How Can a Woman Get Pregnant Without a Man? – Your Options

By BSc, MSc (embryologist), MD, FACOG, FACS, FACE (reproductive endocrinologist), PhD, MSc (embryologist) and BA, MA (fertility counselor).
Last Update: 10/04/2016

Single women can get pregnant through fertility treatments using donor sperm, either via artificial insemination (AI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF). Single mothers have some rights such as receiving assistance from the local authority. In the UK, they may be eligible for a reduction in the amount of Council Tax.

Which options are available?

Getting pregnant without a male partner is possible thanks to sperm donation. The main routes are: using sperm from an anonymous donor or a donor you already know, or seeking IVF abroad. Another option to become a single mother by choice is traditional adoption.

At-home artificial insemination with sperm from a bank is an option, too. Nowadays, pregnancy can be achieved through this method by looking for a donor online and having the semen sample shipped home. In sperm banks, the screening of potential donors includes genetic diseases as well as a quarantine period to be tested for STIs.

Donor insemination for single mothers

Reproductive success is likely to happen through this fertility treatment provided that the following minimum requirements are met:

  • To have at least one functioning Fallopian tube
  • Normal ovarian reserve levels
  • To be aged 37 or less

In women older than 37 years of age, the chances of getting pregnant with AI are so low that most fertility clinics go for in vitro fertilization on the first attempt, which success rates are normally higher.

These are the steps involved in the artificial insemination process:

  • Mild ovarian stimulation IVF to obtain 1 or 2 mature eggs
  • Triggering ovulation with fertility drugs (it is expected to take place within 36 hours)
  • Thawing donor sperm and preparing the insemination cannula
  • Insemination, i.e. placing the semen sample inside the patient's uterus
  • Quantitative beta-hCG pregnancy test

Artificial insemination is the treatment of choice for many single mothers by choice, since it is a low cost technique which does not involve a high level of complexity.

In vitro fertilization with donor sperm

When a patient is unlikely to success with artificial insemination, she can get pregnant without a man through in vitro fertilization. The following are the most common cases in which this technique is indicated:

An IVF cycle starts with egg collection from the woman's ovaries. The retrieved eggs are then fertilized with donor sperm in order to create new embryos, which will be then transferred to her uterus.

Fertilization can be carried out in two different ways: via standard IVF or ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection). Nowadays, many clinics bet on ICSI as the first option due to its high success rates. Also, it allows us to make sure that each retrieved oocyte is penetrated by a sperm.

The IVF protocol is comprised of the following steps:

  • Ovulation stimulation to get multiple eggs to develop in the same menstrual cycle
  • Thawing the semen samples collected from a donor
  • Follicle puncture for oocyte retrieval
  • Fertilization in the laboratory, either through IVF or ICSI
  • Embryo culture
  • Embryo transfer to the woman's uterus after selecting the embryos with the highest-quality
  • Quantitative beta-hCG pregnancy test

To become a single mother, you need to undergo a fertility treatment with donor sperm. If this is your case, we recommend that you get your Fertility Report now to find the most suitable fertility clinic for you. Our rigorous selection criteria plus your particular needs equal the best clinic for you. You will receive a detailed report with the clinics recommended by us, as well as the conditions they offer for each treatment option.

IVF with donor eggs and donor sperm

Women who find themselves in any of the following situations may need to use donor eggs to become single mothers as well:

  • Low egg reserve count: Egg quantity and/or quality is insufficient as to create embryos that are capable of developing and lead to a successful pregnancy. It is common in cases of advanced maternal age.
  • There are no eggs left: It may occur naturally as a consequence of early menopause. Nonetheless, the most common cause is associated with the intake of certain medications or ovarian surgery.
  • Preventing inherited disorders: If it is suspected that, by using the woman's own eggs, there is a high risk for the embryos to carry a genetic disease, egg donation can be the most reasonable option to conceive a healthy baby.

The process of double-donor IVF is the same as the procedure followed to carry out a conventional IVF, except for the fact that ovulation induction and follicle puncture are unnecessary in this case, since it is the egg donor who undergoes this process.

The only thing recipients have to do is taking fertility drugs to trigger follicle growth, thereby making sure endometrial receptivity has been achieved by the time of the embryo transfer into the maternal womb.

FAQs from users

Can I be a single mother using a friend's semen?

By Mark P. Trolice MD, FACOG, FACS, FACE (reproductive endocrinologist).

In the United States, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) oversees the use of egg, sperm, and embryo donation. As a result, all donations must comply with FDA guidelines. In the circumstance of a “known” sperm donor, the friend donating must undergo a physical examination, infectious disease blood testing, psychological evaluation, and cryopreservation (freezing of the sperm) within seven days of blood work. Further, we require legal contracts between the parties prior to sperm insemination.

Do you recommend me to have a baby alone at 40?

By Andrea Rodrigo BSc, MSc (embryologist).

After 35, the chances for a woman to conceive via artificial insemination are so low that the treatment of choice is usually in vitro fertilization.

So you can get an idea, while a woman in her 20s has a 20% of becoming pregnant during a unique menstrual cycle, by her mid-30s her chance would be about 15% per cycle. This rate continues to drop until menopause and, at age 40, it can be as low as 10%.

Can I become a single mother with artificial insemination?

By Patricia Recuerda Tomás BSc, MSc (embryologist).

Yes, maternity is possible without a male partner. This option can be achieved using donor sperm, based on the physical characteristics of the patient. The success rates of AID are associated with the absence of tubal pathologies and age.

Can you have a baby without a man or sperm?

By Andrea Rodrigo BSc, MSc (embryologist).

The only way for a woman to have a baby without sperm cells being used is through traditional adoption. Conversely, should she wish to experience the process of pregnancy, the only chance for her to become a single mother is by turning to assisted reproductive technologies, such as AI and IVF (both explained above).

Is it possible to become a single mother and be happy?

By Andrea Rodrigo BSc, MSc (embryologist).

Women who decide to become single mothers through assisted reproductive technology can find psychological support in most fertility clinics around the world.

For some women, navigating this path is not easy, and depression, regret and loneliness are common negative feelings before, during and after the treatment. Seeking psychological support can help you see the silver linings of the process of becoming a single mother by choice.

Can I become a single mother of two?

By Andrea Rodrigo BSc, MSc (embryologist).

In principle, the answer is yes, but depends on how you achieve it. There are two possible ways: performing a multiple embryo transfer (more than one embryo) or freezing your resulting embryos to conceive in the future after having your first child.

Multiple embryo transfers are not recommended because multiple pregnancies entails way more risks than singleton pregnancies: low birth weight, preterm labor/delivery, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, cesarean section, intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), etc.

If IVF does not work with my own eggs, is egg donation the only option left for me?

By Andrea Rodrigo BSc, MSc (embryologist).

In case of repeated IVF failure with own eggs, women have two alternatives: double-donor IVF (sperm donation + egg donation) or embryo adoption.

Using both donor eggs and donor sperm is more expensive than IVF with just donor sperm, as the egg donor fees (treatment for oocyte retrieval, gamete cryopreservation and storage, etc.) should be added to the total cost. However, the main benefit is that both gametes will be of optimal quality and therefore the embryos will be more likely to implant.

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Authors and contributors

 Andrea Rodrigo
Andrea Rodrigo
BSc, MSc
Bachelor's Degree in Biotechnology from the Polytechnic University of Valencia. Master's Degree in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the University of Valencia along with the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI). Postgraduate course in Medical Genetics. More information about Andrea Rodrigo
 Mark P. Trolice
Mark P. Trolice
Reproductive Endocrinologist
Mark P. Trolice is the Director of Fertility CARE – The IVF Center and Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology (OB/GYN) at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine. He is Board-certified in REI and OB/GYN, and maintains annual recertification. His colleagues select him as Top Doctor in America® annually, one among the top 5% of doctors in the U.S. More information about Mark P. Trolice
License: ME 78893
Dr. Rachele Pandolfi
Dr. Rachele Pandolfi
PhD, MSc
College studies on Molecular Biological Sciences in Italy. PhD in Biomedical Research, with a Master's Degree in Human Reproduction. Several scientific publications. Currently, she continues expanding her professional career as an embryologist at Clínica Tambre. More information about Dr. Rachele Pandolfi
License: 20059-M
Adapted into english by:
 Sandra Fernández
Sandra Fernández
Fertility Counselor
Bachelor of Arts in Translation and Interpreting (English, Spanish, Catalan, German) from the University of Valencia (UV) and Heriot-Watt University, Riccarton Campus (Edinburgh, UK). Postgraduate Course in Legal Translation from the University of Valencia. Specialist in Medical Translation, with several years of experience in the field of Assisted Reproduction. More information about Sandra Fernández

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