Donor conception law for female same-sex parents

woman blowing on dandelionsThere are various ways for female same-sex couples to build a family through donor conception/ co-parenting, including:

  • asking a UK fertility clinic to treat you with sperm from a registered donor
  • conceiving with the help of someone you already know, or with a donor or co-parent from a donor-matching website
  • conceiving with the help of an overseas fertility clinic.

Will you both be legal parents?
Whoever gives birth is your child's legal mother.  We refer to birth rather than biological mother, because UK law says that the woman who carries a child is the legal mother (so if you conceive with donated eggs, or if you swap your eggs so that one of you carries the other's biological child, it is whoever carries the child who is the legal mother).  Find out more about legal motherhood.

Whether the non-birth mother is the other legal parent depends on when and where you conceive and your marital status.  Key legal changes came into force on 6 April 2009 and recognise non-birth mothers as legal parents in certain circumstances.

If you are not both legal parents (for example if your child was conceived before 6 April 2009) there are steps you can take to secure parental rights for the non-birth mother.

Find more more about legal parenthood if either of you is a trans woman.

Conceiving at a UK fertility clinic
If you conceive at a fertility clinic in the UK (whether with someone you know or an unknown donor), the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority will regulate how things work. 

If you have conceived at a clinic in the UK (after 1991), details about your donor will be kept on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's Register of Information.  You will be able to access non-identifying information about your donor (assuming you do not already know them).  You and your child will also be able to access information about any donor-conceived siblings your child has in other families. Once your child reaches the age of 18, your child might be able to ask for the donor's identity. 

Find our more about HFEA regulation and information rights if you conceive at a clinic in the UK.

The law says that you cannot be discriminated against on the grounds of your sexual orientation or gender identity.  This means that you cannot be denied access to treatment, and that you should have the same rights to NHS funding as any other fertility patients.  However, as for other fertility patients, NHS funding is not always available and you will have to show diagnosed infertility or that you have spent some time trying to conceive unsuccessfully.  Find out more about NHS funding for fertility treatment from Stonewall.

Known donation and co-parenting arrangementswoman sitting on a beach
Conceiving with a known sperm donor (whether at a clinic or at home) gives you the opportunity to know more about the donor you choose, and allows you to facilitate a relationship between your child and his or her biological parent.  The donor might be someone you already know, or someone you have found via a donor-matching website or advertisement.

As you will have direct contact with your donor or co-parent, it is important to think about what might happen if there is a dispute between you at a later stage.  Find out more about known donor disputes

To help avoid problems, it is sensible to build strong foundations at the outset, and to consider putting in place a pre-conception agreement.  It is also important to be clear about what legal status everyone will have, including who can be named on the birth certificate, and who will be legally and financially responsible for your child. 

Find out more about the law on known donation and co-parenting.


Have we answered your question? Would you like advice on your personal circumstances?

Email us at or call on 020 3701 5915 and we will explain how we can help.