Understanding The Language Of LGBTQ Family Planning Is The First Step To Your Future Family


Check out this mini-dictionary of standard LGBTQ family-building terms to help you on your path to parenting.

The language of LGBTQ family planning can be confusing. There are a lot of medical terms and acronyms, and if you are not familiar with the jargon it is possible that you will not understand the steps to creating your future family. Here is a mini-dictionary of standard LGBTQ family-building terms to help you on your path to parenting.


IUI – IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) is a technique that delivers sperm directly into the uterus, improving sperm delivery to the fallopian tube, which helps the sperm and egg to interact in close proximity. It’s a standard treatment for women who choose to conceive using donated sperm. For couples experiencing infertility, it is also used to overcome mild and moderate male factor infertility.  IUI is used in conjunction with medications that increase the number of eggs per cycle, known as superovulation, and trigger ovulation. This technique creates a three-tiered approach where more eggs are ovulated (i.e. more targets), and both sperm delivery and fertilization timing are improved.

IVF – IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) by definition is when fertilization occurs in the laboratory, not the body.  An IVF cycle involves a series of steps designed to maximize chances for pregnancy. First, a person’s ovaries are stimulated to produce multiple eggs, a process called “superovulation.” The eggs are then retrieved surgically and combined with sperm in the laboratory to create embryos. Embryos are observed for optimal development and subsequently, can be transferred to a woman's uterus/womb to start a pregnancy.

Sperm Donor – A critical step in the biological family-building process for cis-gender women without an opposite-sex partner is to choose a sperm donor.  Sperm donors are cis-gender men who donate sperm to a sperm bank or a person(s) to assist in their conception. Sometimes sperm donors are known and sometimes they remain anonymous. An anonymous sperm donor can be found through a sperm bank. In this case, intended parents would not know the donor’s name or personal history. However, recipients can choose a sperm donor based on basic characteristics such as race, academic achievements and other factors like genetic carrier screening for disease. This is a big decision, so it’s a good idea to work with a reproductive counselor to make sure the recipient(s) are on the same page about these considerations.

Egg Donor – For some LGBTQ couples looking to start or grow their families, egg donation can play a role in the process. Egg donation is needed specifically for male couples or individuals in conjunction with an IVF cycle and embryo creation. These embryos would then be used during a gestational surrogacy journey. An egg donor is sometimes a known person to the intended parents, like a sister or friend, but oftentimes they are anonymous donors. All potential egg donors undergo testing to confirm that they are in good medical and mental health, including a physical exam, as well as genetic testing. Donors also provide comprehensive details about their medical and family history and lifestyle habits. This information is then assessed to identify potential medical or genetic risks, and to determine their suitability to be a donor.

Intended Parent – An intended parent is a person or people who will be legally responsible for caring for and raising a child. Although it is not possible for both parents in a same-sex cis-gender relationship to be biologically related to a child, a reproductive attorney may help ensure that both intended parents are assigned legal parentage, as the laws differ from state to state. Same-sex male couples will choose surrogacy if one or both parents want a genetically linked child. Some intended fathers choose to fertilize eggs using each partners’ sperm, allowing either or both of them to be the biological father of a child. Hopeful parents considering surrogacy should be aware of the financial and emotional investment required and should ensure that they have the resources to commit to surrogacy and parenthood.

Surrogate – The term surrogacy is an arrangement, supported by a legal agreement, whereby a woman agrees to become pregnant and give birth to a child for an intended parent. A surrogate is a person who carries the pregnancy to term and gives birth to the child who does not intend to parent that child. 

Gestational Carrier – A gestational carrier is also a person who carries a pregnancy to term for another family. In this process, the surrogate is not genetically linked to the child. An embryo is created via in vitro fertilization (IVF), using the eggs and sperm of the intended parents or donors, and is then transferred to the gestational carrier.

Reciprocal IVF – Reciprocal IVF is a wonderful option for female couples where both partners want to participate in the pregnancy. In this process, one partner’s eggs are used to create embryos, and then the other partner carries the pregnancy and delivers the child. The first partner will undergo an IVF cycle and take fertility medicines to produce multiple eggs, and undergo the egg retrieval. Only this partner will be genetically linked to the future child. Those eggs are then combined with the selected donor sperm in the IVF laboratory, while the partner who is choosing to become pregnant goes on medication to prepare their uterus. Then, when the timing is optimal, the embryo(s) are transferred into that partner’s uterus. This is a way that both partners can contribute to the family building process uniquely.