To mark Pride month, Katie reflects on her experience of navigating reproductive health, fertility treatment options, and the barriers that she and her wife faced as a same sex couple in a world that wasn’t always LGBTQ+ friendly.
A little over 10 years ago, my wife and I embarked on a journey to have a baby. Over the course of the years that followed we had interactions with various medical professionals, starting with our GP then finally a referral to fertility services, which led us to our fertility doctor and fertility nurse. After six full cycles of IVF at our initial clinic, we moved to another clinic and the process of new introductions began again.
Fertility treatments in themselves are incredibly stressful and make you feel incredibly vulnerable. There was also always additional level of anxiety, perhaps even vulnerability when meeting new people as a same sex couple in the fertility world. Fear of judgment, about our sexuality, or about our ‘place’ raising children. Every time we met a new member of staff, we felt vulnerable, as we weren’t sure what their reaction would be. Maybe this comes from the one negative reaction that we did have or from so many people sharing their negative experiences on peer support groups online, but regardless of where it came from, it became embedded in our journey.
Something else that stands out from the beginning of our journey was our interactions with both of our GPs in different parts of the country. Both doctors were supportive and excited for us to go on this journey. However, in both cases they didn’t seem to have the information or access to the information that they needed. Neither understood the financial implications for us. In fact, one incorrectly told us that the whole process would be free.
Early in our journey, it became apparent that due to my multiple long-term conditions and more specifically the treatment for these conditions, it would not be safe for me to carry a baby. This has been a lifelong dream for me and we had never imagined the process looking any different to me carrying a child. I was incredibly lucky that my wife, who never intended to carry a child, offered to move forward with the fertility treatment.
We encountered an assumption that because we both had a uterus, we were both willing and able to conceive and have a healthy pregnancy. In our case, this was particularly hurtful as I wanted nothing more than to be able to. This was just one assumption, but there are many others.
Our journey was unique. Overall we had a very positive experience in terms of the care that we received. By the time we had our son in our arms we were not only a same sex couple, but a couple who had used IVF, a couple who had experienced multiple losses, and a couple where one had a caring role for the other.
We had specific requests about our labour and delivery, including what to call us (i.e. mum and mummy), who was to hold him first etc. In order to ‘control’ this we opted for a home birth but when it was needed we were transferred to hospital. All of our fears were instantly eased as we were treated like any other couple with its own unique story.
We are so grateful that after a long, emotional, and at times traumatic journey that led to that night, we had a peaceful, calm, respectful, and in so many ways a perfect experience.
Notes to editors
The RCOG strongly believes there should be equal access to fertility treatment for everyone. However, in many areas of England and across Northern Ireland, LGBTQ+ people and couples face additional and significant financial obstacles to treatment. This must be addressed.
The RCOG is calling for Integrated Care Boards in England and the HSC in Northern Ireland to ensure equitable access to fertility services. Infertility can have a devastating effect on people's lives, causing distress, depression, and the breakdown of relationships. We would welcome a much-needed review of NICE fertility guidelines, and the UK Government’s commitment to address variations in access.