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

By BSc, MSc (embryologist), MD, PhD (gynecologist), MD, FACOG, FACS, FACE (reproductive endocrinologist), MD (gynecologist), PhD, MSc (embryologist), BSc, MSc (embryologist), BSc, MSc (embryologist) and BA, MA (fertility counselor).
Last Update: 10/30/2019

More and more women are deciding to become single mothers by choice. Today, this is possible thanks to ART with sperm donation or adoption.

However, fertility treatments for having a single child are on the rise, as they have the advantage of allowing these women to become biological mothers with the participation of an anonymous sperm donor.

In summary, single women can achieve pregnancy with treatments such as artificial insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF) or, in specific cases, with the adoption of embryos.

The different sections of this article have been assembled into the following table of contents.

Artificial insemination for single mothers

Artificial insemination is the simplest and most economical assisted reproductive treatment available.

It is indicated for young women with good ovarian reserve and permeable fallopian tubes.

Since there is no male partner, single women who want to have an artificial insemination will have to resort to donor sperm.

Depending on the technique used, there are two forms of IUI for single women:

Home-insemination

At-home artificial insemination, also known as intracervical insemination or “ICI”, is a method that a woman can perform in her own home after acquiring semen from a donor from an accredited sperm bank and a homemade insemination kit.

It is very important to note that home insemination is not an assisted reproductive technique as such, as it is not performed with intervention or medical assistance.

The probability of achieving pregnancy with this method is similar to that of a natural pregnancy and will depend mainly on the time of the cycle in which it is carried out and the correct manipulation of the semen sample.

If you are interested in more detailed information on this subject, you can read more here: How does artificial insemination at home work?

AID

Artificial insemination with donor sperm (AID) is a treatment that must be performed in a fertility clinic under the supervision of a specialist gynecologist.

The steps for a woman who wants to get pregnant with this method are as follows:

  • Mild ovarian stimulation
  • Control of stimulation with ultrasound and estrogen analysis to assess follicular development.
  • Ovulation induction with hormonal medication.
  • Preparation of donor semen, which will be frozen.
  • Introduction of capacitated semen into the woman's uterus using an insemination cannula.

For donor sperm, the fertility clinic will choose a donor whose physical and immune characteristics are as close as possible to those of the woman.

The clinic must guarantee by law the anonymity of gametes donors and under no circumstances will it be possible to disclose this information. Recommended: IUI with donor sperm.

In vitro fertilization for single mothers

Women who do not qualify for artificial insemination or who have not achieved pregnancy after several cycles of Donor Insemination may resort to in vitro fertilization.

This may be the case for single women who are older or have fertility problems.

Dr. Gorka Barrenetxea, in reference to sterility in single women and lesbians, tells us that:

A woman who comes alone or with a female partner has an 80% chance of not having fertility problems and a 20% chance of having fertility problems.

The IVF treatment is a little more expensive and complex than the previous one, but the pregnancy rate is much higher.

Since we are talking about single mothers, IVF will also have to be performed with donor sperm. However, depending on the origin of the woman's eggs, we differentiate between the following types of IVF:

IVF with donor sperm

This is the classic IVF treatment indicated for couples with sterility, but with the particularity of using donor sperm.

In the following section, we are going to detail the steps of this whole process:

  • Controlled ovarian stimulation
  • Control of stimulation with ultrasound and estrogen analysis to assess follicular development.
  • Follicular puncture to remove mature eggs from the ovary.
  • Thawing and capacitation of the assigned donor's semen.
  • Fertilization of the eggs obtained with the donor's semen.
  • Cultivation of the embryos that have managed to fertilize.
  • Selection of the best quality embryos and embryo transfer to the maternal uterus.

Just like donor insemination, the sperm donor will be anonymous and chosen by the fertility center on the basis of the immunological and physical characteristics of the future mother.

Visit this post for more detailed information on this assisted reproductive technique: IVF with sperm donor.

IVF with double donation

In the event of a low ovarian reserve or inability to use their own eggs for any reason, single mothers can resort to IVF with double donation of gametes to achieve pregnancy.

Both the eggs and the sperm needed to carry out fertilization come from anonymous donors who have passed all the necessary controls to be able to donate.

The IVF procedure with egg and sperm donation is very similar to egg donation. The future mother will only have to go through a hormonal treatment of endometrial preparation to be able to make the embryo transfer with the maximum guarantees of success.

In IVF with double donation, ovarian stimulation and follicular puncture are performed on the egg donor, so that the recipient woman hardly feels any discomfort or side effects from the medication.

As we have already said, donor semen always comes from a bank and is therefore frozen. However, donor eggs may be fresh or vitrified.

If freshly donated eggs are used, it will be necessary to coordinate the donor's cycle with that of the recipient.

In this link you will find all the information you need to know about the double donation of gametes: IVF with egg and sperm donation.

Embryo adoption

IVF treatment with embryo adoption is another possible option when a woman cannot use her own eggs to achieve pregnancy. In addition, embryo adoption is much cheaper than IVF with double donation of gametes.

Embryos donated for this procedure are surplus embryos from fertility treatments of other women or couples, who no longer wish to have children and decide to donate them.

These embryos are cryopreserved in liquid nitrogen, so they simply have to be thawed and transferred to the woman's uterus.

Previously, the patient must have received hormonal treatment for the preparation of the endometrium, as in the case of egg.

Just like egg and semen donation, embryo donation is anonymous. The fertility center chooses the embryos based on the immunological and physical characteristics of the couple or woman who donated them so that they match those of the future mother.

Learn more about embryo donation here: Is embryo donation the same as embryo adoption?

Costs

The cost of being a single mother will depend mainly on the fertility treatment required and the assisted reproduction center in which it is carried out.

In the following section, we are going to detail some approximate prices of all the techniques that we have commented throughout this article:

IUI with donor sperm
1,000-1,890$
IVF with donor sperm
3,500-5,500$
IVF with double donation
5,000-10,000$
Embryo adoption
1,800$-3,300$

The woman must bear in mind that hormonal medication to stimulate the ovaries and prepare the endometrium is not included in these prices.

Hormonal drugs for Donor Insemination cost approximately 300-400$, IVF between 1,000-1,300$ and around 400$ for endometrial preparation.

For more information on this subject, you can continue reading here: Costs in assisted reproduction.

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.

Is there any age limit for becoming a single mother?

By Zaira Salvador BSc, MSc (embryologist).

No, there is no specific age limit for being a single mother. However, a woman's age is a very important factor in any assisted reproductive treatment, and success rates decrease as a woman turns 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.

Suggested for you

One of the most common concerns of women who decide to become single mothers is the source of donor semen. If you want more information related to this topic, we recommend you enter the following article: Sperm Donation: requirements for becoming a donor, price and treatments.

If you are interested in the success rates of fertility treatments, you can continue reading here: Success rates of assisted reproduction treatments.

Our editors have made great efforts to create this content for you. By sharing this post, you are helping us to keep ourselves motivated to work even harder.

References

Authors and contributors

 Andrea Rodrigo
Andrea Rodrigo
BSc, MSc
Embryologist
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
 Gorka Barrenetxea Ziarrusta
Gorka Barrenetxea Ziarrusta
MD, PhD
Gynecologist
Bachelor's Degree in Medicine & Surgery from the University of Navarra, with specialty in Obstetrics and Gynecology from the University of the Basque Country. He has over 30 years of experience in the field and works as a Titular Professor at the University of the Basque Country and the Master's Degree in Human Reproduction of the Complutense University of Madrid. Vice-president of the SEF. More information about Gorka Barrenetxea Ziarrusta
License: 484806591
 Mark P. Trolice
Mark P. Trolice
MD, FACOG, FACS, FACE
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
 Nadia Caroppo
Nadia Caroppo
MD
Gynecologist
Bachelor's Degree in Medicine by the University of Buenos Aires, with specialization in Obstetrics & Gynecology. Large experience working as an OB/GYN at several Spanish and international hospitals. Experience as the Supervisor of Female Genital Tract Pathology & Colposcopy Unit. More information about Nadia Caroppo
License: 460844481
Dr. Rachele Pandolfi
Dr. Rachele Pandolfi
PhD, MSc
Embryologist
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
 Sara Salgado
Sara Salgado
BSc, MSc
Embryologist
Degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). Master's Degree in Human Assisted Reproduction from the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM). Certificate of University Expert in Genetic Diagnosis Techniques from the University of Valencia (UV). More information about Sara Salgado
 Zaira Salvador
Zaira Salvador
BSc, MSc
Embryologist
Bachelor's Degree in Biotechnology from the Technical University of Valencia (UPV). Biotechnology Degree from the National University of Ireland en Galway (NUIG) and embryologist specializing in Assisted Reproduction, with a Master's Degree in Biotechnology of Human Reproduction from the University of Valencia (UV) and the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI) More information about Zaira Salvador
License: 3185-CV
Adapted into english by:
 Sandra Fernández
Sandra Fernández
BA, MA
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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