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Sunday, 30 June, 2002, 23:49 GMT 00:49 UK
Why women opt for sperm donation
The ticking of the biological clock seems to be the main reason why solo mothers opt to try to get pregnant by using sperm from a donor, research suggests.


Despite being happy with their decision to go it alone, these women would have preferred to have a child within a relationship

Dr Clare Murray
A study found that more than two-thirds of single women who choose to have a baby by donor insemination (DI) do so because they feel that they are running out of time to have a baby.

Despite this, children born this way appear to be thriving, and their mothers seem to cope just as well as women in two-parent DI families.

The research, by a team at the Family and Child Psychology Research Centre, City University, London, was presented at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Vienna.

Few differences

The issue of whether or not single heterosexual women should have access to DI has prompted much controversy.

However, lead researcher Dr Clare Murray said the study showed there was no difference in the quality of parenting between solo and married DI mothers - or between the two groups of children with regard to sleeping and eating difficulties.

The only significant difference was that mothers in two-parent families tended to have greater interaction with their babies than did the solo mothers - but both groups were above average.

The researchers compared 22 solo DI mothers with 36 married DI mothers with a child aged less than one year.

Dr Murray said: "While nearly a third of the women stated that they actively wanted to go it alone and have a child without the involvement of a man, half of all the single women felt that they had no choice but to have a child this way due to their lack of a partner.

"Despite being happy with their decision to go it alone, these women would have preferred to have a child within a relationship.

"More than two-thirds of the single women said their decision to have a baby by DI was prompted by a growing sense that time was running out to fulfil the life-long dream of having a child."

Disease concerns

Thirteen of the solo mothers said they chose a clinic for DI as they felt it was the only method of conception open to them, with eight saying they were not prepared to deceive a man by having casual sex in the hope of getting pregnant.

Eight said that DI enabled them to avoid the health risks of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

More than two-thirds of the women were experiencing no financial difficulties, and they had good social support networks in place.

A third had daily contact with a member of their family (compared to 14% of the married DI mothers) and nearly three-quarters had contact with friends at least once a week.

Dr Murray said: "Overall, the findings suggest that solo DI mothers and their children are functioning well.

"However, it is important that these families are followed up into childhood and beyond.

"It is not clear, for example, how the children of solo DI mothers will react to the knowledge of their conception and whether or not the absence of a father will affect their psychological development as they grow up."

Reports from the 2002 Eshre conference in Vienna

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See also:

03 Jul 01 | Fertility conference 2001
26 Jun 02 | Health
24 Jun 02 | Health
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