How Long Does It Take to Conceive? Stresses. And Other Single Mother by Choice Issues.

Nothing is more agonizing for the single woman who decides to become a mother on her own than the decision about how to do it — and, is she too old to try to conceive? or, if confident, does she end up being surprised that it doesn’t simply take on one try?

To get data we’ve sorely been looking for on Choice Mom discussion boards, I surveyed women in March/April 2015 about their methods to motherhood, the attempts taken to conceive, and their efforts to reach a live delivery.

The “Not Surprising” Findings

In general, the findings revealed:

  • The majority of women (397 of 535) tried IUI. How many of those made more than six attempts to conceive with that method? 123.
  • 173 women used IVF with their freshly retrieved egg; 41 made three attempts or more.
  • 75 women tried home insemination at least once; 15 of them made more than 10 attempts.
  • 44 used IVF with donated egg; 11 required three or more attempts.
  • 38 tried IVF from egg freezing; 7 made at least three attempts to conceive.

Many women do conceive and carry to term on their first attempt. On the other hand, one woman reported it took her 10 IUIs to conceive her first child — and then only two IUIs for her second. In one example of perseverance, one woman did 30 cycles of cervical insemination.

Unfortunately, until you start to try, you’ll never know which end of the spectrum you will be on — and will likely fall somewhere in between.

Miscarriage Rate

Roughly one-third of the 454 women who responded experienced a miscarriage: 115 had one miscarriage, 29 had two, 10 had three, and 17 had more than three. Of those women who delivered a child, 244 did so without experiencing miscarriage loss.

Commented one woman: “I was worried about miscarrying, being 44, so went to a specialist for prevention and he reluctantly prescribed me a cream that I applied inside my vagina 3 days after
insemination for 21 days. I am sure it helped. Normally they do not do this but I had been trying for 2 years and if I got pregnant it may be the last good egg and I wanted to do everything I could to make it a success.”

Age at Last Child

Of those who successfully delivered a child — whether it was a first or third:

  • 11 of 16 women who were over the age of 45 used a donated egg;
  • 60 of 76 women were aged 42-44 and used their own egg;
  • 90% of the 132 women who delivered at age 39-41 used their own egg.

Very few women are freezing eggs — 18 of 485 who responded. I think once we get on the Choice Mom journey, delaying further is generally not the plan. And egg freezing is generally not recommended for the high proportion of women over age 35 who come to our website.

Choice Moms is working with Embryo Donation International to facilitate donation of leftover IVF embryos to other Choice Moms once we are done creating our families; currently 59 women in the survey report they might like to donate.

About Money

Interestingly, women who earn less than $60K are split evenly between those who worry about money and those who don’t. Yet those who earn $60-100K tend to worry more about money compared to those who did not (194 do, 87 do not). The question for women who made more than $100K was worded poorly, but several of them commented that: “I earn over $100K and worry about money a lot!”


“I make a really good salary but I live in an area where the public school system is not acceptable to me so I pay for private school. If not for that I would feel better financially. My son loves his school so it’s worth it.”

“I am low income, but I do not put my energy into worrying over things I cannot control. My health and well being are essential assets I need for mothering.”

“I went from 6-figure career woman to stay-at-home single mom on government support over time. It is just much harder than I imagined.”

“What’s made this possible for me, in the absence of family support or a partner, is savings and a very family-friendly employer. It took me till my late 40s to be in that position. So the positive is that I don’t worry about money, etc. But the negative is that I would have liked more children, and that’s not possible.”

“I was making over $100,000 when conceived/gave birth, but lost my job when he was 10 months old, could only find part-time work, eventually had to sell the house and move to another state to live with my mom. Not exactly what was in my plan, I thought I was financially secure.”

“My attempts so far have put me into debt, and I make less money now than I did when I started this process.”

“Worried about money all the time. Cost $145K to get pregnant twice.”

About Unpredictability and Stress

We put a lot of effort into planning and trying to have children. Less time preparing for them once they arrive in terms of legalities: only 215 of the 491 women who responded to the question have an estate plan in place. And only 40% have guardianship plans figured out if something unexpectedly happens to them.


“My son is 8 and fairly severe ADHD. I would love someone to take care of me! Would be great to have someone watch my son for more than a couple hours that I don’t have to pay.”

“I worry about college money, but otherwise we have been fine. It was very stressful when the children were less than 8, but now as teenagers it is less stressful to be single than married I think and I let my eldest, age 15, drive for the first time today. We have a great relationship.”

“Support network? Not as great as it could be, partly because my (now late-teenage) children have, in the case of my birth child, a learning disability, and in the case of my adopted child, significant behavioural/mental health/learning difficulties.”

“I feel stressed about parenting in general. Being a single parent has nothing to do with it. You don’t miss what you never had.”

There is much more in the survey than I can reasonably cover here, but these highlights should give a better picture of the kinds of stresses and challenges we face along the journey.

Related Resources

The detailed results, with more data and comments, are here:

Part 1: methods and first conception by age
Part 2: miscarriage rates, age at last conception, adoption, demographics

For a professionally created study of Choice Moms, created by Susan Golombok’s family research team at Cambridge University several years ago, which focused on the “contentedness” quotient of single mothers by choice, read here.

— Mikki Morrissette


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