Whether you are a different-sex couple, or same-sex, or just a single person wanting to start a family, please by all means do! Bringing a child into this world shouldn’t be only a different-sex couple’s privilege. In 2023 everyone can have a child, because of scientific advancements.
Assisted reproductive technology (ART) has introduced several treatments that can help couples or singles to conceive.
1. Egg freezing. It is the method of preserving a woman’s fertility so she can try and have children at a later date. Not sure when you want to start a family? Egg freezing is the best option for you. The process involves collecting a woman’s eggs, freezing them, and then thawing them later on so they can be used for infertility treatment. Firstly, you’ll need to be tested for any infectious diseases, just to ensure that affected egg samples are stored separately to prevent contamination of other samples. You’ll then start the IVF process, which usually takes around two to three weeks to complete. Normally this will involve taking drugs to boost your egg production and help the eggs mature. When they’re ready, they’ll be collected whilst you’re under general anesthetic or sedation. At this point, instead of mixing the eggs with sperm (as in conventional IVF), a cryoprotectant will be added to protect the eggs. The eggs will then be frozen either by cooling them slowly or by vitrification (fast freezing) and stored in tanks of liquid nitrogen. The latest statistics show that vitrification is more successful than the slow cooling method. Most women will have around 15 eggs collected although this isn’t always possible for women with low ovarian reserves (low numbers of eggs). When you decide to use them, the eggs will be thawed and those that have survived intact will be injected with your partner’s or donor’s sperm. Nowadays, vitrification offers post-thaw survival rates of over 95%. Τhe cost of the procedure varies depending on the clinic but usually starts from 1,500 euros. A little extra tip for the treatment to be more successful is to do it while you are still young. It is a known fact that women’s eggs decrease as time goes by, so the best age group to perform egg freezing is between 20-36 years of age, since in this age group most of the obtained eggs are chromosomally normal. In addition, the more eggs the better. Doctors will assess your ovarian reserve, by looking at a transvaginal ultrasound called an Antral Follicle Count scan, where the number and sizes of basal follicles are noted.
2. Intrauterine insemination (IUI). IUI, also known as artificial insemination, is a type of fertility treatment in which the better quality sperm are separated and then injected directly into the womb. It is a less invasive procedure that involves fewer drugs than IVF and it’s also considerably less expensive – one cycle of IUI is typically a quarter of the price of one IVF cycle. However, IUI is also less successful than IVF, with success rates generally around one-third of that for IVF. Bear in mind that if you have blocked fallopian tubes, severe endometriosis, low-quality eggs, or a low number of eggs (low ovarian reserve), IUI will not be appropriate for you, and you may be advised to get IVF treatment.
3. IVF (in vitro fertilization): It is often used when a woman’s fallopian tubes are blocked. Doctors prescribe a drug to the woman, which causes the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Once mature, the eggs are removed from the woman and they are put in a dish in the lab along with the man’s sperm for fertilization. After 3 to 5 days, healthy embryos are implanted in the woman’s uterus. The whole IVF procedure takes up to 3 weeks and success rates in Greece are about 50%. The cost varies again depending on the clinic, but usually starts at 3,000 Euros. The upper age limit, in Greece, is the recipient’s 54th birthday (according to the latest Greek government act), however, the final decision is made by the medical team. IVF is carried out when the sperm quality is considered to be ‘normal’. If there are issues with the sperm quality such as low motility or numbers, a procedure called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) may instead be used – this is where a single sperm is injected into the egg by an embryologist. There is also the possibility of IVF with egg donation. Egg donation, also known as oocyte donation, makes pregnancy possible for women who might not otherwise be able to get pregnant using their own eggs, a case that is often associated with older maternal age. It has been proven that egg/embryo donation is a very effective procedure in a wide range of cases. The procedure is similar to standard IVF, except that the eggs are sourced from a friend or from an anonymous donor, or an egg bank.
4. Surrogacy: It is an option for women for whom it’s dangerous or impossible to give birth.
Most of the above treatments apply to female couples too. IVF treatment is pretty well legislated in Greece. If one companion states that she is single, she can proceed with the treatment since all single women are eligible for IVF in our country. Typically, couples decide together which partner will carry the pregnancy. This can be because of personal preference, or because of medical reasons. Some couples also decide to take turns with subsequent pregnancies. Whichever partner will carry the pregnancy will proceed with blood work to test hormone levels, and a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) to evaluate the health of the uterus and fallopian tubes. Countries that accept same-sex female couples for IVF are: Spain, Portugal, Finland, Barbados, North Cyprus, Greece and Latvia. The last two countries accept them only if they are treated as a single woman – meaning that a notary statement is needed. Apart from the treatment above, there is also one more, sperm donation, which applies to both single women and same-sex couples.
Sperm donation: Sperm donors are most of the time young healthy men, ages 18 to 30, who have undergone a rigorous selection process that includes medical check-ups, sperm testing, and a series of blood tests to rule out infectious and genetic diseases. Greek law imposes the anonymity of the sperm donor. Therefore clinics can use sperm only from anonymous donors and their identity is strictly confidential. You can specify though, the general characteristics you may want your donor to have to make the choice more precise. Donor sperm insemination is a simple procedure. Fertility specialists perform it with a thin special sperm catheter in the uterus on the days when the woman is ovulating. It is a painless process, however, most often doctors use donor sperm in IVF (IVF), which ensures higher fertility rates.
Men who want to start a family are advised to use egg donors and a gestational carrier. Typically, couples decide together which partner will provide sperm. Some couples opt to each provide sperm to fertilize half of the eggs. The embryo used for transfer can be chosen deliberately or randomly, and the partner providing sperm will undergo a semen analysis to test motility, volume, concentration, and morphology.
In general, Greece offers some of the IVF best clinics. Doctors are highly trained and experienced, whereas the clinics feature state-of-the-art technological medical equipment. Doctors are reliable, they speak English – and other languages – and the whole process is safe and systematic. Many clinics have ISO quality certification and this ensures that the whole process abides by the highest health, safety, and hygiene international standards. So, let’s break the taboo that says only different-sex couples must procreate and give equal chances at childbearing to all!
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