Whenever people hear or mention that they are having problems in starting or expanding their families, the first presumption is often that there are fertility issues within the couple. This does however only scratch upon the surface of some of the major hurdles that some individuals and couples are having to face. There could be difficulties due to physical fertility issues, genetic issues, or due to an individual or same sex couple not being able to conceive without assistance.
According to the NHS, around one in seven couples have problems in conceiving their own child. This can be for a number of reasons and there are various options available including medical treatment for lack of ovulation, surgical procedures, and assisted conception (IUI or IVF). Alternatively, sometimes fertility itself is not an issue and instead other factors such as a genetic condition within the family can influence how you have your child but there are processes and procedures such as Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) which can ensure that you have a healthy child without that genetic condition.
If these processes and procedures do not work then there is the opportunity to look at sperm or egg donation depending on which factor is causing the ‘fertility’ issue. This can be done through a licenced clinic or through more informal methods. Embryo donation can also be sought if there are fertility issues with both members of a couple but this would only take place through a licenced clinic. Donation can be used by heterosexual couples, an individual woman wishing to conceive, a same sex couple wishing to conceive and by any individual or couple who are looking to implant a surrogate to carry their child for them. Different legal issues apply depending upon how the donation is obtained which we discuss in more detail in a later article, but advice should always be obtained if one member of the couple is not going to be biologically linked to the child, and what the expectations are of all parties involved, particularly if the donation is taking place outside of a clinic.
There are mainly forms of help and assistance so you should not feel alone. Neither should you proceed with a particular course of action without potentially consulting a medical professional or legal adviser to find out your needs and rights, and equally any rights relating to the child. If you have any queries or concerns regarding any of the above fertility options and how they may affect your legal rights and any rights for your child, then please contact a member of our fertility law team at Biscoes.
This is a guest blog post by Alison Lee, who heads Biscoes Family Team and personally specialises in children law matters including care proceedings, adoptions and fertility issues such as surrogacy. She also advises on private child law matters. Alison is a member of the Law Society Children Panel and Association of Lawyers for Children. If you have a family issue, get in touch for advice.