As we seek to push for inclusivity and destigmatization in reproductive healthcare, it’s important we normalize the many ways people choose to become – or not become – parents.
Conception is a tricky word that can stir so many emotions, questions, and stories. Conception is the beginning of what could be a new human, and the ways that people get there are becoming more and more accessible. We’re here to discuss the many roads conception journeys can take.
The Old Fashioned Way
I’m sure you know what this looks like. A tried and true method is penis in vagina. If the timing is right and the stars are aligned, you may find yourself getting pregnant if you’re ovulating when you have sex.
For cis-gendered, heterosexual couples, an estimated 84% will successfully get pregnant through intercourse within the first year of trying without contraception.
How someone chooses to approach issues with fertility is their own choice. Some may go more holistic routes by using tools like acupuncture and functional medicine. Or by integrating them with other pharmaceutical methods.
If someone experiences signs of infertility or difficulty conceiving, they may opt for using medical support like fertility medication, or surgical procedures that work to remedy whatever conditions may be leading to infertility. This could include procedures to repair any scarring or blocking in the fallopian tubes, removing cysts caused by endometriosis, or removing fibroids.
For men and people with penises, there are procedures that help correct blockages that may prevent sperm from releasing.
As we push for more and more inclusivity in reproductive health, we have to acknowledge that not all couples who want to reproduce have a penis and vagina. No matter the gender configuration of potential parents, they should have access and understanding as to what their choices are regarding reproduction.
On that note, not everyone who wants to have a baby has a partner. That’s cool too! Single people should also have access to and education around the same services that couples do when wanting to have a baby.
We’re all for expanding the possibilities of what families can look like.
What About IVF?
When it comes to fertility treatments, the first thing that comes to mind for most people is typically IVF, or in vitro fertilization.
Depending on the dynamics of the couple or person trying to conceive, IVF is often seen as a last resort. Not only is it expensive, but the process can take a long time, and involves the use of fertility drugs, which can be physically tolling.
Scientific advances sure are incredible! The process of in vitro means fertilizing the egg outside of the body, and then implanting it into either the gestational parent or a surrogate.
Here’s what that looks like: After fertility testing, the gestational parent will go on fertility drugs to help stimulate the ovaries to release multiple eggs. During ovulation, they will then undergo a minor surgery called follicular aspiration to get said eggs. If necessary, donor eggs can be used. These eggs are then fertilized with sperm, and implanted back into the womb where hopefully they will develop and grow successfully.
A 2017 Fertility Clinic Success Rates Report from the U.S. Center for Disease Control, found that of 284,385* Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) cycles performed at 448 clinics in the U.S, resulted in 68,908 live births.
One of the biggest deterrents of IVF is again, the price. A single cycle costs an average of $15,000 USD without the help of insurance. Given that it often comes after other less expensive measures, and can take multiple cycles, its price tag can drastically increase, as does the emotional strain.
Unfortunately, this price tag makes IVF inaccessible for many people, but it’s not the only option.
Let’s Talk About IUI
Another more affordable option is IUI, or intrauterine insemination.
IUI is typically a much simpler procedure than IVF, and can be done with or without the use of fertility drugs.
People would turn to IUI if they cannot or don’t want to have sex with a male partner, or if their male partner is experiencing infertility. It can be used as a stepping stone before resorting to IVF, yet after using other fertility-boosting measures whether they be holistic or pharmaceutical.
Many queer parents use IUI as a way of conceiving, using donor sperm.
A significantly more affordable option than IVF, a single cycle costs around $1,000 USD.
Another benefit of IUI, is that it doesn’t have to be done in the harsh environment of a clinic. Many midwives offer IUI as part of their services, and they may even be able to perform it in the comfort of their client’s home. Making the whole experience that much more intimate.
There are Options
To stay focused on inclusivity means talking about all possible options. Not everyone’s journey to parenthood involves them becoming pregnant.
Conception isn’t just about you getting pregnant. It is the beginning of a new phase in life, no matter what that looks like. For some people and partners, their journey involves foster parenting, adoption, or even using a surrogate.
No matter what your conception journey looks like, you deserve to have the love and support of your community and whatever tools you need to become the parent you are meant to be.
Natasha (she/they) is a full spectrum doula, reproductive health content creator, and sexual wellness consultant. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more pleasure, softness, and sensuality. You can connect with Natasha on IG @spectrumoflovedoula.