A Los Angeles fertility clinic has launched the world’s first programme dedicated to male couples wishing to become biological parents.

While other centres have made headway into providing gay couples with biological children, The Fertility Institute is the first with a comprehensive programme covering each stage of the process.

This includes psychological, legal, medical and surrogate issues, as well as care for both donor and patient.

Demand for surrogate mothers has risen dramatically, due mostly to the difficulties of adopting as a gay couple in the US.

Before the programme was established, gay couples who wanted biological children had to go to several different agencies to find mothers, egg donors, lawyers and medical treatment.

In many cases, the surrogate mother would drop out if she discovered that the couple wanting the child was gay.

This was usually because of a perception that the gay community has higher rates of sexually transmitted disease.

Instead, the Institute gets consent from surrogates upfront, conducts sexual health tests on the fathers-to-be, and freezes their sperms for six months as a safeguard.

70 couples have been treated so far, 40% of them from the US and the rest from Germany, China, Canada, Italy, Brazil, South Africa and the UK.

The Institute first came into the spotlight by offering couples the opportunity to choose the sex of their baby, a practice illegal in almost every country apart from the United States.

Three quarters of gay couples using the clinic are now also opting to select their child’s sex, with 60 percent of them choosing a boy. This incurs an additional fee above the $60,000 cost of the programme itself.

Dr Jeffrey Steinberg, director of The Fertility Institute, told Reuters news agency that he was braced for controversy now he has gone public with the programme.

“This is new. It is challenging. We understand people are a little intimidated, a little frightened by it. It just takes time to get used to thing.”