Thinking about becoming a single mom by choice? This comprehensive guide offers a step-by-step guide to the fertility treatment process, information about donor conception, and helpful resources and support for those pursuing this unique path to motherhood.
In this article:
What is a single mom by choice?
Let's start with the basics! Single mom by choice (often referred to by the shorthand abbreviation, SMBC) is a term used to describe a single woman who has decided she would like to have a baby by herself - without a partner.
In contrast to those who become single mothers by chance - whether that is by being widowed, the child's father not taking an active role, or a variety of other scenarios - single mothers by choice decide to embark on solo motherhood intentionally.
In this guide to becoming a single mom by choice, we will break down the process step by step, exploring everything from choosing a sperm donor to navigating fertility treatment to finding resources to support your SMBC journey.
Why would someone decide to become a single mom by choice?
There are many different reasons a woman might opt to pursue motherhood without a partner. Below are a few common scenarios for SMBCs:
- Increasing age and the desire to have a child while it is biologically possible
- Have not yet met a partner with whom they want to have children
- Wish to raise a child on their own for various reasons
- Have adequate financial and familial support to raise a child without a partner
How common is single motherhood by choice?
As the topic of reproductive rights continues to dominate the conversation across the United States, more and more women are also becoming single mothers by choice. Current statistics indicate that the number of women opting for parenthood without a partner likely exceed 3 million in the U.S. alone.
Things to Consider Before Beginning Your Journey
- Are you feeling confident in your decision?
- Do you have a support network/person (sister, friend, mother) that will be there for you throughout this process (and after baby is born)?
- Will your insurance will help cover the costs? If not, can you afford to proceed with fertility treatment while paying out-of-pocket?
- Will you be able to go back to work? Who will care for your child when you return to work (i.e. daycare, nanny, family member)?
Steps to Becoming a Single Mom by Choice
While some women choose to pursue at-home insemination or other arrangements that don't include a fertility clinic, we strongly recommend working with a clinic and doctor to ensure you have proper guidance so you have the best possible chance at success (and don't encounter any unexpected legal issues).
If you are ready to begin your journey and become a single mom by choice, here are the steps you should take to get started:
Step 1: Find a Fertility Clinic
Research your local fertility clinic options and meet with a reproductive endocrinology and infertility (REI) specialist who will discuss your goals with you and explain what is involved with becoming a single parent.
Step 2: Fertility Testing
This is an important part of the process that helps assess your current fertility and evaluate your reproductive system to ensure there are no underlying issues that might prevent you from achieving your goals. Here's what is included in a typical fertility testing work-up:
- Hormone levels and your ovarian reserve are checked using "Day 3" blood work and a baseline trans-vaginal ultrasound to assess how many follicles are present in each of your ovaries.
- Checklist blood work, which consists of a complete work-up to look at infectious diseases, plus other panels to ensure you are healthy and can proceed with trying to conceive.
- A sonohysterogram (SHG) which infuses saline into the uterus so your doctor can look at the uterine cavity and ensure there are no polyps or fibroids present that would interfere with an embryo successfully implanting.
- A hysterosalpingogram (HSG) which uses dye to check if both fallopian tubes are open and patent (unblocked) for an egg to travel through.
Step 3: Genetic Screening
Step 4: Meet With Social Worker
Meet with the fertility clinic's social worker to discuss what’s involved with being a single parent, as well as raising and supporting a donor-conceived child. This is also the perfect opportunity to get answers to any questions you have to help make your decision.
Becoming a single mother by choice is a series of thoughtful, important decisions. Many mothers-to-be also find it helpful to speak with a licensed, experienced therapist who has worked with other single mothers when making these decisions.
Step 5: Meet With Genetic Counselor
Meet with the clinic's genetic counseling team, who will review your genetic screening results with you and help you pick out the best sperm donor, with consideration to the donor's genetics as well.
Step 6: Reconsult With Fertility Doctor
After all of the above steps have been completed, you will have a follow-up consultation with your doctor to determine the best treatment plan for you. The doctor will recommend either IUI or IVF, depending on the results of your diagnostic testing and genetic testing results.
The Role of Genetics
Understanding the importance of genetic compatibility is essential to any journey involving donor conception. At Illume Fertility, we require all patients using donor sperm to undergo a genetic carrier screening for 283 genes, then meet with a genetic counselor to discuss your test results.
Your genetic counselor will offer guidance regarding the best donor to use, depending on what genes you end up being a carrier for. Most sperm donors also undergo genetic screening, so as long as both you and the donor are not a carrier for the same gene, you can choose to proceed with your selected sperm donor.
Should I choose a known or anonymous donor?
This is a very important consideration, as it will impact not only you, but your future child. Here's what you should know about choosing a known sperm donor versus an "anonymous" (de-identified) sperm donor:
Using a Known Donor
There is more testing required for a known donor, and the known donor would also need to meet with our social worker to understand what is involved with knowing someone that is
carrying your biological child that you may not be involved with in the future.
A known donor will need to undergo blood work as well as genetic carrier screening.
Using an Anonymous Donor
An anonymous (de-identified) donor can be found through a sperm bank. You will typically have access to information about the donor's physical characteristics, family history, genetic background, academics, and potentially, their hobbies and interests.
Anonymous donors have already been pre-screened and counseled on their release of parental rights.
Remember: With the advent of companies like 23&Me, "anonymous" donors are no longer truly anonymous - your future child will likely be able to trace their heritage. This has led to the introduction of a newer, more accurate term: "de-identified" donors.
FAQs: Becoming a Single Mom by Choice
There's so much to learn about as you navigate this unique journey! Below are some of the most commonly asked questions we hear from those pursuing this path to motherhood:
Will insurance pay for fertility treatment for single moms by choice?
Some insurance plans will cover the cost of egg freezing, but others will not, since insurance
may require that the patient try to conceive on their own for a least one year or be officially diagnosed with infertility.
What do most SMBC patients worry about?
The biggest worry is usually the logistics of the medical process (testing, setting up delivery of medications, learning how to mix and inject medications, sign consents, the egg retrieval). It can be an overwhelming experience, especially when you are doing it on your own.
What is it like to have a donor conceived child?
You should always consider the potential short and long-term issues related to utilizing donor sperm. We want you to be informed and comfortable with the unique emotional, social, and psychological challenges that can arise when a child is created through donor conception.
Explore questions like:
- What can you learn from the donor conceived community?
- Are you comfortable openly sharing your story with your child and others?
- Are you prepared to answer questions from your child about their sperm donor?
- Are you prepared to talk about your child's possible donor siblings?
- Do you want your child to be able to communicate with their donor?
These aren't easy questions to answer! That’s why we encourage anyone pursuing single motherhood by choice to have strong support from both professionals and community.
Resources for Single Mothers by Choice
There are a growing number of websites, books, and organizations focused on single motherhood by choice and donor conception. Below are just a few resources to explore:
- 10 Single Moms By Choice Share Their Experiences
- Portraits of Single Moms by Choice
- 17 Celebrity Moms Who Are Single by Choice
- She Was Single. She Wanted A Baby. So She Did It Herself.
- 7 Things to Never Say to a Single Mom by Choice
- Going Solo: My Choice to Become a Single Mother Using a Donor
- Born From Love: A Single Mother by Choice
- Single Mothers by Choice: A Guidebook for Single Women Who Are Considering or Have Chosen Motherhood
- 30 Helpful Books for Single Mothers by Choice
- Building Your Family: A Complete Guide to Donor Conception
- Children in single-mother-by-choice families do just as well
- Single parent families and transitions over time
- The changing profile of unmarried parents
- Single Mothers by Choice
- Choice Moms
- Single Mother Guide
- Donor Conception Network
- Donor Conception Community
Your Dreams Are Within Reach
Becoming a single mom by choice is a decision that is becoming more and more common - though it is unfortunately still subject to societal judgments, assumptions, and challenges. However, with proper planning, professional guidance, and support from family and friends, pursuing single motherhood can be a beautiful, life-changing decision.
Choosing this path to parenthood isn't easy, but for those who are ready to welcome a child into their lives and embark on this big adventure, single motherhood by choice is a beautiful way to create the family you envision - on your own timeline.
Brigitte Alicea is an accredited IVF nurse who joined the team at Illume Fertility in 2009. She has previously served as Illume's Assistant Director of Nursing and as the Manager of Surgical Services. Brigitte’s passion is providing high-quality care to each patient going through infertility, while offering emotional support along the way.