Going Solo? Here are your fertility options

Women choosing single motherhood is on the increase – and so is the number of services available that help women achieve their dream.

This is happens when a woman decides to go it alone, writes Dr Georgiana Tang, Medical Director of City Fertility Centre Sydney.

There are many reasons why people choose to go it alone, whether it be because they haven’t met the right partner yet, or they have just always wanted to be a single parent, or for an array of other reasons.

There are a comprehensive range of services to help single women achieve parenthood whether that be now or down the track.

The first decision you need to think about is whether you want to try now to have a baby or whether you would like to preserve your fertility – by freezing your eggs – in order to try and have a baby at a later date.

One of the most important factors that often influences the decision on what action to take will be your age. Research shows that female fertility is at its optimum level until the age of 35. While women are born with their lifetime supply of eggs, these naturally begin to decline in quality and quantity from 25 years old and more rapidly decline from 35 years of age. The egg supply is almost non-existent by the time of menopause. Therefore, if you are hoping to use your own eggs, age plays an important role.

Here are some fertility treatment options to think about if you are a single woman wanting to achieve a pregnancy on your own.

Donor Insemination

This involves artificial insemination – a fertility procedure in which treated sperm is inserted into a woman’s uterus directly to provide a chance of conceiving. 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. In order for this to take place the women 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

Egg freezing can potentially be helpful for single women for a range of reasons including those who may wish to try and have children at a later date, those with a genetic disorder that could limit their fertility, and women with cancer 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 to fresh eggs. However, it is essential that egg freezing only happens 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.

This article was written by Dr Georgiana Tang, Medical Director at City Fertility Centre, and has been reproduced with permission.

Got more fertility questions? Contact City Fertility Centre.

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