I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the ways in which the process is different for us being UK based rather than living in the US (where the vast majority or the lesbian ttc blogs I’ve found are based).
The difference which stands out most is this nifty National Health Service thing we’ve got going on. Although the Government have just passed a bill to dismantle it, the NHS which currently pretty fucking fantastic. It’s not perfect and it’s a far more clunky than a bespoke service in which you’re a customer instead of a patient but it ensures your treatment is not based on your ability to pay.
Currently NICE guidelines (NICE is the body which makes recommendations about what the NHS should fund) recommend 3 cycles of IUI and 3 cycles of IVF to couples, including lesbian couples, who are having problems conceiving. For lesbian couples you don’t need to show an extra problem – the lack of sperm will do it. Not all PCTs (health authorities in different areas) follow these guidelines but luckily ours does so that’s what we’ll get for free. The fact that the last Government ensured lesbian couples should receive the same treatment as heterosexual couples with regard to fertility treatment is something I’m very grateful for but it does seem odd that after only 3 IUIs they’ll only pay for you to have IVF – I’m pretty sure this makes treating lesbians far more expensive than it needs to be for them. The sperm and everything to do with it (storage, shipping etc) we have to pay for – they used to cover this but it changed a couple of years ago.
In this regard it seems clear to me that I’m very lucky to live in the UK. However, going through the NHS very much means you have to fit in with their timetable rather than they with yours (which with fertility can be particularly frustrating/tricky). Of course, you can go right ahead and pay privately in which case I think you’d get a lot more control over timing etc, but then hardly anyone in the UK has medical insurance (why would you bother?) whereas I get the impression (perhaps totally wrongly) that this is pretty much the norm in the US – so in effect people get free treatment and the perks of being a customer so getting more control (have I got this wrong?).
The thing that can seem frustrating reading your blogs from a UK perspective is that things seem much more regulated here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of regulation and think it’s quite right that sperm should be thoroughly tested etc etc but I’m very jealous of people getting sperm delivered to their door which is illegal in the UK (in frozen form from a clinic). Sperm is only allowed to be sent to a registered fertility clinic and used there. It may be that we would have ended up with a clinic anyway – but I would have liked to have a few tries at home first without endless rounds of testing first.
That’s another thing that’s frustrating about having to go through a clinic – I have to be tested a million times (may be a slight exaggeration) before the sperm is allowed anywhere near me. Now maybe this is sensible and I’m just impatient to get going, and given the amount we’re paying for sperm it’s probably sensible to check myself out first, but it does seem a bit frustrating to be jammed into the same category as straight couples who have been trying for at least a year (which is the criteria for NHS treatment) where it makes sense to check out your tubes, ovarian reserves etc whereas there’s nothing to indicate that this would be the first step for a lesbian couple. Sigh. I’m probably just being impatient!
Also, because we’re using an anonymous donor, we have to have a mandatory counselling session. I kind of get why. But it feels ever so slightly insulting to be told we need this, as though we’d even think of approaching a clinic without having thought everything through really really carefully. Now I think the fact they offer free counselling is brilliant – and we may have even taken them up on it (probably not – but may have done if we’d reached this stage a couple of years ago) but the fact it’s a legal requirement is a bit much.
The other difference is the criteria for frozen sperm. A few years ago entirely anonymous donation was banned, so now everyone donating sperm has to be willing to be contacted at 18 – this includes imported sperm. Now, this isn’t on the face of it a problem for L and I as we’d want ‘open to contact at 18’ anyway – but it has led to a huge sperm shortage which is why most people now have to import. Bizarrely, although this rule applies, UK sperm banks aren’t allowed to show photos (even baby photos) which seems a little inconsistent (and meant we definitely felt we had to import). I’m really interested to hear what people think about banning the use of completely anonymous donors – which I think is still the norm in the US?
Lastly (though perhaps I’ve missed lots), and I’m VERY grateful for this one, because me and L are in a civil partnership, she’ll be on the birth certificate and will have equal parental rights as soon as the baby is born…no need for all this ludicrous adopting your own child crap.
So, overall on the basis of cost but most importantly the legal rights we get I’m grateful to be doing it in the UK however I do feel jealous of the flexibility the US system seems to offer and also the much wider choice of sperm donor (lots of US sperm banks either don’t want to or aren’t allowed to important to the UK because of how strict the regime is).
What do you guys think?