At some point during your fertility journey, your doctor may bring up a psych evaluation. A what?! Yes, you read that correctly. A psych evaluation, or more formally, an “Intended Parent Psychological Evaluation.”
When Micaela and I were going through the process and I heard this I immediately went into defense mode. I thought, heterosexual couples don’t have to be “evaluated” before they become parents so why should we? Even though the clinic we used claimed to be an LGBTQ+ friendly fertility center, this felt like another form of discrimination towards our community. Turns out they were an incredibly LGBTQ+ friend clinic and this wasn’t discrimination at all. After doing some research I learned that if at any point during the fertility process a couple needs to use a third party (for sperm, or eggs or a womb) a formal evaluation is needed. Heterosexual couples included.
Truthfully, it didn’t feel like an evaluation at all. It felt more like a deep conversation Micaela and I would have otherwise had on our own, that just happened to be in front of a licensed therapist. She asked us lots of questions about our fertility journey. The ones you might expect like “What methods of insemination are you planning on using?” And “Is your donor known or anonymous?” As the session went on, she asked more of the tough questions. Some of which Micaela and I had only scratched the surface of at home. Questions like: “How do you plan on telling your children about their donor?” And “What age do you plan on starting these discussions?” We discusses our answers in front of her and she jotted down notes.
Since we both had intentions of carrying, she also asked things like: “What will you do if one of you can’t get pregnant?” And together we hashed out options.
Honestly, once my ego got over the fact that we HAD to get an evaluation, I actually found the session helpful. Talking about things in this formal setting helped me articulate a few questions I had floating around in my head but hadn’t fully processed. Additionally, the therapist even brought up some scenarios I hadn’t considered and was glad she brought them to my attention.
At no point during the evaluation were we required to show her our bank account, our tax return, or proof of income. They never did a home visit, made judgements on whether or not our house was fit for children or contacted co-workers or family members to assess our readiness for parenthood. This evaluation is nothing like that. It’s just an opportunity to bring up questions and have a conversation about the implications of using a third party donor.
In the United States, this is a requirement at some fertility clinics, so don’t be surprised if the clinic you end up going to doesn’t have you do this. If your clinic DOES require this however, be prepared to dish out around $300 for an hour long appointment with a specially trained therapist. (If you already see a therapist regularly, chances are you will have to see a different one for this appointment- someone who specializes in intended parent evaluations and holds this specific certification).
Truthfully, I think if this was called a “Donor Conversation” it would feel much less intimidating and be more well received by members of our community. All in all, if this wasn’t a requirement, we probably would not have shelled out the cash to have these conversations in front of someone, but since we did, we took advantage of the opportunity and ended up asking her some questions too. In the end, it ended up being a good experience.
I know a lot of you live outside of the United States, so I reached out to some same sex couples in different countries about their experience with the psych evaluation and this is what they had to say!
United Kingdom // Sarah and Laura
“At our UK fertility clinic we had an initial 1 hour counseling session with an associated councilor, a requirement of the clinic for all couples undergoing fertility treatment (not just same-sex couples). The initial questions were fairly generic – what if the treatment failed? How many attempts would we be willing to go through? How will we support one another? etc. The second part was specific to us as same-sex parents – how would we tell our child they were conceived? How would we introduce the subject into our child’s life? How will we handle our child having the option to meet the donor (as in the UK it is a requirement that any donor has to be available for contact by the child when they reach 18.) What support do we have within family and friends? Do we have any male role models that would be involved in our child’s life? We discussed ideas, suggestions and ways other people had approached similar situations. We learned how to refer to the donor and how to get others to do the same, how donor siblings were not to be referred to as brothers or sisters and they suggested that we start considering how we will navigate the donor possibly playing a role in our daughter’s life once she is an adult. We got advice, input and guidance on where to get further support which included support groups run by the clinic.
Although initially we were nervous for the counseling session, we ultimately found it a positive experience that made us think about things we hadn’t considered and gave us good ideas for how to handle future situations that will likely come up as our Annabelle gets older.”
Canada // The Caron Family
“We already knew that everyone at our local hospital assisted procreation clinic had to undergo the psych evaluation so we did not see it as discrimination, but we did went in feeling like we had to pass a test. The truth is we came out of that meeting feeling well informed, confirmed in our reflexions and more equipped to face our possible children feelings and questioning. It was helpful and very interesting, especially on the open ID donor question. It felt nothing like passing a test. Actually, it was more or so one of the best conversation we had about having children with a donor, because the professional in question was very knowledgeable about it all. We even told each other that we were eager to go meet the same psychologist for baby number two. Turns out the nurse at our clinic told us recently that we did not have to undergo it again this time around.”
Brazil // Marcela and Adi
“In Brazil, sperm can’t be sold or bought. Therefore, to get a donation from a bank you need to wait in a waiting list. And guess what? Lesbian couples are at the very bottom, last priority. Also, all donations are totally closed and you don’t get to see much of the medical and personal history of the donor-don’t even think about photos. The option is usually to buy it from an international bank and most don’t require a psych evaluation. For us, to build a family around here, it’s quite a journey. But for sure is 100% worth it!”
I hope you found this helpful as you go along your fertility journey. As always if you have any more questions, please leave them below or reach out to me on Instagram!