Single Mother by Choice: Is Single Motherhood Right for You?

By Erica M. Hanson, LICSW
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

There are many ways that women decide to be a single mother by single mother by choicechoice. A portion of these women made a promise to themselves that they would become a single parent if they were not married by a certain age. Others have been married and divorced without children and still want to be mothers. Some women always pictured themselves as a parent—but not necessarily as a wife—so single motherhood makes sense to them. For others, the decision involves mourning the dream of the “traditional” path to motherhood: love, marriage, and then a child.

Some women feel like they are racing against their biological clock and choose to date often and take any opportunity to meet a potential spouse. They soon realize that instead of getting to know their date, they are sizing him up as a potential father for their unborn child. This is the time they step back and make the decision to become a single mother by choice, realizing that there is no timeline to have a relationship but there is a timeline for their fertility.

What to Consider Before Becoming a Single Mother by Choice

There are many questions to consider before becoming a single single mother by choice 2parent:

  1. Do I have financial, emotional, and social resources to be a parent?
  2. Do I have realistic expectations about motherhood?
  3. Would my family and friends support my decision to be a single mother by choice?
  4. How would I handle any health issues that arise during pregnancy or with my child?
  5. Do I have a good work-life balance? Do I travel frequently in my current position? Should I consider moving to another position?
  6. Will my family and friends support my decision to be a single mother by choice?
  7. If something happened to me, who would be my child’s guardian?

These questions are not unique to single women, as many married couples ask themselves similar questions, although they are more poignant for a woman choosing to parent on her own. Single women are often posed with questions or judgments that their coupled counterparts do not receive. For example, many are asked, “Why do you want to become a parent?”

The answers are similar to other women: “I always wanted to be a mother.”

Single women are also sometimes asked tougher questions like, “Isn’t it selfish of you to want a child?” Reproduction is a human need and single women are not unlike others who want to parent, passing on their knowledge and experiences to their children.

Tips for Single Mothers by Choice

single mother by choice support groupSome single mothers by choice pressure themselves to be perfect parents and to do everything on their own. This is an unrealistic expectation and may set a woman up for frustration and failure. Married or single, everyone needs help raising their children from a family member, friend, or neighbor. It is critical for single women to create a support network.  Here are more tips for single parents:

  1. You don’t have to be superwoman and do it all on your own because you choose to be a single mother by choice.
    Everyone needs help during pregnancy, labor, and as a new mother. Identify who can help you make the transition to motherhood.
  1. Stop pressuring yourself to be perfect and ask for help when you need it.
    Asking for help does not make you weak or incapable. If you do have difficulty asking for help, try to identify what is getting in the way. For some, asking for help can seem intimidating or humbling, but it can lead to new and rewarding relationships with a neighbor or an acquaintance.
  1. Make emergency and contingency plans for unexpected situations.
    Expect the unexpected and identify those who can help you and/or your child when you need it.
  1. Take care of yourself.
    Schedule short breaks throughout the day and do things for yourself that are restorative.
  1. Join a single mothers by choice group.
    Receive support and share resources with others who are in the same situation.
  1. Start a co-op in your neighborhood.
    This is a fabulous way to share shopping and babysitting with others.

Becoming a single mother by choice is not always an easy decision to make, but knowing that you have a strong support system in place will help you on your journey.

Erica M. Hanson, LICSW, has experience working with couples, families, and children in hospital, clinical, homecare, hospice, and agency settings. Her special interests include adoption, grief and loss, and infertility. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. She sees patients in Shady Grove Fertility’s Fair Oaks, VA, office and has an office in D.C.

If you would like to learn more about Shady Grove Fertility’s support services for single mothers or to schedule an appointment, please speak with one of our New Patient Liaisons at 877-971-7755.

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Washingtonian Looks at “3 New Fertility Developments that May Make it Easier to Conceive”

The June 2015 issue of Washingtonian explores the latest advancements in fertility treatment that are helping patients to become pregnant. Eric D. Levens, M.D., of Shady Grove Fertility’s Annandale, VA, office explains these transformative fertility developments.

New Fertility Development #1: Egg Freezing

fertility developments - egg freezingVitrification—or fast-freeze technology—revolutionized the effectiveness of egg freezing, vastly improving success rates. What was once deemed “experimental” by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) (a label they lifted in 2012) has now moved to the forefront of public consciousness as a viable method to extend a woman’s fertility options.

Egg freezing provides an insurance policy, assuring women that they can have a family at the most optimal time, without having to worry about the proverbial “biological clock.” Egg freezing has become more readily available for women, and at Shady Grove Fertility there has been a 50 percent increase in the number of women freezing their eggs in the past 4 years.

New Fertility Development #2: Genetic Screening

Genetic screeningfertility developments - genetic screening has not only become more common, but testing has now expanded, screening for over 100 different diseases and syndromes. Known as preconception genetic screening (PGS), we test the male and female partners (if they choose) before moving forward with fertility treatment at SGF. Genetic screening tests for recessive gene mutations are available for the following categories:

  • Mutations common in a certain ethnic group (for example: sickle cell anemia or Tay-Sachs disease)
  • Mutations that have some likelihood of causing serious disease in affected offspring

In addition to screening before treatment, preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is another form of genetic testing. We use this technique, which involves the biopsy of a few embryonic cells, in conjunction with in vitro fertilization (IVF). PGD allows for the differentiation of healthy embryos and genetically-abnormal embryos, without causing any harm to the embryos. PGD can particularly be helpful for couples who have experienced recurrent miscarriage or unsuccessful IVF cycles, and for couples who are at risk of passing on an inherited genetic disease to their offspring.

New Fertility Development #3: Fewer Twins and Triplets

Dr. Levens says, “The greatest risk in any fertility treatment fertility developments - reducing multiple pregnancyis not the treatment itself but carrying twins or triplets.” Multiple pregnancies create greater risks for both the mother and the babies. The mother may experience higher rates of pregnancy complications, such as gestational diabetes or pregnancy-induced hypertension, and the babies can be adversely affected by smaller sizes or premature delivery, to name a few.

SGF has pioneered elective single embryo transfer (eSET) to reduce the chance of multiples in good prognosis patients. For these patients, the chance of pregnancy with one single embryo is just as good as with two embryos, but without the increased risks associated with multiple pregnancies.

As part of our commitment at SGF to providing excellence in patient care, we employ a full-time dedicated research staff to bring the latest advancements and fertility developments to our patient community. Whether we’re improving egg freezing technology, expanding the genetic testing options available, or striving to reduce the risks associated with multiples, we are hard at work to improve our patients’ care experience.

To learn more about fertility developments, or to schedule an appointment, please speak with one of our New Patient Liaisons at 877-971-7755.

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Why Do Miscarriages Occur?

By Naveed Khan, M.D., of Shady Grove Fertility’s Leesburg, VA, office

When a woman experiences a miscarriage, there are many feelings of loss and sadness, but there is also a need to know why. What’s important for women and their partners to know is that you are not to blame for miscarriage. Nearly 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, regardless of the woman’s age, and in some cases before she even realizes she is pregnant. Sadly, miscarriage is a more common occurrence than people think, and one that is often difficult to understand.

Common Causes of Miscarriage

In about 50 percent of miscarriage cases, a cause can be determined. The cause usually falls into two categories:

  • Genetic abnormalities: Genetic abnormalities represent the most common cause of miscarriage. Sometimes the genetic syndrome is inherited from the parents, which we can test for through preimplantation genetic screening (PGS), and sometimes it occurs naturally within the embryo itself while it’s developing.
  • Uterine abnormalities: In these cases, there may be structural issues with the uterus, fibroids, endocrine issues, or immunological issues that can make a woman predisposed to miscarriage.

In either case, your physician will work with you to treat these diagnoses in order to help you have a healthy pregnancy.

For the other 50 percent of miscarriages, there is not an explanation unfortunately. This can understandably be very frustrating, but it should also be reassuring because it tells you that there isn’t anything majorly wrong, and that down the line you will likely be able to deliver a healthy baby.

Common Myths

While potential miscarriage causes were mentioned earlier, the internet is filled with information that is often incorrect regarding miscarriage. Far too many people believe that the following items led to their miscarriage:

  • Too much stress
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • History of sexually transmitted disease
  • Having used IUDs for birth control in the past
  • Engaging in intercourse while pregnant

It is important to note that none of the above reasons cause miscarriage.

Preventing Future Miscarriage

For women that have experienced recurrent pregnancy loss—two or more consecutive miscarriages—there is now an option to help prevent future loss. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD)—in which cells from the embryos are biopsied—can determine if chromosomal abnormalities are present. If embryos have chromosomal abnormalities, they will not be transferred back to the female partner. PGD has been proven to reduce the risk of miscarriage in women.

Finding Support

It is important that people who experience miscarriage get emotional support, whether it is from family, friends, or professional counselors or groups. This helps to counteract the feelings of isolation that come from pregnancy loss. The more you talk to people, the more you will realize that many others have been in the same situation and that you are not alone.

If you’ve experienced a miscarriage and you’d like to consult with a physician, please speak with one of our New Patient Liaisons at 877-971-7755 to schedule an appointment.

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