If you’re a couple beginning the surrogacy process (what many of you may know as a “journey”) you may know that there are many decisions ahead of you. Here at Gay Parents To Be and RMA of CT, we work with dads-to-be as they move through the process, and we know which of those decisions are “no-brainers,” and which of them can prompt further discussions and deliberation.
One of the first decisions that you will encounter is an important one - “whose sperm will we use?” For coupled dads born with testes, either one or both of you could be a genetic intended father, meaning your sperm will be combined with donor eggs in the laboratory to create your embryos. More on that later.
Why would you choose to not use your sperm for a surrogacy journey?
While many future fathers welcome the chance to be genetically tied to a child, there are a few reasons why you could choose to forgo that option. Some dads simply don’t feel the need to be genetically linked to their child, and are happy to have a partner play that role in their surrogacy journey. In other cases, a family health history of disease, mental illness, or other inherited disorders can play into a dad’s decision to not be a genetic intended father. While this may seem like a weighty decision, there are genetic counselors on staff at many fertility clinics, to help talk you through each step.
Learn about genetic counseling from a professional. Jamie Speer, genetic counselor, explains his role in a surrogacy journey.
How does a surrogacy journey with two sperm sources work?
For coupled dads who both want to be genetic intended fathers, the surrogacy process works largely the same way that it does for other dads-to-be. After connecting with your fertility clinic and selecting your egg donor, you will start the IVF process.
On the day of your donor’s egg retrieval, instead of fertilizing every mature egg with one partner’s sperm, the embryology staff will determine the number of mature eggs retrieved and split that in half. Half will be combined with sperm from Partner A in the laboratory, and half will be combined with sperm from Partner B. Don’t worry - if an odd number of mature eggs are retrieved, your physician will have already asked you which partner’s sperm should be used towards that “extra” egg.
While this is not a way to guarantee that you and your partner each contribute sperm to the same number of embryos -- even in the best case scenario, there is a natural attrition rate to the IVF process -- it is a beautiful way for both partners to contribute to your future family.
After those embryos grow and develop in the laboratory, your REI will let you know how many embryos you have - total, and per partner. When it comes to embryo transfer, many dads make an easy decision to transfer the single best embryo into their surrogate’s uterus - no matter the sperm source. Down the road, you can ask that your doctor transfer the best embryo from the “other partner” for a second or sibling journey.
Note from our Lab Team 👩🔬🔬👨🔬
Many dads begin the surrogacy process asking about twins. While it is possible to transfer one embryo from each partner into your gestational carrier’s uterus, we would not recommend this path to parenthood without counseling. While twins look cute on TV in a double stroller, the developmental risks, risks of prematurity, and possible pregnancy complications are much higher in a twin pregnancy. Many fertility clinics will no longer support an elective twin pregnancy for the safety of the children and the carrier. Speak to your reproductive endocrinologist to learn more.
How do you choose an egg donor for a two-dad surrogacy journey?
As mentioned above, many parts of your surrogacy journey as a two-dad family will look similarly to journeys with only one sperm source. However, when it comes to egg donor selection, there are a few additional considerations that your clinical care team will help you through. If you both are hoping to be genetic intended fathers, your clinic will probably guide you towards a donor with strong fertility levels, or a proven donor (one who has donated successfully before). As you are each hoping to have at least one healthy, chromosomally normal embryo after your IVF cycle, a donor with a proven history may give you the best chance of success.
Can two dads be related to the same embryo?
Since we’re talking about families with two genetic intended fathers - we may as well address this myth. Unfortunately, no - right now, there is no way for two same-sex cisgender individuals to be directly genetically linked to the same child. If you choose to do a split insemination cycle (where each partner’s sperm is combined with half of the eggs), your future children will be half-siblings, connected by a common donor and linked to each parent.
Some intended parents choose to use a single sperm source (from Partner A), and to use a familial egg donor from Partner B in order to link both family trees together. This is a wonderful way to grow your family, as long as one partner has a cousin, sister, or other relative who is an appropriate candidate. Learn more about what that egg donor screening would look like here.
How do you talk to your future child about their creation story?
There is no right or wrong way to go about this choice. Whether you decide to use a single sperm source, or two, at the end of your journey lies every parent’s goal -- a healthy child, and a happy family. No matter how that family is formed, your child will grow up knowing that you are both proud parents.
That being said, this decision can be a challenging one! If you or your partner is struggling with the question of “whose sperm to use,” many clinics have licensed social workers on staff to help you navigate it together. Once you have made your choice and moved through the surrogacy process, it is your job as parents to help share that creation story with your child. LSCW Lisa Schuman recommends trying out different versions of that story while your child is still young, and practicing until you develop one that you feel comfortable with. She also notes that your child’s understanding will deepen as they get older, so you can give more detail when appropriate. Something that a four-year-old might not understand might be helpful for a child of eight or ten to understand their special place in your family.
Explore the entire surrogacy process - from beginning to baby.