going through IVF alone

Going through IVF alone

Up to 3,000 babies are born by In Vitro Fertilization in Ireland each year. There has been a rise in single women looking to have IVF treament, writes Arlene Harris, in Going through IVF alone.

Being a parent is a wonderful, enriching, fulfilling, lifelong experience – but it can also be terrifying and exhausting in equal measure. So usually it helps if there are two people to share the load and even then, at times it can all seem a little overwhelming.

But while many many people do a wonderful job of bringing up children on their own, some make the decision to not only get pregnant and raise a child by themselves, but also to go down the often emotionally-charged route of IVF without the support of a partner. Up to 3,000 babies are born by IVF in Ireland each year, and while latest CSO figures reveal that there are currently over 215,300 single parents in the country, it stands to reason that a certain percentage of these will have been conceived by women choosing to go it alone.

Declan Keane Director and Senior Clinical Embryologist with ReproMed Clinics says while it’s difficult to put an exact figure on it, he has seen a rise in single women looking to have IVF treatment.

“Since ReproMed clinics started in 2009, we have seen many more single women approach us for treatment options,” he says. “They all say they have been thinking of attending for a year or two before they actually do so – the biggest bravest decision is walking through my clinic’s doors.

*Claire Thompson is one of these brave souls. When she was 38 she was desperate to become a mother, but since her previous long-term relationship had ended badly, she joined the growing number of Irish women and decided to go it alone. However, things don’t always go to plan.


A willing on/off boyfriend agreed to provide the male side of the bargain with a written guarantee that she would not make financial demands of him in later life. “I know it sounds a little cold and callous, but I wanted things to be upfront right from the beginning,” says Claire, who is originally from London.

“We had a casual relationship physically but got on very well, so I wasn’t nervous about approaching him and was thrilled when he agreed. I told him I would expect nothing from him and insisted we put that in writing – but I also said he could be involved later on if he wished. So after signing some papers, we got on with the deed.

“However, several months went by and nothing happened, so as my biological clock was ticking, I decided I would go down the IVF route – this meant less physical involvement and a more clinical approach.”

The office manager, who lives in Dublin, made an appointment with a fertility clinic in Spain and set about putting the wheels in motion.

Having had a good job for years, she knew she would be financially able to cover the cost of IVF but wasn’t prepared for the emotional turmoil it would involve.

“I have friends in the UK who have spent tens of thousands on IVF so I knew it wouldn’t be cheap, but I was prepared to go the distance,” she says. “I went over to Barcelona for a week to have preliminary talks and start the procedure. I felt very nervous and out of place in the waiting room as I was the only person who was there on my own. “But I told myself that I was doing it for my baby and it would all be worth it in the end.”

When the eggs were ready to be harvested, Claire flew to Spain again with her friend, *John, who provided the necessary sample which would hopefully fertilise her eggs. They were then transplanted into her womb and all she had to do was wait. “After transplantation, I was so excited and absolutely sure that I was finally going to become a mother,” she says.

“I really looked after myself by taking vitamins, eating well and not drinking, so you can imagine my utter horror when my period arrived bang on time. “I was so upset and just couldn’t believe that it hadn’t worked out – I had pinned all my hopes, not to mention a hefty portion of my bank balance on this (I had to also pay for flights and accommodation), and it didn’t work. “And the hardest part of all was the fact that I didn’t have anyone who really understood how I felt. John was sympathetic as were my friends, but I didn’t have a partner who wanted this to happen as much as I did and I really felt alone for quite some time.”

But refusing to be defeated, the following year, Claire decided to give it another try and once again, psyched herself up for the process and the potential rollercoaster of emotions. “Despite being emotionally drained from my first attempt, in some ways I was a little stronger when I tried again,” she admits.

“I knew that failure was a possibility and had prepared myself a little bit more. Nonetheless, it was still very difficult and the waiting for news was torturous, but when I went back for my return appointment, I was told that the process had been successful and not only would I have one baby, but I was going to be the mother of twins – I could not believe it.

“I was so happy, I thought I would burst – it was a little sad that there was no-one there to share it with me, but I rang my mum in London and she was over the moon. I also told John who was a little taken aback, but pleased at the same time and I felt that even though I had absolved him of parental responsibility, he would want to be involved in our children’s lives.”

Claire gave birth to healthy twin boys and couldn’t be happier. And since becoming a parent, her relationship with their father has strengthened and he is regular visitor to her home. “I have recently turned 40, so life really has just begun for me,” she says. “I have two beautiful babies and their dad is spending a lot of time with us all now – so who knows what the future will hold.”

*Names have been changed.

IVF: What to expect step by step
  • Step 1: The intake interview.
  • Step 2: Preliminary tests and talks.
  • Step 3: Drugs to induce egg growth.
  • Step 4: Egg harvesting.
  • Step 5: Embryo transfer.
  • Step 6: The outcome.

IVF Treatment in Ireland costs start at around €4,000.

More like this:

Top tips to boost your fertility
December is the best month to conceive
Surrogacy in Ireland

Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.



Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.