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Accepted Paper:

Solo mothers via gamete donation – tackling stigma and prioritising lived-experience  
Grace Halden (Birkbeck College)

Paper short abstract:

What can we do to ensure maternal mental health for solo parents who are planning families beyond the traditional heteronormative nuclear family structure?

Paper long abstract:

Solo motherhood through donation has increased in popularity since the 1980s, and, according to one leading global sperm bank, today about 50% of women ordering donor sperm are intended solo mothers (Cryos). Even though recent research shows that children born to solo parents through donation thrive and are not disadvantaged emotionally nor psychologically (Parke 2013, 140; Golombok et al. 2017, 1973-4; and Roth 2016, 42), solo parents by choice are often presented as reckless, selfish and negligent in anti-donation bioethical discourse and also within contemporary culture (especially tabloid media). The decision to ‘go solo’ can be a difficult, even traumatic, decision – worsened by anti-donation views in wider society.

In this paper, I consider what can be done practically to support solo parents and protect their mental health during their conception journeys. I will focus on the importance of incorporating the lived-experience of patients during clinical training and how procedures and policies in fertility clinics need to be adjusted to prioritise maternal mental health for this particularly vulnerable group. I will discuss the recent construction of the ‘Independent Family Planning: Choosing Solo Parenthood through Gamete or Embryo Donation’ (2023) booklet designed for fertility clinics in the United Kingdom. The objective of this booklet, designed by solo parents, is to highlight to industry professionals the lived experiences of solo parents at the stages of family planning, choosing donor gametes, embarking on the conception journey, pregnancy, and birth. Discussion of this project works to illustrate practical measures that can be taken to address discrimination towards one-parent families and to further identify donor conception pathways as a reproductive right and a legitimate form of family planning.

Panel P50
Is all well with birth? Anthropological contributions to reproductive and maternal health systems
  Session 3 Friday 14 April, 2023, -