12 February 2020

Supporting single women with their fertility journey

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Written by

Complete Fertility

Increasingly more single women are choosing to start families. As a fertility clinic with a reputation for treating single women, we have seen a steep rise in this patient group over recent years. We have developed the way we do things to help look after single women who may on the one hand be excited by the prospect of being able to become a mum but on the other be quite daunted by going it alone.

Some women have a clear plan for their future that includes finding a life partner, but they want to know what to do if that plan does not come to fruition.  Others may make a life choice to have a child as a single mother.  

Typically, when a single woman contacts a fertility clinic, she would like further information or advice. Often, she has already gone through a lengthy personal decision-making process, she is very well informed and she may have discussed her options at length with her friends and/or family, yet she might still be a long way off making the next step.  She will likely have considered how she would be a single parent and what her support mechanisms might be but may be feeling quite daunted by the journey ahead. 

Mother and baby smiling

Single women’s information evening

Contacting the clinic may seem an extremely frightening and committing act. We offer a single ladies information evening that provides an opportunity to put single women at ease and just talk about her options, rather than feeling like she’s jumped onto a roller coaster and can’t get off. 

Most women at a single woman information evening are coming for more knowledge and to research further. They do not want to make decisions quickly.  Some bring a friend, sister or mum along, but many attend unaccompanied.

At the start of our information evenings for single women, we always acknowledge how those in attendance have been courageous to take the first step and come into the fertility centre to discuss their fertility options. 

There is a very different energy in the room at our single women information evenings. Usually, because these women have not been trying for years to get pregnant but instead see this as a first and exciting step to parenting.  Something that they may have felt was not available to them so far.  However, a member of staff should never assume they understand the circumstances of the women in front of them.  For example, a single woman may be attending the event because her husband’s sperm was stored in the clinic, but the husband has now tragically passed away.  

At our information evenings, we make sure that each person has time to chat privately with a member of staff afterwards about their personal circumstances.  There are always questions that they may not want to share with the full group, and this allows them a place to feel respected and listened to.  

Single women are interested to know about the pros and cons of egg and embryo freezing and their options for fertility treatment with donor sperm.  They want to find out about sperm donors and the legal obligations for identifiability once a child is 18.  If the clinic has an egg share programme, this may be something they are especially interested in.  Knowing they are also donating to someone with a need can give some patients a feeling of doing something very positive, whatever their outcome. 

Having an experienced and qualified member of staff at the information evening who can talk about the fertility options available to single women is extremely helpful. Gaining informal and no-jargon information to take home and mull over is invaluable, without the presumed pressure to make decisions in a medical consultation.

At the end of the information evening, many women stay to meet each other and chat about shared experiences. 

You can book onto our next single women open evening here.

A comprehensive support toolkit

At Complete Fertility we place our patient’s wellbeing at the heart of everything we do. We offer a comprehensive and personalised support toolkit to help patients to navigate their way through their fertility journey.

Single women do not have the same support network at home as a patient couple.  It is important to take this into account at all points of treatment by all staff groups.  Staff need to be educated on the specific support needs of single women and to understand that these women don’t walk out of the door holding hands with a significant other, and may often return to work without telling anyone.  Single women may feel a sense of embarrassment or isolation about their situation, and staff need to reassure the patient that the clinic is supportive of their choices.

Our single women will consider anonymous donation versus bringing a known donor into treatment.  Known donors can come with benefits but they will also become part of their family forever and this must be considered in the context of what that will mean to them and their future relationships. 

Our information evening will discuss the clinic's experience of men who become sperm donors so that the women can build a picture of our donors.  The clinic explains that men who donate will have a multitude of reasons for doing so and will come from a variety of backgrounds.  Often men have known women in their family or social circles who needed a donor.  We explain how the donor writes a pen portrait and a message to any child and we discuss the implications of the ten-family rule.

At Complete Fertility we include up to six sessions of counselling irrespective of treatment type or funding method.  We believe that no patient should pay for counselling as it is an essential part of the process for a patient considering using donor gametes.  We positively encourage counselling at any point, and to use donor gametes at least one session of counselling is obligatory.   

Some women feel that they would like to meet someone who knows just what it feels like to be a single person seeking treatment.  These women may join our “Buddy Programme,” where they will be matched with another patient going through a similar process.  In this manner, both patients can share journeys and give mutual support in their own time and under their own terms. 

We have monthly support groups, including specific ones for single women, where women can meet with others to share information and experiences, and for mutual support and understanding.  And we have developed our MediEmo App for all patients, which along with drug regimen information also includes coping mechanisms, mindfulness techniques and mood management. 

Our nurses work in small teams and each patient is assigned to one nurse team for a personalised approach that allows the patient to get to know the nurses looking after them.  All patients receive a support phone call from the nurses one week after embryo transfer or insemination.

We know that there cannot be a “one size fits all” for patient support.  Everyone is different and has different needs.  There is a multitude of personalities within the staff group of the clinic, and we encourage patients to find a nurse or doctor that they connect with and if they wish to see someone else to let us know. We will never ask for an explanation of why they want to switch unless they want to give us one.  

We are here to support all of our patient groups to the best of our ability and we hope our support programme offers help and space to assist our patients through their fertility journeys.