The Poly-Parent Households Are Coming

The Poly-Parent Households Are Coming

The Poly-Parent Households Are Coming.  Consider the following scenario: Anna and Nicole, 36 and 39 years old, have been close friends since college. They each dated various men throughout their twenties and thirties, and had a smattering of romantic relationships that didn’t quite work out. But now, as they approach midlife, both women have grown weary of the merry-go-round of online dating and of searching for men who might — or might not — make appropriate fathers for the babies they don’t yet have. Both Anna and Nicole want children. They want to raise those children in a stable, nurturing environment, and to continue the legacy of their own parents and grandparents. And so they decide to have a baby — a baby that is genetically their own — together.Poly-Parent Households

Such an idea may sound fantastical. But technologies that could enable two women (or two men, or four unrelated people of any sex) to conceive a child together are already under development. If these technologies move eventually from the laboratory into clinical use, and the history of assisted fertility suggests they can and they will, then couples — or rather, co-parents — like Anna and Nicole are likely to reshape some of our most fundamental ideas about what it takes to make a baby, and a family.

To date, most major advances in assisted reproduction have been tweaks on the basic process of sexual reproduction. Artificial insemination brought sperm toward egg through a different, nonsexual channel. I.V.F. mixed them together outside the woman’s body. Little things, really, in the broader sweep of life.

And yet even these have had profound consequences. Humans are reproducing in ways that would have been truly unimaginable just several decades ago: Two men and a surrogate. Two women and a sperm donor. An older woman using genetic material from a much younger egg.

Each turn of the technological screw has been generated by the same profound impulse — to allow people to conceive babies they desperately want, and to build families with those they love. Each development has, in many ways, been deeply conservative, intended to extend or re-create life’s most basic process of production. But as these technologies have expanded and evolved, their impact has become far more revolutionary; they’ve forced us to reconceptualize just what a family means, and what it can be.

For most of human history, after all, families across the Western world were defined in largely biblical terms: one man, one woman, with children conceived through sex and sanctified by marriage. Everyone else was just a bastard.

NYTimes.com, August 12, 2020 by Debra L. Spar

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No Significant Difference in Frozen Embryo v. Fresh Embryo Viability

No Significant Difference in Frozen Embryo v. Fresh Embryo Viability

No significant difference was found in Frozen Embryo v. Fresh Embryo viability.  Sacha Stormlund, M.D., Ph.D., from Hvidovre University Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark, and colleagues compared the ongoing pregnancy rate between women randomly assigned to assisted reproductive technology treatment with a freeze-all strategy with gonadotropin releasing hormone agonist triggering or a fresh transfer strategy with human chorionic gonadotropin triggering. The 460 women (aged 18 to 39 years) had regular menstrual cycles and were treated at one of eight outpatient fertility clinics in Denmark, Sweden, and Spain.No Significant Difference in Frozen Embryo v. Fresh Embryo Viability

The researchers found that the ongoing pregnancy rate did not differ significantly between the freeze-all and fresh transfer groups (27.8 versus 29.6 percent; risk ratio, 0.98; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.87 to 1.10; P = 0.76). There were also no significant differences between the groups for the live birth rate (risk ratio, 0.98; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.87 to 1.10; P = 0.83). From The BMJ:

Abstract

Objective To compare the ongoing pregnancy rate between a freeze-all strategy and a fresh transfer strategy in assisted reproductive technology treatment.

Design Multicentre, randomised controlled superiority trial.

Setting Outpatient fertility clinics at eight public hospitals in Denmark, Sweden, and Spain.

Participants 460 women aged 18-39 years with regular menstrual cycles starting their first, second, or third treatment cycle of in vitro fertilisation or intracytoplasmic sperm injection.

Interventions Women were randomised at baseline on cycle day 2 or 3 to one of two treatment groups: the freeze-all group (elective freezing of all embryos) who received gonadotropin releasing hormone agonist triggering and single frozen-thawed blastocyst transfer in a subsequent modified natural cycle; or the fresh transfer group who received human chorionic gonadotropin triggering and single blastocyst transfer in the fresh cycle. Women in the fresh transfer group with more than 18 follicles larger than 11 mm on the day of triggering had elective freezing of all embryos and postponement of transfer as a safety measure.

Main outcome measures The primary outcome was the ongoing pregnancy rate defined as a detectable fetal heart beat after eight weeks of gestation. Secondary outcomes were live birth rate, positive human chorionic gonadotropin rate, time to pregnancy, and pregnancy related, obstetric, and neonatal complications. The primary analysis was performed according to the intention-to-treat principle.

Results Ongoing pregnancy rate did not differ significantly between the freeze-all and fresh transfer groups (27.8% (62/223) v 29.6% (68/230); risk ratio 0.98, 95% confidence interval 0.87 to 1.10, P=0.76). Additionally, no significant difference was found in the live birth rate (27.4% (61/223) for the freeze-all group and 28.7% (66/230) for the fresh transfer group; risk ratio 0.98, 95% confidence interval 0.87 to 1.10, P=0.83). No significant differences between groups were observed for positive human chorionic gonadotropin rate or pregnancy loss, and none of the women had severe ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome; only one hospital admission related to this condition occurred in the fresh transfer group. The risks of pregnancy related, obstetric, and neonatal complications did not differ between the two groups except for a higher mean birth weight after frozen blastocyst transfer and an increased risk of prematurity after fresh blastocyst transfer. Time to pregnancy was longer in the freeze-all group.

Conclusions In women with regular menstrual cycles, a freeze-all strategy with gonadotropin releasing hormone agonist triggering for final oocyte maturation did not result in higher ongoing pregnancy and live birth rates than a fresh transfer strategy. The findings warrant caution in the indiscriminate application of a freeze-all strategy when no apparent risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome is present.

August 6, 2020 – DoctorsLounge.com

Baby Was Infected With Covid-19 in Utero, Study Reports

Researchers said the case strongly suggests that Covid-19 can be transmitted in utero. Both the mother and baby have recovered.

Researchers on Tuesday reported strong evidence that the Covid-19 can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to a fetus in utero.Covid-19 in utero

A baby born in a Paris hospital in March to a mother with Covid-19 tested positive for the virus and developed symptoms of inflammation in his brain, said Dr. Daniele De Luca, who led the research team and is chief of the division of pediatrics and neonatal critical care at Paris-Saclay University Hospitals. The baby, now more than 3 months old, recovered without treatment and is “very much improved, almost clinically normal,” Dr. De Luca said, adding that the mother, who needed oxygen during the delivery, is healthy.

Dr. De Luca said the virus appeared to have been transmitted through the placenta of the 23-year-old mother.

Since the pandemic began, there have been isolated cases of newborns who have tested positive for the coronavirus, but there has not been enough evidence to rule out the possibility that the infants became infected by the mother after they were born, experts said. A recently published case in Texas, of a newborn who tested positive for Covid-19 and had mild respiratory symptoms, provided more convincing evidence that transmission of the virus during pregnancy can occur.

In the Paris case, Dr. De Luca said, the team was able to test the placenta, amniotic fluid, cord blood, and the mother’s and baby’s blood.

The testing indicated that “the virus reaches the placenta and replicates there,” Dr. De Luca said. It can then be transmitted to a fetus, which “can get infected and have symptoms similar to adult Covid-19 patients.”

A study of the case was published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.

Dr. Yoel Sadovsky, executive director of Magee-Womens Research Institute at the University of Pittsburgh, who was not involved in the study, said he thought the claim of placental transmission was “fairly convincing.” He said the relatively high levels of the coronavirus found in the placenta and the rising levels of virus in the baby and the evidence of placental inflammation, along with the baby’s symptoms, “are all consistent with SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

Still, Dr. Sadovsky said, it is important to note that cases of possible coronavirus transmission in utero appear to be extremely rare. With other viruses, including Zika and rubella, placental infection and transmission is much more common, he said. With the coronavirus, he said, “we are trying to understand the opposite — what underlies the relative protection of the fetus and the placenta?”

NYTimes.com, July 16, 2020 by Pam Belluck

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Overlooked No More: Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, Pioneering Gay Activist

Overlooked is a series of obituaries about remarkable people whose deaths, beginning in 1851, went unreported in The Times.

Before the word “homosexuality” existed, he argued that same-sex attraction was innate, and that those who experienced it should be treated the same as anyone else.Overlooked

By the time the overlooked lawyer and writer Karl Heinrich Ulrichs took the podium at a meeting of the Association of German Jurists in 1867, rumors about his same-sex love affairs — and the subsequent threat of arrest and prosecution — had already cost him his legal career and forced him to flee his homeland.

Standing in Munich before more than 500 lawyers, officials and academics — many of whom jeered as he spoke — Ulrichs argued for the repeal of sodomy laws that criminalized sex between men in several of the German-speaking kingdoms and duchies that existed in the years before the creation of a unified German state.

“Gentlemen, my proposal is directed toward a revision of the current penal law,” he said, according to the historian Robert Beachy in the 2014 book “Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity.”

Ulrichs described a “class of persons” who faced persecution simply because “nature has planted in them a sexual nature that is opposite of that which is usual.”

Same-sex attraction was a deeply taboo topic at the time; the word “homosexuality” would not even exist for another two years, when it was coined by the Austro-Hungarian writer Karl-Maria Kertbeny. So the ideas in Ulrichs’s speech — that such attraction was innate, and that those who experienced it should be treated the same as anyone else — were revolutionary.

His remarks preceded by more than 100 years the Stonewall riots in New York in 1969, which are widely seen as the start of the modern L.G.B.T.Q. rights movement.

They helped inspire the rise of the world’s first gay rights movement, 30 years later in Berlin.

They foreshadowed the imposition of a sodomy law across the German Empire that would later be used by the Nazis to target gay men, thousands of whom were killed in concentration camps.

Although overlooked they made history: Ulrichs is believed to have been the first person to publicly “come out,” in the modern sense of the term.

“I think it is reasonable to describe him as the first gay person to publicly out himself,” Robert Beachy said in an interview. “There is nothing comparable in the historical record. There is just nothing else like this out there.”

His speech was also deeply unwelcome at the 1867 meeting, where the audience erupted in shouts of “Stop!” and “Crucify!” that ultimately forced Ulrichs off the stage.

For much of Ulrichs’s life, same-sex relations were widely seen as a pathology or as a sin to which any person could succumb if seized by wickedness. These views still exist in some parts of the world.

Ulrichs helped forge the concepts of gay people as a distinct group and of sexual identity as an innate human characteristic in a series of pamphlets he wrote from 1864 to 1879 — at first under a pseudonym, but under his own name after he gave his speech at the 1867 conference.

“By publishing these writings I have initiated a scientific discussion based on facts,” he wrote in a letter published in 1864 in Deutsche Allgemeine, a pan-German newspaper.

NYTimes.com by Liam Stack, July 1, 2020

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The Hidden Costs Of Starting A Family When Queer

The Hidden Costs Of Starting A Family When Queer

The Hidden Costs Of Starting A Family When Queer – Jac Ciardella sat at his kitchen table in New Jersey and inserted a syringe into a navel orange. His hand flexed as he squeezed the plunger, pushing water into the fruit’s rind. He needed the practice. He was about to inject fertility drugs into his wife, Candice Ciardella, and he wanted to get it exactly right. He knew how painful it could be. gay money
 
Just a year earlier, in February, 2017, the spouses’ positions were swapped: Candice, now 37, was administering the shot for Jac, who’s 40. Jac is a transgender man, and both he and his wife have undergone in vitro fertilization (IVF) in order to have a child.
The couple’s fertility journey started in 2015. The original plan had been to use donor sperm to impregnate Candice. But after six unsuccessful attempts at intrauterine insemination (IUI), they decided to try IVF on Jacwith the idea that Candice could carry one of his fertilized eggs. Candice began giving her husband shots of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), to make him produce extra eggs. 
 
“For years, needles were just part of the routine for us,” Candice says. “I think we had more empathy for one another because we both knew what it felt like. When it comes to the shots and the appointments, not many spouses can say: ‘I know exactly what you’re going through.’ We can.”
 
The process was emotionally taxing for both of them, but especially for Jac. “Someone’s head is between your legs, and it’s awkward for anyone — but, being transgender, it’s extra awkward,” Jac says. “Mentally, I’m feeling like I’m not supposed to be in that position. For me to feel comfortable going through IVF while still keeping my sanity and my integrity was huge.” 
 
Three cycles of IVF weren’t successful, and testing revealed no clear issues that would cause infertility. So in 2018, the Ciardellas decided to try IVF again, on Candice this time. 
 
“It was emotionally defeating. If you can survive IVF and infertility, your marriage should be able to survive just about anything else,” Jac says.  “It’s humbling and debilitating and cruel.” Adding to their stress was the financial strain. The Ciardellas were acutely aware that each failed cycle of IVF and IUI was costing them — big time. “You’re talking about tens of thousands of dollars going out the door,” he says. “It takes toughness.”
Jac and Candice’s story is unique, but the financial burden they faced is not. Most LGBTQ+ couples who want children have to confront the fact that starting a family will be expensive. Adoption, fertility treatments, and surrogates are all costly, often lengthy processes.
 
The Ciardellas say their insurance only covered their testing for issues that could cause infertility, such as blocked fallopian tubes. They had no financial help with the sperm, the IUIs, or the rounds of IVF. All told, over the course of three years, the couple would spend about $120,000 on four IVF cycles, $20,000 on fertility drugs, plus over $10,000 on IUI. “I got those numbers imprinted on my brain,” Jac says. “We always knew that to be parents, we’d need to be cutting into a good chunk of change — but we didn’t expect it to be quite that much.” 
 
Sandy Chuan, MD, a fertility specialist at San Diego Fertility Center, confirms that the costs of conceiving via fertility treatments can be shockingly high for LGBTQ+ couples. 
 
She says sperm samples can cost $600 to $900 per vial. One IUI attempt without insurance costs about $700 to $1,000, plus the donor sperm. “I usually tell my clients to ballpark around $1,500, but they might need to do three to six rounds,” Dr. Chuan explains. If IUI is unsuccessful, the next step is IVF, which Dr. Chuan says can cost as much as $15,000, plus $4,000 to $5,000 for medications to stimulate egg production. The price point for procedures can vary by state and market.
 
Refinery29.com, by Molly Longman, June 15, 2020
 
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Better fertility treatments can mean much older parents. But how does this affect their offspring?

For nearly 40 years, fertility treatment has grown ever more advanced and so entrenched that it’s not uncommon for couples to begin their families in their late 30s, 40s or even 50s, producing much older parents.

Much older parents…  But even as questions about the technology to extend fertility have been answered — yes, children born through in vitro fertilization are healthy; yes, freezing embryos appears to be safe; yes, mothers can generally deliver babies safely well beyond the classic childbearing years — another important question is emerging: How old is too old for their offspring?

Offspring like Hayley, the 10-year-old daughter of a 58-year-old, Ann Skye.

“I knew that she was going to really need to build her own support system in life, or potentially would need to,” said Skye, who lives in North Carolina and works in public health. “I think that has really impacted the way we parented her. We were strong proponents of letting her cry [herself] to sleep for that same reason: She needs to be able to self-soothe.”

In December, two prominent psychologists and two reproductive endocrinologists published an opinion paper in the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics questioning whether it was time to establish age restrictions in the field. They wrote that research has shown that children often experience social awkwardness if their parents are a half-century older than them and face greater risk of autism and psychopathologies. These children are also more likely to serve in a caregiving role and experience bereavement as adolescents or teens compared with their peers whose parents gave birth in their 20s and 30s, they wrote.

Do those risks constitute the potential for “great harm” to the child and outweigh a person’s right to “reproduce without limitation or interference” at any age, the authors asked.

“It is a self-perpetuating issue; the more older patients that seek [fertility] treatment, the more people feel that it is reasonable to seek treatment, especially in an age where sensational births are widely celebrated as positive events in the media,” they wrote.

In the United States, the number of live births to mothers ages 45 to 49 increased from 3,045 in 1996 to 8,257 in 2016, and the number to mothers ages 50 to 54 increased from 144 births to 786 births over the same time period, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The average age of women becoming mothers in the United States is now 26, up from 23 in 1994, according to the Pew Research Center.

WashingtonPost.com, May 30, 2020 by Eric Berger

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How Coronavirus Is Affecting Surrogacy, Foster Care and Adoption

How Coronavirus Is Affecting Surrogacy – The pandemic is not just impacting parents and pregnant people — all prospective parents are facing new challenges.

How Coronavirus Is Affecting Surrogacy – Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has upended life for those who are or hope to become pregnant in the United States. Fertility doctors have indefinitely postponed all advanced fertility treatments, and some major hospitals in hard-hit areas are trying to ban partners and doulas from delivery rooms.

But the pandemic is affecting expectant parents forming families through surrogacy, foster care and adoption as well.

Global travel restrictions have left surrogacy agencies in the United States scrambling for exemptions for their international clients — particularly for those whose surrogates are scheduled to give birth in the next month or two.How Coronavirus Is Affecting Surrogacy

Circle Surrogacy, an agency based in Boston, has 15 international clients with due dates before May 1. “We’ve had our legal team prepare letters for each of these families, which has gotten many of them into the country despite travel bans,” said Sam Hyde, the agency’s president. Still, he said, his foreign clients were at the mercy of individual immigration officials. “Some have been sympathetic to the plight of our clients, others have not — it’s really been a case-by-case basis.”

 

Some intended parents, as clients of surrogacy agencies are known, who are currently struggling to gain entry into the United States are hoping to do so after completing a 14-day quarantine in a country with less severe travel restrictions.

Last week, for instance, Johnny and Patty — a Chinese couple working with a surrogate living in South Carolina — traveled from Shanghai to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to begin two weeks in isolation at a local hotel. The couple, who work for an international company and use these westernized names, asked that their last name be withheld since surrogacy is still relatively uncommon in China. They hope to complete their quarantine in time to witness the birth of their daughter, who is due in mid-April, and claim guardianship over her.

But with travel restrictions tightening seemingly daily, they worry their effort may still be in vain. “First we bought plane tickets to travel through Thailand, but now travel is restricted there,” Johnny said in an interview from their hotel on the second day of his quarantine. “Then we tried Dubai, but that is now also restricted.” Traveling via Cambodia, he said, was the couple’s “last hope” to reach the United States in time for their daughter’s birth.

Though they would be disappointed to miss the delivery, the couple said they were even more concerned, in that scenario, about the baby’s well-being in the ensuing days before they are allowed to travel. “Who will take care of our baby if we can’t arrive before she’s born?” Patty said.

Will Halm, a managing partner at International Reproductive Law Group, said surrogacy agencies were creating contingency plans for clients living abroad who may be prohibited from entering the United States over the next few months. “Plan A is absolutely to have parents in the U.S., joyfully watching their child being born,” he said. “If they can’t get into the country in time, that’s when we look to plans B, C and D.”

 

In one of the better scenarios, agencies hope friends or family members living in the United States can temporarily assume guardianship of the baby until the intended parents are granted entry into the country. As a backup, however, caseworkers are also preparing strangers — health care professionals, child care providers and even surrogates themselves — to care for the newborns until travel restrictions are eased.

“These babies will not be abandoned,” said Dr. Kim Bergman, founder of Growing Generations, a surrogacy agency with dozens of international clients who may be impacted by travel bans in the coming months. “We have an army of former surrogates who are ready and eager to act as helpers and guardians for as long as necessary.”

The ongoing crisis has created an uncertain environment for foster care parents and children as well. “Basically, everything is on pause until things are back to normal,” said Trey Rabun, who works as a services supervisor at Amara, a foster care agency based in Seattle, Wash. — one of a growing number of states ordering its citizens to work from home.

Amara, whose staff members are included in the state’s proclamation, has been able to continue some aspects of the licensing process for foster parents online, such as initial interviews. But other critical components, like home inspections, need to be done in person, Rabun said.

As a result, the number of foster homes, already all too scarce in Washington before the crisis hit, will remain static for the state’s over 10,000 foster care children until the pandemic subsides and business returns to normal, Rabun said. Of bigger concern to him, and other foster care professionals throughout the country, is the impact that “stay at home” orders may have on children not yet accounted for in the system.

“We know abuse and neglect happen more in high-stress situations,” Rabun said. But the people who would normally notice and report these sorts of problem, like teachers and doctors, will be unable to do so in the days and weeks ahead. “No one has eyes on them,” he said.

With courts and other government offices closed in many states, parents who had hoped to finalize adoptions within the next couple of months are also now navigating a drastically changed landscape — particularly for parents completing adoptions abroad.

 

Early in the year, when the coronavirus was barely registering as a news story outside of Asia, Holt International — an agency that facilitates adoption placements between Chinese orphanages and adoptive parents in the United States — was already closely monitoring and responding to the outbreak.

NYTimes.com, by David Dodge, April 1, 2020

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Shielding the Fetus From the Coronavirus

New studies suggest the Coronavirus can cross the placenta to the fetus, but newborns have been mildly affected if at all.

Newborns and babies have so far seemed to be largely unaffected by the coronavirus, but three new studies suggest that the virus may reach the fetus in utero.coronavirus fetus

Even in these studies, the newborns seemed only mildly affected, if at all — which is reassuring, experts said. And the studies are small and inconclusive on whether the virus does truly breach the placenta.

“I don’t look at this and think coronaviruses must cross across the placenta,” said Dr. Carolyn Coyne of the University of Pittsburgh, who studies the placenta as a barrier to viruses. She was not involved in the new work.

Still, the studies merit concern, she said, because if the virus does get through the placental barrier, it may pose a risk to the fetus earlier in gestation, when the fetal brain is most vulnerable.

Pregnant women are often more susceptible to respiratory infections such as influenza and to having more complications for themselves and their babies as a result. It’s still unclear whether pregnant women are more likely to contract the new coronavirus, said Dr. Christina Chambers, a perinatal epidemiologist at the University of California in San Diego.

“We don’t have any knowledge of that at all — that is a complete open question at this point,” she said. It’s also unclear what effect the virus has on the fetus, she added.

The placenta usually blocks harmful viruses and bacteria from reaching the fetus. And it allows in helpful antibodies from the mother that can keep the fetus safe from any germs, before and after birth.

Still, a few viruses do get through to the fetus and can wreak havoc. The most recent example is Zika, which can cause microcephaly and profound neurological damage, especially if contracted in the first and second trimesters.

Neither the new coronavirus, nor its more familiar cousins, has seemed to belong to this more dangerous category. If so, “we would be seeing higher levels of miscarriage and preterm delivery,” Dr. Coyne said.

NYTimes.com by Apoorva MAndavilli, March 27, 2020
 
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Effect of COVID-19 on LGBTQ Family Planning

The Effect of COVID-19 on LGBTQ Family Planning is evolving and far reaching.  It is also temporary.

The Effect of COVID-19 on LGBTQ Family Planning – The COVID-19 pandemic has affected us all in ways more numerous to describe.  Those of us with families have had to learn about home schooling, some the hard way (me).  Everyone has had to adjust to what essentially has become a home quarantine situation and the emotional effects of social isolation.  And we are all witness to the world going through a major change which will create a new reality for everyone when we emerge on the other side.  But we will emerge on the other side. effect of COVID-19 0n LGBTQ family planning

While I myself have experienced the loss of a friend due to the virus, as well as the infection of a family member, I know that we all are doing our best to maintain a sense of normalcy and peace within.  Practicing this type of self-care will help mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on LGBTQ family planning.

The effects of COVID-19 on LGBTQ family planning are very real.  I have said in the past that there are no accidental pregnancies in the LGBTQ community.  Everything is carefully thought out and planned in advance.  However, the COVID-19 virus has created specific and real-world disruptions to our ability to create families.

For example, those were using, or planning to use, an IVF clinic for either surrogacy, artificial insemination (AI), intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures have experienced an actual shut down of normal operations.  The clinic administrators that I have spoken with are optimistic that once the virus is contained, or at least the infection curve has flattened, that they will resume normal operations.  For the time being, they are following ASRM guidelines.  But they will also be dealing with backlogs of patients and procedures that may cause further delay in your family building timeline. 

effect of COVID-19 0n LGBTQ family planningFor lesbian couples who have thoughtfully chosen to use a clinic to assist in insemination, this delay is not only frustrating, it can also change the projected timeline of their families.  Even those couples who choose anonymous sperm donors will most likely have to wait an indefinite period of time to undergo AI or IUI procedures.  For those who choose known sperm donors, the essential DNA testing that is a prerequisite for clinic inseminations will also be on a delayed time schedule.

Gay male couples who are considering surrogacy are facing an even more complicated challenge.  First, there will inevitably be a delay in the embryo creation aspect of the beginning of their journey due to IVF clinic shutdowns.  If an intended parent already has embryos created, perhaps from a previous surrogacy journey, they may be in a better position.  However, they will also experience a delay in embryo transfer until restrictions on IVF clinic activities are lifted.  A silver lining is that they will be able to match with surrogates sooner, thereby shortening the time to pregnancy once those IVF restrictions are lifted.

Lesbian couples who choose a known sperm donor and home insemination may be the only group in our community who might not experience the delays discussed above.  However, these types of inseminations will not have the benefit of genetic testing.  Nor are they technically “legal” in some states (Missouri, Georgia, Oklahoma and Colorado) because they are not performed by a licensed professional.  It is key that if you are considering home insemination that you consult with an Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) attorney in your area and, for the safety and security of all parties, must have carefully prepared legal agreements in place and a second or stepparent adoption plan incorporated into that agreement.

For those in the midst of a surrogacy journey, perhaps awaiting their carrier to give birth, the effects of COVID-19 on LGBT family planning can be particularly frustrating due to travel and hospital restrictions.  Many hospitals are restricting the number of people who can be in a delivery room, particularly if they have traveled from an area that has been severely affected by COVID-19, like New York, Washington or California.  Be prepared for snags in the road and lots of patience.  You will go home with your child!  You may have to be flexible in your travel plans, i.e. be prepared for long drives instead of air travel.

For lesbian couples and gay men with surrogates who are pregnant, there is a limited study from Wuhan China showing that babies of mothers with the virus were not effected, meaning that there was no vertical transmission.

Couples considering adoptions are also at a bit of a standstill depending on where they live in the US.  Most state court systems have closed to all but “essential” proceedings.  While I would argue that adoptions are essential, the courts have determined that they are not.  I have several cases now awaiting the scheduling of finalization hearings that are simply on hold until the pandemic subsides.  This includes private placement adoptions and step or second parent adoptions.  This does not mean that making connections with birth parents must be put on hold, but the legal work that is required to effectuate the adoption may be delayed, causing additional anxiety.Effect of COIVD-19 on LGBTQ family planning

You may be asking what you can do to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on LGBTQ family planning.  I know that I am.  Here are a few options that you can consider now.

  1. Make sure that your Estate Plan is in place and up to date. Ask yourself, “Do I need a Will?”  If you have named guardians for children in your Wills, please review to make sure that they are current and correct.  If you have not created an Estate Plan, now is a good time to do the work to ensure that you have prepared for the unexpected.  Here is a list of the documents you should be considering for your estate plan.  We have also seen a relaxation of Notary laws allowing for online notarizations.  This can make the execution of documents much easier in certain states.
  2. If you have been thinking about creating your family, now is a great time to do more research. Men Having Babies is a great resource for surrogacy.  “If These Ovaries Could Talk” is a wonderful podcast for all LGBTQ family planning.  This should include speaking with your friends who have had children to get their perspectives on the process.  It is also a really good time also to start thinking about the financial implications of having a family.  Many of us will be irreparably financially harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Many of us will have to rethink the timelines we had anticipated would apply to our family planning journeys.  You may want to meet with a financial professional to discuss the best way to get your family plan back on track.
  3. Practice self-care! Whether you have children or not, staying calm and finding peace in your heart will help you get through this.  While you might feel alone, you are not alone.  Reach out and find solace in your friends and family if you can.  Take walks if you can and get outside.  Remind yourself of what will be on the other side of this experience.

If you have specific questions about how to address the effects of COVID-19 on LGBTQ family planning and estate planning, and you think I can be of help, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.  Thank you for taking the time to read this and remember to breathe.

ASRM Guidelines on Fertility Care During COVID-19 Pandemic

ASRM Guidelines on Fertility Care During COVID-19 Pandemic: Calls for Suspension of Most Treatments

ASRM Guidelines on COVID-19: The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), the global leader in reproductive medicine, today issues new guidance for its members as they manage patients in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Developed by an expert Task Force, of physicians, embryologists, and mental health professionals, the new document recommends suspension of new, non-urgent treatments.ASRM guidelines COVID -19

Specifically, the recommendations include:

  1. Suspension of initiation of new treatment cycles, including ovulation induction, intrauterine inseminations (IUIs), in vitro fertilization (IVF) including retrievals and frozen embryo transfers, as well as non-urgent gamete cryopreservation.
  2. Strongly consider cancellation of all embryo transfers, whether fresh or frozen. 
  3. Continue to care for patients who are currently ‘in-cycle’ or who require urgent stimulation and cryopreservation.
  4. Suspend elective surgeries and non-urgent diagnostic procedures.
  5. Minimize in-person interactions and increase utilization of telehealth.

The above recommendations will be revisited periodically as the pandemic evolves, but no later than March 30, 2020, with the aim of resuming usual patient care as soon and as safely as possible.  ASRM has been closely monitoring developments around COVID-19 since its emergence. Data on its impact on pregnancy and reproduction remains limited. However, the task force used best available data, and the expertise and experience of the members to develop the recommendations. Until more is known about the virus, and while we remain in the midst of a public health emergency, it is best to avoid initiation of new treatment cycles for infertility patients. Similarly, non-medically urgent gamete preservation treatments, such as egg freezing, should be suspended for the time being as well. Clinics who have patients under treatment mid-cycle should ensure they have adequate staff to complete the patient’s treatment and should strongly encourage postponing, the embryo transfer.

Ricardo Azziz, CEO of the ASRM stated, “This is not going to be easy for infertility patients and reproductive care practices. We know the sacrifices patients have to make under the best of circumstances, and we are loath to in add, in any way. to that burden. And it will not be easy for our members. The disruption to routines, the stress on staff members and the very real prospect of economic hardship loom large for ASRM members all over the world.  But the fact is that given what we know, as well as what we don’t, suspending non-urgent fertility care is really the most prudent course of action at this time.”

Dr. Racowsky added, “We should recognize that the situation on the ground is fluid, and as such we will continue to revisit and review our recommendations at least every two weeks, to provide providers and their patients with the best information and support we possibly can.”

ASRM Press Release – May 17, 2020

Click here to read the entire release