The reality of going it alone through donation

Despite massive changes in Irish society in recent decades, most young women still envisage a future where they will meet Mr Right, get married and have children (but not necessarily in that order). However, more and more women who have not met a potential life partner by a certain age and whose biological clocks are ticking louder every year, are now opting to go it alone through donor conception.

Cork Fertility Centre
Angela O’Mahony, counsellor at Cork Fertility Centre, says most of the single heterosexual women she meets who are considering sperm or egg donation have had a long desire to have a child, but have either not met anybody or were in a long-term relationship that did not work out.

“It’s a decision that does raise a lot of ethical and emotional issues for some people, the greatest of which is very much around the implications for the child into the future. Once a woman has made the decision to go ahead and try for a baby through donor conception, the next major challenge facing her is whether to go for an identifiable (known) or anonymous donor. There are no sperm donation facilities in Ireland, so most Irish fertility clinics use sperm banks in Denmark where the law allows for donors to be identifiable, which means a child could contact their donor at the age of 18 if they chose to do so. Dr John Waterstone, medical director of Cork Fertility Centre, says that while the number of single heterosexual women attending the clinic for donor conception is small, it is increasing. Three-quarters of women in this situation who attend his clinic are over the age of 37, and all clients considering donor conception at the clinic must undergo free mandatory counselling in advance of treatment.

“The donation co-ordinator then sits down with the client and goes through the list of available donors. Some donors will provide an extended profile with more information on their background, maybe a baby photo and even a voice clip, which is more expensive than a basic profile. “Once a client chooses her donor, she needs to decide how much sperm to import. If she is planning to extend her family in the future, she might bring in more sperm so that all siblings come from the same donor,” he explains. The sperm is deep frozen and imported in straws, one straw containing one unit of sperm.

The cost varies depending on the number of straws purchased and whether the donor is anonymous or identifiable. For example, four straws from an open donor will cost about €3,350, (£2,800, $3,800) and four straws from a closed donor will cost about €1,900, (£1,600, $2,200).

Medical Procedure
Clients can opt for intrauterine insemination (IUI), a simple procedure that involves placing the donor sperm inside the uterus to facilitate fertilisation, or in vitro fertilisation (IVF), a more invasive procedure that involves combining the egg and donor sperm in a laboratory dish and transferring the embryo to the uterus. IVF is much more successful, particularly for women in their later 30s, but also about four times more expensive than IUI.

The Irish Times
Cork Fertility Centre