If you want to have a biological connection to your child, then the options open to you might be IUI, IVF, surrogacy or co-parenting. 

If, for some reason, this is not possible for you in your circumstances, you could opt to foster or adopt a child. Fostering and adoption are also first choice options for many people, who wish to provide a secure home for a child who cannot live with their biological parents.

What is the difference between IUI and IVF and which should I choose?

IUI (intrauterine insemination, is where sperm is inserted directly into the uterus, via a thin tube, around the time of ovulation. This can be done with or without the use of fertility drugs. It is a simpler and less invasive form of ART (assisted reproductive technique) than IVF, with few side-effects. It is suitable for women who have no diagnosed barriers to conception.

IVF (invitro fertilisation) involves multiple hospital visits, fertility drugs, self-injection, egg collection and embryo transfer. If there are issues with blocked or damaged fallopian tubes, then IVF is considered to be a more viable option than IUI.

As a single female, where can I find donor sperm?

Donor sperm can be obtained from a sperm bank or from someone you know. The sperm will be frozen and screened first, to test for infection or any genetic disorders. It is important to look into what your rights are when using donor sperm.

As a single male, where can I find a surrogate?

As a single male, where can I find a surrogate?

It is illegal to pay a surrogate or to advertise as a surrogate in the UK, so you would have to go through an agency. In addition to this, in the UK, surrogate agreements are not legally enforceable, so the surrogate mother has full parental rights until she signs over those rights after the birth. There is a risk, therefore, that she may decide to keep the baby. 

What does co-parenting involve?

Co-parenting involves two people who are not a couple, choosing to have a baby together and share parental rights. As with the use of donor sperm or surrogacy, it is really important to have a clear, legal agreement in place and to be aware of your legal rights.

Would I be eligible for NHS funded IUI or IVF?

In England, single people and same sex couples are often expected to self-fund several cycles of IUI, to prove their infertility, before they will qualify for NHS funded treatment. Each local area also has different restrictions around funded treatment, so it is wise to talk to your GP first to find out if you would qualify for funding.

Who is eligible to foster and what is involved?

If you are over the age of 21, you will be eligible to foster, providing that you have not been convicted of any offence against children and can prove that you are fit, healthy and with enough energy to look after a child. You cannot foster if you have a child under 2 years old or if you are pregnant. Fostering is a paid role, usually short-term and you would not have full legal rights.

Who is eligible to adopt?

If you are over 21, you will be eligible to adopt, providing you have not been convicted of certain offences and can prove that you are fit, healthy and with enough energy to care for a child until they reach adulthood. If you adopt a child, you will have the same legal parental rights as you would if you had conceived the child yourself. Adoption involves rigorous checks to make sure that you would make a suitable adoptive parent.

If I’m successful in having a child, where can I find support as a single parent?

There are many groups around which support single parents, including:

https://singleparentssupportandadviceservices and https://www.gingerbread.org.uk

At the IVF Network, we aim to provide information and advice for anyone experiencing barriers to conception, whether that is single people, people in the LGBT+ community or couples who are struggling to conceive. We do this through our dedicated channel of experts, our website and our blog posts. Some of the other blogs on our website cover all of the topics touched on in this blog post, but in greater depth. Our goal is to support individuals and couples, at whatever stage they are at on their journey to become parents.