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Number of single women using IVF tripled in last decade

17 August 2015
Appeared in BioNews 815

The number of single women using fertility clinics in the UK has tripled in the last decade and has risen by 20 percent in just one year, reports the Mail Online.

According to figures released by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), 952 women with no partner registered at fertility clinics in 2013, marking a 226 percent increase since 2006.

The Mail Online says early figures suggest the number of women receiving fertility treatment will have reached 1000 in 2014. Dr Marilyn Glenville, a nutritionist who specialises in women's health, told the newspaper that women are waiting longer to have a baby.

'Obviously more women now have gone up the career ladder, they have their own house, they've got financial stability – but they haven't met anybody or a relationship [has] ended.

'But I think there has been issues on the other side – of men not wanting to commit to marriage or relationships, so that may have pushed the statistics up as well,' she said.

Dr Amin Gorgy, from The Fertility and Gynaecology Academy, told the Telegraph that the increased availability of fertility treatment has meant that women 'feel empowered to make their own choices'.

There is no statutory bar to offering fertility treatment to single women but legislation previously requiring clinics take into account the 'need for a father' when considering the welfare of the child in providing fertility treatment was widely seen by critics as discriminating against single and same-sex women.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 has since removed the requirement from October 2009, replacing it with a need for 'supportive parenting'.

Dr Valentine Akande of the Bristol Centre of Reproductive Medicine said his clinic started accepting single women for fertility treatment two years ago. 'A few years ago society and regulators deemed that you needed a partner in order to offer treatment, but since then acceptance in society has changed,' he told the Mail Online.

Research has shown that children born by fertility treatment to single mothers are not put at any disadvantage. Dr Sophie Zadeh at the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge said: 'Our research has consistently shown that it's not the structure of families that's the most important, but the quality of parenting and parent-child relationships.'

An investigation by the Daily Telegraph in 2011 found that a fifth of PCTs at the time were offering single women IVF on the NHS (reported in BioNews 631), with a spokesperson for the HFEA suggesting that most single women fund their fertility treatment privately.

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