Kate joins growing number of intentionally solo mums – Post-Covid surge in use of donor sperm for women wishing to ‘go it alone’

A recent report by fertility watchdog the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has revealed a post-Covid surge in the number of women choosing to become solo mums, with 44 percent more seeking to achieve their dreams of independent motherhood via fertility treatment in 2021 than in 2019.

The majority of these follow the IVF route, but during the same period there was also an increase of 22 percent – from around 6,000 to 7,000 a year – in direct insemination treatments, otherwise known as intrauterine insemination or IUI.

Thirty-nine-year-old senior marketing manager Kate McElroy from Cheltenham, solo mum to three-week-old baby Joshua, is one of those who chose IUI, using the services and sperm stock of Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine (BCRM).

Kate McElroy said: “I was having to pay privately for treatment to become a solo mum, so cost was one of the reasons I opted for IUI.

“You can buy the vials of sperm one by one at BCRM without committing to a longer programme so it’s a flexible way to go, and the clinic stocks sperm from HFEA-approved supplier Cryos International in Denmark which is less expensive than bought-to-order stock from elsewhere.

“Before I made the decision to try for a baby independently, I had a fertility MOT which included a scan to check my fallopian tubes were functioning normally.

“The results of the exam indicated that I should have no issues conceiving naturally, and IUI treatment doesn’t have to involve a preparatory drug regime like IVF does so I thought I’d prefer that.

“I’d always known I wanted a child of my own, so when I found myself without a suitable partner in my mid-thirties I’d had a fertility check to ensure I hadn’t already left it too late. At that time a friend suggested I consider going it alone, but back then it didn’t feel right.

“However when my 37th birthday arrived, I promised myself that if I was still single in July 2021 when I turned 38, I would go for it.

“I come from a huge family: my Dad is one of 12, so I’ve got lots of cousins and I’ve always loved babies.

“I have a very close relationship with my Mum, who lives nearby, and my sister Clare, who lives in Basingstoke, and both of them understood how much I wanted a baby and they’re incredibly supportive.

“Unfortunately, life was still very much affected by Covid restrictions when my thirty-eighth birthday rolled around, but by the following year things were better. Nevertheless, it took me until the October to summon up the courage to get things started.

“The nurse I saw, Fiona Pringle, was brilliant and supported me throughout my entire fertility treatment. Actually, everyone I saw throughout my fertility treatment was amazing.

“The procedure for IUI feels a bit like having a smear test done. It simply involves having the sperm injected into your uterus via the vagina through a straw. A whole vial is used for each treatment – emulating nature, if you like.

“By contrast, if I’d opted for IVF, one vial of sperm would have served for many cycles of treatment if necessary. IVF is actually a more reliable way of getting pregnant too, however the other elements of IVF treatment mean it works out dearer than IUI all told.

“Anyway, all the indications were that IUI should allow me to conceive, so after discussing it all with my consultant I booked in for my first cycle.

“I had the first round of IUI in February 2022 but didn’t fall pregnant, then I had the second round at Easter and that time I did conceive.

“Sadly, the seven-week scan showed no heartbeat, so I had to have a D and C. This isn’t uncommon but it’s not something that’s discussed much and emotionally it’s quite a hard thing for a woman to go through.

“It was July when my periods started again so I had a third round of treatment but that didn’t work.

“Then, in September, round four resulted in my lovely Joshua!

“So I had four rounds of IUI in total, two pregnancies, one baby.

“The pregnancy was very straightforward but because of that first loss I was anxious until I got to about 24 weeks. I was very lucky though really – I stayed active, kept running until I got to about 31 weeks – and generally was fit and healthy.

“Joshua George was born on 7 June 2023, weighing 6lb 4oz. My wonderful sister Clare was my birth partner and our mum, Norma, was also with us in recovery. It was so lovely to have them both there to share the joy.

“Mum is a fantastic hands-on grandma, and I’m so glad I have her locally to support me. And Clare has two little boys aged four and two – ready-made playmates for Joshua when he’s a bit older.

“I’m taking a year off as mat leave, but will return to work after that. At the moment I’m just getting used to being a mum and I’m loving every minute of it. If I had my time over I would definitely do it all over again.”

Women wishing to have a baby using donor sperm can attend one of the regular free open evenings at BCRM to get a realistic overview of the help available to them, how much treatment costs, the clinic’s success rates, use of donor services, and a patient’s likely treatment journey.

The next open evening will take place on Wednesday 5 July from 6pm-8pm at BCRM’s clinic at Aztec West. Spaces are free of charge but limited, so anyone wishing to attend should contact the clinic to reserve their places in advance.

The session will explore how sperm donors are screened for a ‘normal’ level of fertility and health, and how would-be-mums have the chance to specify any characteristics they’d consider it important for their donor to possess, such as ethnic group, height, blood group, and/or hair and eye colour, so that the team at BCRM can select a suitable match.

It is also possible for a woman to have a baby using sperm from a known donor, and this is another subject which can be discussed at the open evening.

After a Q&A session the second part of the evening will include private mini consultations with one of the clinic’s specialist consultants to discuss each attendee’s particular circumstances, a tour of the centre, and the opportunity to meet members of the lab team and view the state-of-the-art facility where the specialist IVF and IUI treatments take place.

All would-be mums will be offered counselling by BCRM’s experienced fertility counsellor before, during and after treatment, starting with an initial ‘implications’ session to discuss the issues that relate to having a baby using donor sperm.

BCRM (www.fertilitybristol.com)  is the longest established fertility clinic in Bristol, helping people from throughout Wales and the South West with fertility treatment for both private and NHS patients. The clinic is involved in innovative research and has one of the best success rates with IVF and other fertility treatments in the UK.

About Lisa Baker, Editor, Wellbeing News 4246 Articles
Editor Lisa Baker is passionate about the benefits of a holistic approach to healing. Lisa is a qualified Vibrational Therapist and has qualifications in Auricular Therapy, Massage, Kinesiology, Crystal Healing, Seichem and is a Reiki Master.