Fertility Options for Single Women

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By Dr Peng Ng, specialist at City Fertility Centre Brisbane Southside.

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Making decisions about your fertility can be a daunting prospect if you are single, but the good news is there are assisted reproductive methods available that may help you when considering your options of motherhood either now or in the future.

Single women who are keen to become a mum need to decide on whether they would like to parent a child alone or perhaps wait to see if the right partner comes along.

Unfortunately, age can be one of the driving factors that can impact on this important decision because female fertility declines over time. Once a woman reaches the age of 35, fertility begins to reduce. By age 40, it is estimated that a female’s conception rate is in the range of 8-10 per cent a month and at age 43, the pregnancy rate is thought to be 1-3 per cent a month.

So, if you are a single woman and want to become a parent, the options at some point include:

  • Donor insemination

This involves artificial insemination – a fertility procedure in which treated sperm is inserted into a woman’s uterus directly at the fertile time to provide a chance of conception. This method for single women usually involves the use of frozen sperm from a donor.

 

  • In Vitro Fertilisation

In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) literally means “fertilisation in glass”. For single women it involves the fertilisation of the egg by a donor sperm in an incubator outside the body, followed by transfer of the embryo back into the uterus. For this to take place the woman has to undergo a full IVF cycle, including an egg-retrieval process. Any spare eggs can be frozen or fertilised with donor sperm and frozen as embryos.

 

  • Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) is a specialised form of IVF and involves the injection of a single sperm directly into a mature egg. This method would only be used with single women if the donor’s sperm quality is poor or previous IVF cycles showed a poor fertilisation rate.

 

  • Egg freezing

For a range of reasons, egg freezing can potentially be helpful for single women, including those who may wish to try to have children at a later date, those with a genetic disorder that could limit their fertility, and cancer patients who may need to undergo chemotherapy.

The process of freezing female eggs has advanced rapidly over the past 10 years and research studies are reporting equally successful fertilisation and embryo development rates for frozen eggs as compared with fresh ones. However, it is essential that egg freezing happens only after appropriate counselling.

While there are many egg-freezing success stories, there is no guarantee that a particular woman will have a baby down the track, frozen eggs or not. However, the younger the woman is when she freezes her eggs, the better quality they will be and hence the greater chance of a successful pregnancy at a later date.

For women who do become single parents, recent research is encouraging and has reported that single mothers who use donor insemination are parenting their children equally to partnered women. There are no significant differences in the parent’s wellbeing or children’s development*.

Whatever your decision, we recommend consulting a qualified fertility counsellor to help you through the process.

*Quality of parenting, mother and child wellbeing and ‘daddy talk’ in single-parent families formed through the use of donor insemination http://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(15)00626-3/fulltext

 

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