If you’re contemplating single motherhood, there are many important things to consider in making your decision. Perhaps you are among a population of women who made a promise to themselves that they would still pursue motherhood if they were not married by a certain age. Or maybe you’ve been married and divorced without a child and you still want to be a mother. Perhaps you’ve always pictured yourself as a parent—but not necessarily as a wife—so single motherhood just makes sense to you. Or, quite possibly, the decision involves mourning the dream of the “traditional” path to motherhood: love, marriage, and then a child. Regardless of which path led you to this decision point, we recommend answering the following questions honestly about yourself before you move forward.
Considerations before Choosing to Become a Single Mother
There are many questions to consider in choosing to become a single parent:
- Do I have financial, emotional, and social resources to be a parent?
- Do I have realistic expectations about motherhood?
- Would my family and friends support my decision to be a single mother?
- How would I handle any health issues that arise during pregnancy or with my child?
- Do I have a good work-life balance? Do I travel frequently in my current position? Should I consider moving to another position? How will I manage all of the demands on my time?
- If something happened to me, who would be my child’s guardian?
These questions are not unique to single women, as many married couples ask themselves similar questions, although they are more poignant for a woman choosing to parent on her own.
Single women are also often posed with questions or judgments that their coupled counterparts do not receive. For example, many are asked, “Why do you want to become a parent?” The answers are similar to other women: “I always wanted to be a mother.”
Once you’ve made the decision to move forward the next step is to meet with a physician.
Step One: Meeting with a Physician
The first step for mothers by choice is to schedule a consult with a physician. During this appointment, your physician will review your medical history and order a basic infertility work-up. The work-up consists of day 3 bloodwork and an ultrasound to assess your ovarian reserve, as well as a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) to make sure your Fallopian tubes are not blocked. Many women wonder why they need this basic testing—the answer is because your physician will use the results of these simple tests to suggest the best method for conception—a basic form of treatment such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) or a more advanced option such as vitro fertilization (IVF). If your physician finds that your Fallopian tubes are blocked, then lower tech treatment options would not be beneficial to achieving the ultimate goal. Once you complete this testing, you will meet with your physician to review the results.
Following, you will have a chance to meet with a psychologist or social worker with expertise in infertility—a requirement for anyone who is using third-party reproduction. Time spent with your mental health professional will be helpful to work through the mental and emotional aspects of utilizing donor sperm. Once you’ve completed this step in the process, the next step is to select the sperm donor.
Step Two: Choosing a Sperm Donor
Many women planning to have a baby on their own don’t necessarily have any fertility problems, rather they just need sperm to conceive, which is usually obtained from an anonymous sperm donor database. Shady Grove Fertility is very selective in choosing which cryobank to refer patients. For each of the sperm banks we recommend, all sperm donors go through a rigorous course of screening, as required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—physicals, family medical history screenings, genetic screening, psychological testing, and a semen analysis, to name a few. This is to protect the recipient, ensuring that she will have access to the healthiest possible sperm.
Common Questions about Using a Sperm Donor:
Does the sperm donor remain anonymous?
A recipient will select her sperm donor using the cryobank’s website. Sperm donors are anonymous, but they usually provide a childhood picture. The database provides personal demographics (i.e., hair color, height, race, etc.), as well as essays written by the donor. Some cryobanks even offer voice recordings of interviews with the donor and information on what celebrity the donor looks like. In some cases, recipients can view if previous pregnancies have resulted from that donor’s sperm.
In the case of a known donor (i.e., a friend or family member), the recipient will still need to have an infertility work-up, as well as social work consultations. In addition, the FDA requires a quarantine of the sperm sample for 6 months in order for the cryobank to:
- test the donor sperm for sexually transmitted diseases
- freeze the sperm
- transport the sperm to Shady Grove Fertility
What are the logistics involved after a recipient selects the sperm donor?
After the recipient selects the donor, the cryobank sends the frozen sperm sample directly to Shady Grove Fertility, where we will thaw and analyze it in our andrology lab. From there, the patient will undergo an IUI or IVF cycle using the donated sperm. Additional frozen sperm specimens will be kept at the cryobank for future use.
Step Three: Starting Treatment Once You’ve Selected a Donor
Depending on the results of the basic fertility work-up, most women start with IUI. If several IUI cycles do not result in a pregnancy or if your physician discovers infertility during the initial work-up, then he or she may discuss more advanced forms of treatment like in vitro fertilization (IVF). IVF treatment is commonly used to overcome fertility problems centered around the Fallopian tubes and age-related infertility among other causes of infertility. Thankfully, IVF treatment has some of the highest success rates in terms of both pregnancies and live births.
Where to Find Support Before, During, and After Treatment
Choice Moms is a worldwide organization that gives women the resources and connections they need to decide whether single parenthood is the right path and, if so, what method to motherhood to choose, how to find support in their choice, and how to stay balanced in the lifestyle.
Shady Grove Fertility also offers support groups specially designed to help single women. These small group sessions focus on the fears, challenges, and overall support by others who are in the same situation. Attend Shady Grove Fertility’s monthly support group for single women.
Becoming a single mother is rarely an easy decision to make, but knowing that you have a strong support system in place and the resources you need to achieve your goals will help you on your journey.
If you are considering becoming a single mother by, please schedule an appointment or call our New Patient Center 877-971-7755.