What do you do if you decide you want to be a mother but you don’t have a partner? This is a question that more and more women are asking themselves today due to so many factors. It seems that the rise in dating apps has lead to a decrease in men who are prepared to commit to parenthood. For some women though, they simply want to just go it alone. Whatever your situation, you have options.
We turned to the team at Clinica Tambre to answer our questions about the options single women have to become a mother.
Q: Do you offer counselling to ensure the patient is making the right decision? If a young woman of, for example, 25 came to you, would you treat her or would you offer her counselling, to discuss the possibility of egg freezing instead?
A: (Dr. Esther Marbán) If the patient wants to become pregnant, we will inform her about the different reproductive options she has. If she has decided to become a mother at that moment, we wouldn’t discourage her but we would give wide information about egg freezing too so she can take the decision that best suits her.
Q: If the patient is a woman, how does she choose her sperm donor? How do you proceed with donor selection? Can Fenomatch be used?
A: (Saul Mizrahi, Patient Care Coordinator ) The Assisted Reproduction Law in Spain specifies that the donors are completely anonymous. This means that the selection process is carried out by the team of experts and the doctor who will lead the selection, based on blood group compatibility and physical characteristics.
The second aspect stated in the law is that the donors must resemble the carrier mother, so in addition to the physical characteristics that the patient writes down on the form, Fenomatch technology is used to screen the preselected donors, ensuring the donor who has the highest match score according to biometrical phenotypic similarities, is selected.
Q: What tests are carried out?
A: (Saul Mizrahi, Patient Care Coordinator) During the first consultation, the doctor will recommend the tests he/she considers necessary to ensure the best diagnosis and treatment plan. Clinica Tambre is focused on providing a personalised treatment plan, as each patient is unique. The ultrasound and AMH are essential in finding out the ovarian reserve, and besides the basic tests such as a complete blood count, serologies and hormonal tests, the doctor can suggest specialized tests according to each case.
Q: Would the patient have IUI or IVF? (Can you explain the difference?)
A: (Dr. Esther Marbán) Depending on the woman’s age, her medical history and previous examinations, we would suggest IUI or IVF.
IUI is normally recommended for young women with a normal ovarian reserve and normal fallopian tubes. The treatment starts with menstruation. The patient undergoes a mild ovarian stimulation with the aim of producing 1 or 2 follicles. This stimulation will take between 10-12 days. After checking the follicles’ growth and the endometrial thickness, the patient will use a medication to ovulate and the IUI will be scheduled 36 hours later. The sperm donor would have been selected previously and the sperm sample is prepared 2 hours before performing the insemination, which is not painful.
IVF includes ovarian stimulation too, but the doses are higher, with the aim of achieving optimal ovarian response according to the woman’s age and ovarian reserve. The duration is the same as in IUI. After using the medication to ovulate, the egg retrieval is performed 36 hours after, under sedation. The retrieved eggs will be fertilised on the same day to produce embryos. The embryos are left in the culture for 5-6 days until they reach the blastocyst stage. On that stage, the best quality embryo would be transferred and the other good quality embryos that may be, would be frozen for the future. The embryo transfer is not painful and does not require anaesthesia.
Q: Is IVF expensive?
A: (Dr. Esther Marbán) It will depend on the age and ovarian reserve of the woman and, of course, the treatment we decide to perform, which can be artificial insemination or IVF (either with own eggs or donor ones). Each case is so specific and there are so many factors that the cost can range from 1470€ to 12395€.
Q: How many single women do you have coming to you for treatment? Have you seen this number rise?
A: (Inge Kormelink, CEO of Tambre) In the last 5 years, the number of single women coming to our clinic has continued to increase, reaching approximately 100 women in 2018.
Q: Is there an age limit? Would you treat a woman over 45 if her eggs were viable?
A: (Dr. Esther Marbán) In Spain, the age limit is 50 years old, but the decision to accept an older woman depends on each clinic as the law does not forbid the clinic from treating them. Due to a low ovarian reserve, low egg quality and the high number of embryos with alterations in the chromosomes in women older than 45 years old, the best treatment to undergo is egg donation. Women over 45 years old should be informed about the low pregnancy and high miscarriage rates in case the patient decides to try IVF with her own eggs.
If you are a single woman thinking about going it alone, there are some incredible support groups out there, including The Stork and I which offers a sense of community for solo mums around the globe, supporting people to feel less alone in their situation. The Stork and I website has a section called solo mum stories. This space is designed to encourage women to share their stories of their journey to solo motherhood.