Single and Infertile: What’s a Girl to Do?

Single and Infertile: What’s a Girl to Do?

Author Leah Campbell with her daughter.  Photo credit:  Leslie Meadows Photography

Author Leah Campbell with her daughter. Photo credit: Leslie Meadows Photography

There is a common misconception in society today about what an infertile woman looks like. People conjure up images of women who are older, childless, married and desperate to conceive a baby after years of trying. Don’t get me wrong, those women absolutely exist within the infertility community (and perhaps they even make up the majority of our ranks) but they aren’t the only demographic fighting to conceive. Infertility can strike the young, it can afflict those who have previously had children with ease, and it doesn’t spare the single.

That’s right. There are right now, today, single women waging a war against infertility without a partner by their side. I was one of them.

I am one of them.

My fight is over now, resolved finally through an adoption that healed the holes in my heart I was not sure would ever go away. But once upon a time, not too long ago, I sat in a doctor’s office being told that my chances for conception were quickly fading away; that if I ever wanted to carry a child through a pregnancy of my own, the now-or-never gauntlet had officially been thrown. I was there, as a single infertile female, trying desperately to figure out what I was supposed to do next.

Your Options

The resources available to single women facing infertility are nowhere near as vast as they are for couples. Even at the fertility clinics you may visit, you will likely be asked to fill out a stack of paperwork – half of which is meant for information about your non-existent spouse. Everything is catered to couples, because that is who people normally associate the word “infertile” with. But there are still options available, even if you are going it alone.

    Sperm Donation

    No matter what, you will need to find a sperm donor. Women can do a whole lot on their own nowadays, but this is one area where we still need a little bit of help. So whether you choose to go with a known donor, or opt for an anonymous purchase through a sperm bank, securing some sperm needs to be your top priority. If you do decide to use an anonymous donor, most clinics and cryobanks can walk you through the process and help you to figure out exactly what you need. Keep in mind that unlike many couples who may be able to time their cycles and try from home, in most cases where purchased sperm is involved – you will need to go to a doctor’s office for at least the insemination part of the equation.

    Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)

    The least invasive of the options available, IUI procedures are conducted in a doctor’s office and are timed to your cycle. Sometimes medication is involved to get your ovulation on track. The IUI itself is basically painless and only takes about 15 minutes from start to finish.

    In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

    IVF cycles are more complicated (and expensive) than IUI cycles, and are typically utilized when there appears to be issues with your tubes or even possibly egg quality. After several weeks of hormones to encourage increased follicle production, you will undergo an outpatient surgery where eggs will be extracted from your body. These eggs are then combined with the donated sperm in a lab, and allowed to grow into embryos for 3 to 5 days before a select number will be placed into your uterus via a simple catheter procedure.

The Obstacles

Infertility is always a difficult challenge to tackle, but for single women hoping to conceive – there are a few additional obstacles to overcome…

    Finding Support

    While couples struggling to conceive typically have each other to lean on, the single woman pursuing the same goal may feel as though she has no one. Not everyone in your life will support your decision to pursue single parenthood, and the usual isolation that accompanies infertility can sometimes be tenfold for the single woman. There are those out there who have been through what you are currently facing and are ready and willing to support you though. Single Mothers By Choice are a growing demographic, typically made up of strong, educated and determined women. Search for groups of choice moms in your area, and try to find online support groups to connect with as well.

    Natural Fertility Options

    Unfortunately, going it alone means limiting some of your options for natural fertility treatments. When you don’t have a partner on this journey with you, charting and timing sexual intercourse at home isn’t really a possibility. That doesn’t mean you can’t design integrative treatment plans to help aid the path to conception, however. While you will likely need medical interventions in order to conceive, dietary changes and the use of acupuncture and other natural methods can still increase your chances of success.

    Social Worker Clearance

    When using donated sperm, the vast majority of clinics will require you speak to a social worker or therapist about the implications of donor DNA. For many single women, this can be frustrating as it feels like an extra barrier no one else has to cross. Rather than looking at this as a negative though, consider it a free therapy session to work through some of the complicated issues which may arise as a result of parenting on your own. While it can be a frustrating thing to be forced into, in many cases it actually proves to be a beneficial and enlightening experience.

Buying Time

Not all women are ready and willing to pursue conception on their own, even when branded with the dreaded “infertile” label. This is an extremely personal decision and not one you should ever make lightly or on a whim. If your heart is still set on waiting for love to come before the baby carriage, there are options available to you as well. Depending on the reason behind your infertility, egg freezing might be a viable choice to consider. Freezing your eggs involves a very similar process to IVF, except that once your eggs are retrieved; they are immediately preserved for later use rather than being fertilized right away. Success rates for frozen eggs vary, and your doctor may suggest a few rounds in order to build up a large amount of eggs for future use, but this can be one way to buy time until Mr. Right comes along.

You can also consider a few natural methods for fertility preservation, depending on the condition which is currently contributing to your infertility. In some cases, dietary changes and lifestyle improvements can go a long way towards buying you a bit more time.

References:
1. http://www.choicemoms.org/trying/fertility/

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