Single parent family building at a glance
- Many single men and women choose to become parents without a significant other or partner. These individuals are often referred to as single parents, single mothers, or single fathers by choice.
- Single parents by choice need the help of a fertility clinic, as both male and female reproductive cells and organs are needed to create a baby.
- If a woman would like to become a single parent, she may pursue pregnancy through intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF) using donor sperm.
- If a man would like to become a single parent, he must use donated eggs and a gestational carrier.
- There are financial, emotional and legal considerations a person must prepare for before electing to become a single parent. At Fertility Specialists Medical Group (FSMG) we can provide financial guidance and recommendations for counselors and legal professionals who specialize in assisting individuals who would like to become single parents.
- There are support organizations for individuals who elect to become single parents through reproductive technologies, such as Single Mothers By Choice and 411 4 Dad.
Single parent family building options at FSMG
Often patients who are not in a committed relationship would like to become single parents by choice.
The physicians and staff at Fertility Specialists Medical Group are here to help these individuals achieve their family-building goals. We endorse the statements from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine that single individuals of all marital statuses and sexual orientations deserve and have the right to fertility treatments to become parents.
FSMG welcomes all patients and prides itself in a culture of acceptance and inclusivity.
- Single females need insemination by donor sperm via intrauterine insemination or IVF.
- Single men need donated eggs or embryo(s) and a gestational carrier.
FSMG has an in-house embryo donation program available exclusively to our patients.
Following is specific information on how our fertility clinic can help individuals interested in becoming single parents.
Single mothers by choice fertility options
For many women, the choice to become a single mother occurs due to increasing age and the absence of a significant other.
As a woman ages, her quality and quantity of available eggs diminish. Some women also opt to pursue single motherhood as a proactive choice despite age.
Single women have many family building options including IUI or IVF with donor sperm or transfer of a donated embryo.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) with donor sperm
For women who do not have blocked fallopian tubes, IUI with donor sperm can be the simplest and most cost-effective way to try to become pregnant.
During an IUI, sperm is placed in a syringe attached to a catheter. This catheter is advanced through the cervix and the sperm is placed within the uterine cavity. The sperm will swim into the fallopian tubes where they can fertilize the egg to create a pregnancy.
Using IVF to become a single parent mother
If a single woman fails to become pregnant with IUIs or she has infertility issues that could prevent pregnancy with IUI, IVF is the recommended treatment. IVF has the highest success rates of reproductive treatments and may include:
- IVF with donor sperm
- IVF with donor sperm and donor eggs (if infertile due to egg quality and/or quantity)
- IVF with a donated embryo
IVF is a more involved process than IUI and requires multiple steps to complete. For IVF using donor sperm, these steps include:
- Ovarian stimulation to cause multiple eggs to develop within the ovaries
- Egg retrieval
- Sperm preparation
- Placing sperm into the egg in the lab
- Growing the embryos to the blastocyst stage (five to seven days after egg retrieval)
- Embryo transfer
Considerations for using donor sperm
Most commonly, women choose to select donor sperm from a sperm bank. Sperm banks are helpful because women can choose donors based on appearance, education level, personal and family history, ethnicity blood type, and other characteristics.
Most sperm donors have photos included on their donor profiles. All donors will have completed a comprehensive screening process including review of their personal and family history, infection screening, and generally some genetic testing.
Some women prefer to use a known sperm donor. Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), known sperm donors must complete the same screenings as anonymous donors undergo at sperm banks. These screenings include blood and urine samples to test for the presence of infectious diseases.
ASRM recommends that men wanting to be a sperm donor also complete the following:
- Physical exam
- Semen testing
- Genetic testing
- Health history
- Psychological evaluation
- Personal and sexual history
When using a known sperm donor, women should seek legal counsel so that both parties understand any expectations for a relationship and/or financial support for any resulting children. We can recommend lawyers and counselors who work specifically in the fertility industry.
Support for single moms
There are many resources for women who are considering becoming a single parent through assisted reproductive treatments such as IUI or IVF. The organization Single Mothers by Choice is a supportive community for those who are considering or are already single mothers.
Single fathers by choice fertility options
As of 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the number of single fathers (either through assisted reproduction or adoption) increased to over 2 million.
Surrogacy: gestational carrier or traditional surrogate
Single men who desire to become a parent can use a gestational carrier (GC) or a traditional surrogate (not recommended) to carry a pregnancy to term. A traditional surrogate usually uses artificial insemination to fertilize her own eggs and she carries the pregnancy and delivers the child.
Traditional surrogacy means the resulting child has the genetics from the father and the surrogate’s genes. Because of the genetic link and the resultant complex legal and emotional issues associated with traditional surrogacy, the doctors at FSMG strongly recommend a gestational carrier, and most single men prefer the use of a gestational carrier.
When using a gestational carrier, donor eggs are needed to create the embryo(s). The eggs can be from a group of frozen eggs or an egg donor can be selected to go through a donation cycle. The intended father’s sperm is used to fertilize the donated eggs and create embryos. An embryo is then transferred into the gestational carrier and she will deliver the baby. The resulting child has the genes from the father and the egg donor, but not from the gestational carrier. An intended father can also choose to use a donated embryo to be transferred into a gestational carrier.
The road to single fatherhood can require a significant financial, emotional and time investment. We support our patients on this journey and offer egg donor and gestational carrier packages to help streamline some of these costs to be more affordable for our patients.
Selecting a gestational carrier to become a single father
FSMG encourages the use of a gestational carrier for third-party reproduction.
The gestational carrier can either be known, as in a family member or friend, or unknown, meaning she has no prior relationship with the intended father and is usually hired through an agency. There are risks and benefits of both options.
By using a known gestational carrier, the intended father can often be more involved in the day-to-day aspects of the pregnancy, attending doctor’s appointments and interacting with his carrier more frequently. Using a known gestational carrier can also be a significant cost reduction for the intended father, as the cost of a surrogacy agency can range from $80,000 to upwards of $120,000 per pregnancy.
When using a known gestational carrier surrogate, the single father should seek legal counsel so that both parties understand their legal rights and any expectations for a relationship with the child. We can recommend lawyers and counselors who work specifically in third-party fertility.
Gestational carrier agencies provide options for intended fathers who do not know, or desire to ask, a familiar individual who could safely carry their pregnancy. While using an agency can be costly, the gestational carriers from an agency have been through a rigorous screening process and are often more optimal carriers than known individuals. In addition, legal contracts are in place to protect everyone’s rights.
Using an egg donor to become a single father
Men who choose to use a gestational carrier must also select an egg donor or donated embryos. Egg donors can be known individuals or from agencies or egg banks. As with traditional surrogates, known egg donors will provide genetic material to the resulting child, and legal consultation is needed to delineate the roles of all involved.
Many men elect to purchase donor eggs from an egg bank. When selecting donated eggs, patients know the donor’s personal and family medical history, physical attributes often including photos, personality traits, academic achievements, and often hobbies/interests. The majority of donors have been screened for genetic conditions.
Some men may choose to use a known egg donor to achieve a pregnancy. Using a known egg donor can have both financial and emotional benefits including cost savings and the possibility of a long-term relationship between the egg donor and the resulting child(ren). Some men may feel more comfortable in using a known donor as he may know more details about the donor’s personality, education, interests and health history.
Per the FDA, known donors must complete the same screenings as anonymous donors undergo at egg banks. These screenings include blood and urine samples to test for the presence of infectious diseases. ASRM recommends that egg donors also complete the following:
- Physical exam
- Genetic testing
- Health history
- Psychological evaluation
- Personal and sexual history
When using a known egg donor, legal counsel is recommended to ensure all involved parties understand the expectations for a relationship and/or financial support for any resulting children. As with traditional surrogacy, there are complex legal and emotional aspects when a known donor is used to create a pregnancy. We recommend lawyers and counselors who work specifically in the fertility industry.
Using donated embryos for single parents
Individuals interested in becoming single parents may also experience infertility resulting from poor quantity and/or quality of eggs or sperm.
In these cases, using a donated embryo with assisted reproduction is a great option for those pursuing single parenthood. Many times, patients who have undergone IVF have additional unused embryos after completing their family-building goals. These embryos can either be stored indefinitely, discarded, donated to another patient, or donated to research
Fertility Specialists Medical Group has an established embryo donation program and can facilitate finding the right match for a single parent.