In February 2011, The Good Men Project Magazine featured a piece written by Ben Sommer, who was conceived through Fenway's Alternative Insemination Program and raised by two lesbian moms. It tells the story of him meeting his sperm donor father. The story is published in two parts:
Since 1983, Fenway Health has been an international pioneer in helping lesbians and gay men claim their rights to parenthood. Fenway was one of the first in the nation to offer alternative insemination services to lesbians. Today we continue to provide medical alternatives for achieving conception, as well as a support network, education, and advocacy.
Resources include individual counseling and support groups for women and men considering alternative insemination, adoption, or foster care; medical services and support for women and couples in all stages of the alternative insemination (AI) process; and workshops and discussion groups that address the personal, social, legal, and political issues facing gay/lesbian-headed families. See our calendar section for selected programs and upcoming special events for LGBT-headed current and prospective families.
What is the Alternative Insemination (AI) Program?
The AI Program at Fenway Health offers instruction for home-based, non-technical insemination as well as office inseminations performed by medical practitioners. Through thoughtful education, support from our staff, and optional support groups, women develop fertility awareness and learn about the various AI options. Our staff is available to help you work through the challenging yet rewarding issues and stresses involved in the AI experience.
Why was the Alternative Insemination Program created?
Fenway Health's AI Program was founded in 1983 to support lesbians and single women in consciously creating and redefining families through alternative insemination. Before Fenway’s program, lesbians and single women who wanted to have children through AI were denied medical help and access to sperm banks. Services were only available to married heterosexual couples. Although this is no longer true today, it continues to be our goal to provide high quality AI services in a most supportive and accessible environment.
How does the AI Program work?
There are several steps involved in Fenway’s Alternative Insemination Program.
First, you and your partner or support person need to attend an AI Orientation. At the Orientation we discuss the basics of fertility, charting your menstrual cycles and methods of predicting ovulation. Screening and selection of donors (known or anonymous), ordering sperm, various methods of insemination, and some of the emotional and legal issues to consider before starting the AI process are also covered. We will send you home with a comprehensive packet containing information on how to continue your preparations for insemination.
Next, chart your menstrual cycles for three (3) months by monitoring your basal body temperature (BBT), note changes in your cervical mucus and cervix, and practice using an ovulation prediction kit. Basal body thermometers and ovulation prediction kits are available at your local pharmacy. (Out of town clients are encouraged to chart for three (3) months before attending the orientation. If your charting is done, we can schedule all required appointments for you while you are in town for the orientation. We will be happy to answer any questions about charting and using the ovulation prediction kit via phone conversations prior to your visit.)
After attending the Orientation, you then need to schedule appointments for an AI Enrollment Visit and an AI Preconception Counseling Visit with one of our medical providers. These appointments can usually be scheduled on the same day for your convenience.
At the Enrollment Visit, a we will review your BBT charts and lab results, clarify ovulation prediction methods and discuss options for home or office-based insemination procedures. Consent forms and agreements will also be reviewed and signed. We will discuss how and when to make appointments for office inseminations. You will also meet with our AI Program Assistant who will review sperm tank information and evaluation of donor profiles.
At the Preconception Counseling Visit, you and a medical provider will discuss your current state of health and medical history. You will be educated about the possible risks of AI and pregnancy and the importance of healthy lifestyle practices during insemination and early pregnancy. Our medical providers will order and perform all mandatory medical tests required for AI medical clearance at the time of this visit, or you can have the necessary lab tests done with your own health care provider. We suggest you have your physical exam and lab work done with your own provider. The Preconception Counseling Visit is required, even if you see your own health care provider for your physical exam and lab tests.
Based on your overall medical assessment, including your medical tests, we will grant you AI medical clearance.
Once you have been granted medical clearance, you are ready to order sperm. You can review informative profiles of more than 200 anonymous donors provided by the sperm banks that we use. These banks conform to the medical screening guidelines recommended by the American Association of Tissue Banks. Prior to release, the sperm is quarantined for six months while the donor is tested for HIV antibodies every three months. You will choose a sperm bank and set up an account in preparation to order sperm. The orders are shipped to Fenway and the sperm is stored in liquid nitrogen until you are ready to inseminate. Out-of-town clients will place orders with the sperm banks and the sperm will be sent directly to your home. (Sperm will be sent in a liquid nitrogen tank and will need to be used within 5 days.)
Time to inseminate! Timing is crucial to a successful insemination attempt. We recommend that you inseminate the day after your ovulation prediction kit turns positive for home-based, intracervical or intrauterine insemination.
Alternative Insemination is a costly endeavor. In addition to financial stress, some women find their time in the AI program to be emotionally stressful and challenging. Understanding the impact of these stresses, Fenway offers optional support groups and/or counseling services for women in all stages of the AI process.
We look forward to helping you through this most exciting time!
For more information about the AI Program at Fenway Health, please contact Liz Coolidge at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617.927.6243.