Why ARE so many midlife women having children alone? In the past five years Britain’s seen a boom in solo motherhood
For a child to grow up with neither a father nor brothers and sisters is bound to be upsetting to the child at some stage and the deprivation is real. A father and siblings can contribute a lot to a child's mental and emotional development.
So why the solo mothers? The core reason is that some women fail to find a male partner. Why that failure? Circumstances will vary but very often there will be a mismatch between what the women want and what is available.
So how come the unrealistic expectations? A large part of the blame must lie with feminist attacks on men. Women are likely to see something in whatever is attacked in men and want to avoid it. That could mean avoiding normal men.
And then on top of that feminists tell women that they can have it all. As many women have found, they cannot. But some women are nonethless reinforced in demanding "all". It is very unwise to expect any approach to "all" but the bombardment of feminist talk from the media and elsewhere about it must have an effect.
Little Olivia Coy loves drawing pictures of her family. There’s Mummy, sister Isobel and her grandparents, all with their stick arms and triangular bodies. There isn’t a daddy in the picture.
Even though she understands what one is, Olivia knows some families, like hers, don’t have one. She knows that ‘a nice man had helped Mummy’ make her, and that’s good enough for her . . . for now. This is her family, and she’s happy with it.
Olivia is a sperm donor baby. Her mother Jennifer wasn’t prepared to let the absence of a partner stand in her way of becoming a mother and decided to go it alone.
Moral or ethical concerns aside, no one can deny such families are a growing trend. According to NHS figures, in 2007, there were only 351 treatment cycles in Britain for single women. The latest statistics show this has risen to 1,290 — accounting for about 3 per cent of all cycles. When the women who were inseminated with donor sperm but did not have full in vitro fertilisation (IVF) are added, 2,279 women tried to start a family on their own in 2017. And this isn’t the full picture, with plenty more procedures being carried out privately.
Last month the singer Cheryl announced she would use a sperm donor to have her next child. The reality TV judge who has a son — Bear, who turns three next month — with former One Direction band member Liam Payne, said she feels she is running out of time to find a partner and plans to have ‘more than one’ child through fertility treatment.
She isn’t the only celebrity to consider going it alone either. In October, singer Natalie Imbruglia, 45, announced the birth of son Max. She had already posted on Instagram in July that she was expecting ‘with the help of IVF and a sperm donor’.
Yet not everyone thinks single women should be pursuing fertility treatment. Indeed, nine years ago documents were leaked revealing health chiefs for South London had created a policy to only fund fertility treatments for couples ‘living in a stable relationship’ because single women having children would ‘place a greater burden on society’.
The statement caused uproar — but it’s a conviction many NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) hold.
According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, all women under 40 should be offered three cycles of IVF treatment. But at a local level, it is individual CCGs who make the final decision about who is eligible for NHS-funded IVF in their local area.
Yet for those single women with enough cash, there is always hope. It has led to the creation of a fertility industry worth £320 million, offering to help single women become mothers — for the right price.
Increasing numbers are freezing their eggs while they pursue careers or look for Mr Right.
Treatment cycles with frozen eggs rose from 410 in 2012 to 1,462 in 2017. Now the Department of Health and Social Care is considering whether to allow them to store eggs for longer; currently, the cut-off point is ten years.