Sunday Age 13 November 2012
Single women in their late 30s are increasingly turning to IVF to fulfil their dream of having a baby, instead of waiting to find a partner.
Allison Myers conceived Ayla on the first cycle: ‘I got to 39, I’d never met the right person and I wanted a child, so I rang Monash IVF.’ Photo: Angela Wylie
SINGLE women in their late 30s are increasingly turning to IVF to fulfil their dream of having a baby, instead of waiting to find a partner.
IVF clinics in Melbourne and Sydney report the number of women using donor sperm to conceive a child has jumped 10 per cent in the past three years. Although lesbian couples account for some of the increase, doctors say the real growth is among older single heterosexual women.
The demand has been particularly pronounced in Victoria, where until 2010 it was illegal for single women to do IVF if they weren’t medically infertile. Monash IVF has performed IVF cycles for 463 single women with an average age of 38 since the law changed, while 169 same-sex female couples have undergone the process.
”We’re seeing more and more of these ladies. Women who can’t find Mr Right but still want a child realise this is an option for them,” the deputy president of the Fertility Society of Australia, Michael Chapman, said. ”It’s become almost normal to be a single mum. So when these women get to 38, 39, they go to donor sperm and do assisted reproduction.”
Categorised by the IVF industry as ”socially infertile”, these women rely on their mother, sister or a friend to support them through the IVF process in the absence of a partner.
However, some sperm donors are refusing to let their sperm be used by this group of women, concerned for the welfare of a child raised without a father. ”Many sperm donors are not comfortable giving sperm to single women and lesbian couples,” Professor Chapman said. ”There is a desperate lack of men who are prepared to give into that environment.”
More generally, sperm supplies have fallen since donors lost their anonymity in 2010. New South Wales law dictates one man can father only five families, while in Victoria a sperm donor can father 10 families.
Professor Gab Kovacs from Monash IVF said his single patients were usually successful women in careers like banking or journalism. ”They’re financially able to support a child on their own.”
He said it was safer to use IVF than have a one-night stand to conceive a child because of the information sperm donors must provide, including screening for genetic history and infectious diseases. ”If you pick up someone in a pub, you don’t know what you’re getting.”
Yet Professor Kovacs is ambivalent about the growing number of women opting for IVF because they haven’t found a man willing to have a child with them. ”It’s a social problem. I’m not sure if we’re solving it with the medical solution of freezing eggs and IVF,” Professor Kovacs said.
It was Allison Myers’ sister who suggested she go it alone via IVF to have a baby.
”I got to 39, I’d never met the right person and I wanted a child, so I rang the clinic. It was so simple and fast; it was a bit daunting at first, it was so easy,” Ms Myers, who conceived her daughter Ayla on the first cycle, said.
Although she initially hesitated over whether she could raise a child by herself, Ms Myers, a plumber from Montrose, says it was the best decision she’s ever made.
”I’m proud of what I’ve done – look at what I’ve got. She’s beautiful … In some ways she saved my life. As a single person you’re out partying, drinking, blowing money, you don’t see a positive future. She comes along and it’s fantastic, I want to see her grow up.”
Ms Myers thinks men reluctant to be fathers don’t realise the joy they are missing out on. She encourages older single women who want children to consider IVF.
Ms Myers hopes when Ayla grows up she’ll be accepting of how she was conceived. She says she is very grateful to her donor and his wife for the ”wonderful gift” they gave her. ”Once you feel that baby move in your stomach, you think, ‘why did I leave it so long?”’