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In recent years, advancements in reproductive medicine have provided more options for LGBTQ+ individuals and couples who desire to have children. Egg freezing has become an increasingly popular opportunity to help people preserve their fertility and plan for future family-building. 

In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive overview of egg freezing, discussing its benefits, fertility options, and the process of in vitro fertilization (IVF) specifically for lesbian couples.

Egg freezing

Egg freezing, also known as oocyte cryopreservation, is the process of extracting and freezing eggs for later use. It offers several advantages, including:

  • Increasing chances of a healthy pregnancy and baby down the line. By freezing your eggs at a younger age when egg quantity and quality is higher, lesbian women can preserve their chances of conceiving in the future, even if you are not ready to start a family at present.
  • Relationship timing. Egg freezing allows you to better synchronize your desire for children with relationship, career, or personal goals in the meantime. 
  • Transitioning. The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) and Endocrine Society both recommend that all transgender patients be counseled on options for fertility preservation (egg freezing) prior to transition. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) also put out a statement that providers should offer fertility preservation counseling to individuals before gender transition.

Ultimately, egg freezing gives you more options down the line, especially if you plan to do reciprocal IVF (more on that below).

How much does it cost to freeze your eggs?

This is always a difficult question to answer, because it depends! It depends on the clinic you’re going to, where you are located, the medications you are prescribed (it differs based on your age and body), and where/how long you store the eggs. Average egg freezing cycle costs range from $10,000 - $20,000 for consultations, testing, ultrasounds, medications, and the egg retrieval, plus the ongoing cost of annual storage. 

But, there are ways to make egg freezing more affordable. Here are a few options to consider when paying for egg freezing:

  • Insurance coverage: A minority of insurance plans may cover a portion of the cost of egg freezing and/or medications. It's always best to check with your insurance provider to see if they cover the procedure, and if so, what the specific coverage details are.
  • Employer-provided benefits: Some employers offer coverage for egg freezing as a benefit to their employees. Check with your handbook or HR department to see if this is an option for you.
  • Financing options: At Cofertility, we partnered with lenders to offer you fertility financial resources and support  
  • Donate half your retrieved eggs: Our Freeze by Co Split program allows you to freeze and store your eggs for free for 10 years, when you give half to a family who can't otherwise conceive.

To see if you're eligible for our Split program, take our quiz to tell us more about yourself.

Why do people freeze their eggs?

So we’ve covered the “what”, now it’s time for the “why”. Like I mentioned earlier, egg freezing is a way to keep your reproductive options open for later by preserving younger, healthier eggs for future use. Our team spends hours each week chatting one-on-one with our members and almost everyone says the same things:

  • “I’m going back to school and focusing on my career right now.”
  • “I want to travel more first.”
  • “I haven’t found my ‘person’ yet, and don’t want to feel rushed to settle down just based on my biology.”
  • “I’m not even sure if I want to have kids or not, so I want to keep my options open.”

Seeing a pattern here? Nearly everyone who works with us knows that even if right now is the best time biologically to have children, it’s just not something they’re ready for yet. While you’ll never find us referring to freezing your eggs as an “insurance policy,” it does allow optionality for owning your future fertility by being proactive and giving yourself choices later in life.

Fertility options for lesbian couples

Whether you are single or coupled, or if you want kids or down the line, it’s important to know what fertility care options are available to cis-gendered lesbian couples when it’s time to have kids:

  • Donor sperm insemination: This method involves inseminating one partner with donor sperm, either at home or via intrauterine insemination (IUI) at a fertility clinic. The chances of IUI working is 5-15% per cycle.
  • In vitro fertilization (IVF): IVF is a popular option for lesbian couples. One partner's eggs are retrieved and fertilized with donor sperm in a laboratory setting. The resulting embryos are then transferred into the other partner's uterus for pregnancy in what is called Reciprocal IVF. The chances of IVF working is 30-50% per cycle. 

If you choose to go the IVF route, the chances of success depend greatly on the quality of the eggs. As females age, their egg quality and quantity decreases, which can lead to lower rates of successful fertilization, implantation, and live births. 

In fact, your age when the eggs are retrieved is far more correlated to IVF success than the age you are when carrying the pregnancy.

What is reciprocal IVF?

Reciprocal IVF, sometimes known as shared motherhood, is a form of IVF specifically designed for lesbian couples (and for some couples where at least one partner is transgender or nonbinary). 

Here's how it works: one partner undergoes ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval. The resulting eggs are then fertilized with sperm and transferred to the other partner's uterus for pregnancy. 

Since one partner's egg is used and the other partner carries the pregnancy, each partner gets to play a role. This could help both partners feel super involved in the pregnancy and connected to the baby.

How is IVF done for lesbian couples?

IVF for lesbian couples (aka reciprocal IVF) involves several steps:

  1. Ovarian stimulation. The partner who will provide the eggs undergoes ovarian stimulation, which involves the administration of fertility medications to stimulate the development of multiple eggs.
  2. Egg retrieval. Once the eggs are mature, they are retrieved from the ovaries using a minimally invasive procedure called transvaginal ultrasound-guided follicle aspiration. The eggs are then either frozen for future use, or fertilized to make embryos.
  3. Fertilization. The eggs are then fertilized with donor sperm in a laboratory setting. This can be done using standard IVF or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), depending on the specific circumstances.
  4. Genetic testing. Many couples opt to have the embryos genetically tested. This can help rule out embryos that are chromosomally abnormal. Preimplantation genetic screening (PGT) can also tell you the sex of the embryo. 
  5. Embryo transfer: Finally, one or more embryos are transferred into the uterus of the other partner, with the goal of achieving pregnancy.

Egg freezing is simply doing the first two (or even three and four) steps in advance, and waiting to transfer any embryos until you are ready. By retrieving eggs at a younger age, you increase the chances of IVF success.

Freeze your eggs with Cofertility

We’d love the opportunity to support you on your egg freezing journey.

Through our Split program, qualified freezers can freeze their eggs for free when donating half of the eggs retrieved to a family who can’t otherwise conceive.

Through our Keep program — where you keep 100% of eggs retrieved for your own future use — we offer exclusive discounts on expenses, such as frozen egg storage. Keep members also still gain free access to our Freeze by Co Community, a safe space for those engaging in the egg freezing process (or gearing up for it) to connect and lean on each other.

By making egg freezing easier and more accessible, our programs further strengthen the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM)’s Committee Opinion that egg freezing can help promote social justice and strengthen gender equality.

The bottom line

Egg freezing can provide cis-gendered lesbian women with the opportunity to preserve their fertility and plan for future family-building. With advancements in reproductive medicine, various fertility options, including IVF and reciprocal IVF, are available to lesbian couples. By knowing your options, you can make an informed decision about your reproductive journey and take steps to fulfill your dreams of having a family… some day!

Commonly asked questions

Should I freeze my eggs if I'm not sure I want children yet?

If you are not sure about wanting children in the near future, but still want to preserve the option, freezing your eggs can be a good idea. Egg freezing allows you to preserve your eggs at a younger age when the quality and quantity are typically better. By freezing your eggs, you give yourself the flexibility to delay parenthood while increasing the likelihood of having biological children later in life. 

How much does it cost to freeze your eggs?

This is always a difficult question to answer, because it depends! It depends on the clinic you’re going to, where you are located, the medications you are prescribed (it differs based on your age and body), and where/how long you store the eggs. Average egg freezing cycle costs range from $10,000 - $20,000 for consultations, testing, ultrasounds, medications, and the egg retrieval, plus the ongoing cost of annual storage. 

Can two women's eggs make a baby?

While today two human eggs cannot directly create a baby, two cis-gendered women can both contribute to the process of family-building process. One woman's eggs can be fertilized using donor sperm, and the resulting embryos can be transferred into the uterus of the other woman, who carries the pregnancy. 

Can a woman carry another woman's egg?

Absolutely! In IVF, fertilization of eggs is separated from implantation. That means you can retrieve and fertilize eggs from one person, then turn them into embryos and have them transferred to the uterus of someone else. When someone can’t carry a pregnancy for medical reasons, this process is called gestational surrogacy. When one partner is carrying an embryo made with their partner’s sperm, it’s called reciprocal IVF.

How can a same sex female couple have a baby?

A same-sex female couple can have a baby through assisted reproductive techniques such as donor sperm insemination, in vitro fertilization (IVF), or reciprocal IVF. These options allow for one or both partners to have a biological connection to the child.

Can two females have a baby without sperm?

No. Sperm is necessary for fertilizing an egg and initiating the process of conception. However, same-sex female couples can explore options such as donor sperm insemination, IVF, or reciprocal IVF to achieve pregnancy and have a child together.

Can a lesbian couple have a baby without IVF?

Yes, a lesbian couple can have a baby without IVF. They can choose donor sperm insemination, where one partner undergoes artificial insemination using donor sperm, or explore options such as fostering or adoption to build their family.