IVF Babble

I am a 37 year old single woman and I want to be a mother. What do I do?

This was a question that was sent to us by a reader, Annie, who was planning to do a round of  IVF with her partner

Just 3 weeks before they were due to start, Annie’s partner told her he could not go ahead with it. Not only could he not handle the thought of going through IVF, he also could not handle the thought of staying with Annie having not done the round of IVF.

Rather than give up on her dream of motherhood, Annie decided she wanted to go ahead on her own and continue with IVF.

She has already been told she needed a donor egg and therefore turned the team at Vida Fertility to gain more insight into doing IVF without a partner. Dr Katharina Spies, Medical Director, answers:

Do you have counsellors that can support Annie at this early stage in her fertility journey?

We can help Annie with any kind of support she may need. Annie will be provided with a person of contact who is well trained and used to dealing with the psychological impact of fertility treatments on patients. It can be a huge aid if patients have someone they can rely on for emotional support. Also in terms of professional help, we have a wide network of people we know and trust who are dedicated to fertility support.

Do you have other patients who have ventured alone on a journey to parenthood that Annie could talk to?

Of course, we do have other single and brave moms. We would need to ask them if they’d agree to talk to Annie first, because privacy and data protection is a must as in any clinic.

How does Annie choose an egg donor? How does Annie choose a sperm donor?

She does not. In Spain, egg and sperm donations are strictly anonymous. The choice is made by the clinic, according to physical and medical criteria. You cannot become a donor if you are not young, healthy and have not passed a list of medical and psychological tests. Secondly, we match patients and donors physically with the donor so that they look as similar as possible. The only information Annie will receive is the age and blood type of her egg donor due to medical reasons during the pregnancy.

 Can you explain what embryo adoption is?

It is like a double donation as both egg and sperm come from a donor. The difference is that the embryo is not created especially for the patient, but comes from the previous treatment of another patient who doesn’t want to transfer it. Instead of giving them to science or destroying them (the other two legal options in Spain), they decide to donate them to other people who need a double donation, like Annie.

Why do people choose a donated egg and sperm over embryo adoption?

The main reason is that egg and sperm donors are chosen with the physical characteristics of the patient to have a baby with a similar phenotype. Another reason is that, by creating new embryos, the best embryo is going to be transferred in the first treatment. This raises the chances compared to embryo adoption, where the best embryos usually have been already transferred before. A third aspect is the waiting time. Finding an embryo for adoption that fits your phenotype is not that easy. It goes a lot faster to find donors and start the whole process.

 How common is embryo adoption?

Not that common. First of all, because treatments involving a double donation are not that common either. Usually, couples and even single moms are able to use their own gametes through IVF. Even for Annie, the first thing for us would be to check the diagnosis she received to be sure her best way to become a mother would be through egg donation.

 Can you explain the process of IVF as a single woman?

The very first step is a fertility assessment with a medical consultation and recent tests results. It is very important to have a clear diagnosis, to cover all your medical aspects and discuss with your doctor your needs, and possibilities, etc.

Then, if your treatment is IVF, it all depends on 1) your agenda, and 2) your eggs. With the first, it is really up to you, because the sperm of a donor is quite easy to find, so we can start right away if you want to. The second is unfortunately out of your control. The only thing you need to do is strictly follow your medical plan. It usually involves hormone stimulation injections and monitoring for 10 to 13 days prior to egg retrieval and fertilisation. According to your body (eggs and endometrium), this last part can be made during one stay in Spain or it can take several cycles. This is why it is so important to do one step at a time with IVF.

Is the number of women “going solo” increasing?

A LOT!!! They are not yet our main patients but the proportion is increasing every year. I’ve been a reproductive medicine gynaecologist for over 10 years now, and the difference from when I started is huge. Especially with women from the UK

If you have any further questions about fertility treatment as a single woman, do drop the team at Vida Fertility a line.

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