New pathways to parenthood have recently emerged that did not exist, nor had even been imagined, at the turn of the 21st century. The Centre for Family Research highlights this point, “Individuals who were previously unknown to each other have begun to meet over the internet with the purpose of having children together; transgender men and women have begun to have children through medically assisted reproduction; single heterosexual men have begun to use surrogacy to become single fathers by choice; and women have begun to use identifiable sperm donors to have children” (Centre for Family Research).
These alternative family structures radically challenge the traditional nuclear family, and not least, the rise in single-women families through IVF and donor sperm services. There are many social, economic and political factors underlying this change, so let’s take a look at some of the more substantial elements.
Generally speaking, the modern-day woman is more likely to be working, traveling, more educated and financially independent than ever before. This social change is having a great impact on the decisions surrounding motherhood. For some women, choosing to pursue parenthood alone is not a decision made in the face of declining fertility, but one borne from a desire to be autonomous in their decision about when they will become parents, and how they will raise their children. This is portrayed through the rising age of first-time mothers, with 43% of first-time mums in Australia now over the age of 30 – nearly double the rate in 1991.
Furthermore, public perceptions about single-women using donor sperm are also changing due to the wealth of academic literature recently published on the issue. Previously, the public expressed a view of the single woman using donor insemination (DI) as the '40-year-old virgin' who, unable to form or sustain a functioning (heterosexual) relationship, makes a rushed, last-ditch attempt to have a child. Fortunately, research examining the profiles and motivations of single women using DI has consistently found this stereotype to be misrepresentative of the cohort. In fact, studies have illustrated that single women take longer than their married counterparts to make the decision to use DI, carefully considering and reflecting upon their age, emotional maturity, financial capabilities, and future parenting responsibilities before beginning treatment.
Lastly, waiting for the “right guy” can be timely and forcing a relationship with someone who is unsuitable to have a baby isn’t responsible. In one study involving 27 single DI mothers, over half of them would have preferred to have to have a child within a relationship, but were not content to settle for the wrong guy. With this in mind, many women see single motherhood as a temporary state and still hope for a relationship in the future, stressing the importance of not having a child in the wrong relationship.
At Demeter Fertility, we’ve accommodated for the increase in single women wanting to become mothers. If you’re considering your options, then get in touch with us. We can provide you with all the information you need to help make the decision that’s right for you.