Single women and IVF

I went to Sky News this afternoon to do an interview about the increase in the number of single women having IVF treatment – it seems it has doubled since the change in the legislation requiring clinics to take account of the “need for a father”, replacing it with the need to take into account the need for “supportive parenting”.

I don’t know why this is such an issue – is it really surprising that single women are taking matters into their own hands if they know they want children, aren’t with a partner and are mindful of their biological clocks?  We’re forever telling women not to leave it too late, and this is advice this group of women have clearly taken to heart.

What’s more, the “huge” increase we are hearing about is tiny in real numbers – in the last year for which there are figures, there are likely to be no more than 150 IVF babies born to single women, and they make up just 2% of those having IVF.

I interviewed a number of single women who’d had fertility treatment when I wrote The Complete Guide to Female Fertility, and the one thing that struck me was how carefully they had thought through their decision. Any single woman having IVF would be expected to see the clinic counsellor and staff would take into consideration the welfare of any future children before agreeing to go ahead with treatment. None of this is something anyone would enter into lightly.

It’s also important to keep this in perspective – our society has changed hugely in recent years and a quarter of all families are now headed by a single parent.  The number of IVF single parents is a teeny drop in this ocean. This didn’t stop Josephine Quintavalle of the group Comment on Reproductive Ethics describing the fact single women were having IVF as “disgusting” in the report which preceded the interview I did.  If the best those against IVF for single women can come up with is the suggestion that the the birth of a long awaited, very wanted and loved baby is “disgusting”, I think they’re doing a pretty good job of alienating the vast majority of the population.


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