Alternative Reproduction: What Couples Really Face

Medical advances in alternative forms of reproduction are easily outpacing the culture, leaving same-sex couples sometimes facing years of frustration.

BY Mary Wheeler

September 05 2012 4:00 AM ET

Bryan and David in The New Normal

Same-sex couples starting families are headed to primetime in The New Normal, a fall sitcom from NBC based on two gay men looking to start a family with the use of a surrogate. It’s one of the first expansive and relatable looks into the process. But a local affiliate station in Salt Lake City, Utah banned the comedy because it worries that this show about families is “inappropriate” to be watched by families.

Even in the show, Bryan and David must contend with the surrogate’s bigoted grandmother. The New Normal might be, as Jonathan Kipp of Oregon Reproductive Medicine, a leading fertility clinic for LBGT couples, “another step in showing Americans that our country’s families are diverse.” But it’s also a hint at what couples who try surrogacy experience when confronted with a culture not yet prepared for a “new normal.”

According to U.S. Census data from 2010, an estimated one-quarter of all same-sex households are raising children. The Census didn’t ask how many used alternative reproduction. But for those couples, the expensive process comes with a host of frustrations and little support during the search for a donor.  

Just how expensive — costs associated with alternative reproduction run steep and can prove to be challenging for couples.

•    Surrogate fees range from $20,000 to $40,000.  
•    Insurance coverage for the surrogacy cycle ranges from $15,000 to $25,000.
•    Program coordination fees for surrogacy range from $15,000 to $22,000.  
•    Egg donor fees range from $5,000 to $10,000.  
•    Program coordination fees for egg donation range from $4,000 to $8,000.
•    Doctor's office fees, labs, medications, and the like range from $13,000 to $20,000 and more.
•    There will also be incidentals such as attorney fees, psychological and genetic consultations, complication insurance policies for donors and travel expenses that could add an additional $1,500 to $5,000 and up.

April Nelson, 38, an attorney, and Margaret Fiore, 49, a corporate trainer, of Mayfield, Md., began discussing whether to have kids several years into their relationship. The couple of seven years opted for IVF and now have twins, a boy and a girl named Addison and Avery, who are now almost 4 years old.

Nelson and Fiore’s journey began in the summer of 2007 when first exploring how to get pregnant "the old fashioned way," Nelson jokes, referring to simply using anonymous donor sperm for insemination. The couple encountered their first hurdle, however, when it was determined by doctors that Fiore's likelihood of producing a viable egg was minimal because of her age and hormone levels.

Then the couple spent a few months considering options, and with Nelson still midway through law school and Fiore having always wanted the pregnancy experience, they decided to try in-vitro fertilization (IVF) using eggs from Nelson implanted in Fiore.

"The process was exciting and terrifying and exhausting all at the same time," said Fiore. There were periods when both were on injection hormones and making multiple visits each week to the fertility clinic. The couple underwent mandatory counseling sessions to ensure they "knew what they were doing," and Nelson had to participate in even more assessments required for egg donors. The clinic was open affirming, but neither its policies nor the law were truly prepared for how to "categorize" them.

Tags: Health

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