A Guide to Conceiving a Baby of Your Own
Do you want to have a child of your own, but you don’t have a partner? Maybe you feel your biological clock ticking and are worried that it’s too late to wait. Choosing to become a single mom is not an easy decision to make. It may hurt to realize that your dream of a husband and family may not happen when you want it to or the way you thought it would. It’s okay to grieve for that dream and feel the pain.
But the world is full of possibilities. There’s more than one way to have a family. You can choose to become a single mother, if that’s right for you. Now, let’s see how you can make that dream of motherhood happen.
Are You Sure You’re Ready?
Being a single parent is not easy. You probably know women who are divorced and have children or who got pregnant when they didn’t intend to and are raising a child on their own. Single moms have plenty of challenges and stresses. Yet millions of healthy children have grown up in single-parent homes. How does that happen? Besides giving lots of love, having a support network and being able to financially support a child are key.
Take a hard look at your family and friends. Who will be your backup, when the baby’s sick and you have to work? Who will give you emotional support? Ask your family and friends if they will go to the hospital with you when you deliver or if they can be there when you need them. Also, think about how you will afford to raise a child. Will your income cover the cost of taking care of both you and a child? Remember that will include not only food and shelter but health insurance and education. Is your family willing to help? Do you have other sources of income? Choosing to have a baby on your own is a decision to make with both your heart and your head.
Your Age is a Factor
If you want a biological child and you don’t have a partner, fertility treatment using donor sperm can make it possible for you to conceive. Your age is the major factor that determines what kind of fertility treatment you will need to have a baby. A woman’s fertility starts declining at about age 28, and declines slowly until age 35. Then it declines more steeply, and accelerates again between 39 and 42. In almost all cases, a woman’s ability to conceive naturally ends about 10 years before menopause.
Women under 35 may be able to get pregnant via IUI, intrauterine insemination, with donor sperm. If you are 35 or older, your fertility specialist may recommend moving to IVF treatment with donor sperm. Women who are 40 or older may want to consider donor eggs to increase their chance of having a baby. The first step at any age is to see a reproductive endocrinologist and get a fertility workup. Then you’ll know what your options are, based on the quality and quantity of your eggs and other factors that affect your fertility.
Choosing Donor Sperm
When you’re ready to go ahead with IUI or IVF, you will need donor sperm. You can use a known donor or choose donor sperm from a sperm bank. It’s a little more complicated that the “turkey baster” method people joke about. If you want to use a known donor, someone you know who is willing to donate sperm for you, you need to check out the legal aspects of the relationship. What do the laws in your state say about parental rights? Do you and the donor want him to be involved with the child, or not? You may want to consult a lawyer experienced in reproductive law. If you both decide to go ahead with a known donor, he will need to be screened for sexually transmitted infections. You may want genetic testing as well to make sure he’s not a carrier for genetic diseases. Some fertility centers will not work with known donors at all due to the legal issues, or will only work with them if all the legal aspects are finalized before treatment.
Donor sperm is available through sperm banks. Your fertility center may recommend one to you. Using a sperm bank is the best choice if you do not want your donor to have any relationship with the child. In most states, an anonymous sperm donor does not have any parental rights over children conceived from his donation. Sperm donors are screened for sexually transmitted infections and some hereditary diseases. Read more about choosing donor sperm here.
What Happens Next?
If you’re having IUI, usually your fertility specialist will give you Clomid to stimulate your ovaries to produce multiple eggs. When you ovulate, you will be inseminated in the fertility clinic with the donor sperm. In many cases you will then be monitored to make sure you don’t have a high-multiple pregnancy. IUI usually costs $300 – $800 plus the cost of the donor sperm. Monitoring is an additional cost.
In an IVF cycle, you inject fertility drugs prescribed by your reproductive endocrinologist to stimulate egg production and help the eggs mature. When they are ready, they are extracted from your ovaries with a syringe. Your eggs are fertilized with donor sperm in the embryology lab. When embryos develop over 3-5 days, the best one or two are chosen and transferred to your uterus. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) estimates the average cost of an IVF cycle in the U.S. at $12,400, plus the cost of fertility medications, which range from $4,000 to $10,000 per cycle. You would also have the cost of the donor sperm. IVF costs tend to be higher for older women because they often need higher doses of fertility medications in order to get pregnant.