Fertility does not operate its own sperm bank, we’re able to refer patients to FDA-registered and compliant sperm banks so you can select a donor who’s a good fit for you.

What's the best choice for your family? Read:

Known vs Anonymous Sperm Donors

What is an egg donor?

An egg donor is a person who donates eggs to help create a pregnancy for another person(s). Like a sperm donor, sometimes egg donors are known and other times, they’re anonymous. You can choose which type of relationship or connection you want to have with your future child's egg donor by selecting open or anonymous donors.

What does intended parent mean?

Intended parent(s) refers to the person or people who will be legally responsible for caring for and raising the child. This status applies regardless of who has given birth to the child or if the intended parent(s) are genetically linked to the child.

What is a surrogate?

A surrogate is a person who carries a pregnancy to term for another family. You’ve probably heard the term “surrogate” and “surrogacy” a lot – these terms are now common knowledge. But the medical terminology has evolved beyond that basic definition, and now the term “gestational carrier” is sometimes used in place of the term “surrogate.” Read more below.

What is a gestational carrier?

A gestational carrier is a different term for "surrogate" - a person who carries a pregnancy to term for another family.

In the past, some families were formed using traditional surrogacy, where the surrogate contributed both eggs and uterus to the process. However, this process is legally complex, as the surrogate is genetically linked to the child in those instances, and traditional surrogacy is much less commonly practiced today as a result. 

Learn everything you need to know about surrogacy:

Men Having Babies 101: Surrogacy Resources 

What is Reciprocal IVF?

With reciprocal IVF, one person donates eggs to their partner, and then their partner carries the pregnancy. For some LGBTQ+ couples, this is a way that two cisgender women can physically participate in the conception and carrying process and feel more intimately involved in the creation of their child.

So, how does it work? One partner undergoes superovulation with fertility medicines to produce multiple eggs and have an egg retrieval. After egg retrieval, Partner 1's eggs are combined with designated donor sperm in the IVF laboratory. The carrying partner (Partner 2) then goes on medication to prepare their uterus and has an embryo transfer.

Looking for more information? Reach out now to speak with a fertility expert and find the right path to parenthood for you!

More Resources

Want to dive deeper into any of the topics above? Check out the links below!

Lisa Rosenthal

Working with Gay Parents To Be and our partner fertility clinic, Illume Fertility, as a dedicated Patient Advocate gives Lisa Rosenthal an opportunity to expand her passion and commitment to reproductive health and family building. Lisa is committed to supporting all families in having the families that they desire, in the ways that work best for them.

More Fertility Resources