If Being a Parent is Important to You, There Are Many Ways to Build a Family
Most people who want to build a family eventually have a family. It isn’t always built exactly the way they envisioned, or on their original timeline, but if they’re intentions are there to become a parent, they will become one. When people think about family building, they think about the family they came from and how it was formed. Most families are formed the “natural” way, when the woman gives birth to a child she conceived naturally with her male partner. The people who come from less traditional families think about two different ways to build a family – naturally and adoption. A high percentage of people who have adoption in their family history end up adopting at least one of their children. However, this doesn’t mean they are looking only at adoption when they want to build a family. If a couple has been trying to conceive the “traditional” way for over a year and haven’t been successful, there are some alternate methods the couple can explore to build their dream family. Some of the more popular methods are:
The most common alternative to reproduction is fertility drugs to help regulate the woman’s reproductive hormones and trigger the release of one or more eggs in each ovulation cycle. Since ovulation problems are one of the most common reasons for infertility, this is a good first treatment because it’s relatively inexpensive and non-invasive.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
The IUI process is a non-invasive treatment that places the sperm in the uterus, at the base of the fallopian tube, so it has a better chance of meeting the egg. IUI is often used in conjunction with fertility drugs so the woman can be assured there are eggs available for the procedure. The sperm used is washed before being used for insemination. Only healthy sperm is inserted. Success rates for IUI are between 5% and 20% depending primarily on the age of the woman and the condition of her eggs.
In-vitro Fertilization (IVF)
IVF is the next step in fertility treatment when IUI isn’t successful. In IVF the same fertility drugs are used but instead of trying to fertilize the egg in the woman’s body, the fertilization is accomplished in a test tube. The woman takes fertility drugs to produce more than one egg at a time. The eggs are then harvested and then combined with sperm that has been washed. The embryos produced are implanted into the mother’s uterus a couple of days later. Between the time of the egg retrieval and implantation, the woman often takes progesterone to help prepare the uterus for implantation. The chances of success from IVF depends greatly on the age of the mother’s eggs, from 40% for women 34 and under to 5% for women 43 and over.
Donor Eggs and Embryos
Donor eggs are eggs donated by another woman to be used in IVF. These eggs are healthy, because they come from women under 30, and are mixed with the male partner’s sperm to produce an embryo that is genetically related to him. The embryo is then implanted into the intended mother’s uterus or that of a gestational surrogate. Donor embryos are embryos that have been created by other couples, while they were going through fertility treatments, that they no longer need as their families are complete. Success rates with fresh donor eggs are around 50%, slightly lower for frozen eggs. The success rates for frozen embryos (donor or from a previous cycle) are around 37%.
Gestational surrogacy is when a woman carries a pregnancy for another family. She is impregnated with an embryo produced by the intended parents (using the mother’s egg, or a donor egg, and the father’s sperm or donor sperm), and turns the baby over to them at birth. The gestational surrogate has no genetic link to the baby since her egg was not used to create the embryo. Gestational surrogacy does not solve egg problems, it solves carrying problems. However, the age of the egg does determine the likelihood that the pregnancy will continue long enough to lead to a live birth. If the intended mother is using her own eggs, the chances of a live birth range from 50% for women age 34 and under to 11% for women 43 and over. If using donor eggs, the success rate will be around 50% because the eggs come from a woman under 30.
There are several ways to approach adoption, from foster care to private adoption to international adoption.
Foster care is a good way to meet a child you may want to have join your family. Every county has a foster care system where they match intended parents with a child that is like the child they have said they want to adopt. These children are in foster-to-adopt programs, so they are often not available for adoption immediately but the social workers in charge feel they will be shortly. Children in these programs range from infants to teens and can also be in sibling groups. One of the major benefits to this type of adoption is that you are provided with a lot of information about the child, every medical report and report on the birth family that the county has collected will be shared with you.
Private adoption, when the adoptive parents adopt the child directly from the birth family, is another domestic program that can work well. Since the birth mother selects the family to adopt her child, these adoptions work particularly well for families that look like the kind of family a birthmother wants for her child. These families are usually 2 heterosexual parents who are middle class and, if they have children, only have 1 or 2. Most families completing a private adoption locate their child through an agency that the child’s birth mother has signed up with. The agency not only matches parents with children, but also makes sure all the steps are taken to ensure legal adoption.
International adoption is when a family adopts a child from another country. Most of these children are wards of the state and adopted out of an orphanage or foster home. These children might have a living parent, but that parent has either had their parental rights terminated or gave them up voluntarily because they can’t take care of their child. International adoption can take a long time because regulations regarding orphaned children in the foreign countries change frequently. Because of the amount of time needed for processing paperwork in both the United States and the sending country, very few internationally adopted children are under one year, however, many are toddlers. An international adoption requires a home study, like any adoption in the US, but also requires a country specific dossier filed in the country they hope to adopt from and a dossier filed with USCIS. International adoptions are almost all run through a specially accredited adoption agency. One of the advantages of international adoption is that children are matched with families by social workers, the adoptive parents are not selected by the birth mothers. This makes international adoption a wonderful option for single women, married couples who are older and families with several children.
As mentioned, there are different paths to parenthood, if being a parent is important to you. The important thing is to be proactive, especially when you’re dealing with infertility issues. It’s always good to remember that if fertility procedures don’t work for you, there are always other ways to become a parent.