Everyone should get to start a family when they want to, regardless of marital status or the gender they were assigned at birth. This includes single men, an important and growing demographic in assisted reproductive technology. Single fatherhood has increased ninefold from the 1960s to 2011, and there are more than 2.6 million single fathers in the United States.
But men and people assigned male at birth face a fundamental hurdle when trying to become parents: they don’t have wombs. The path to parenthood is therefore more expensive for these groups because they rely on donor eggs and surrogate carriers to have a baby.
There are many fertility options for single men trying to become parents, including egg donation, in vitro fertilization (IVF), embryo donation, surrogacy, and adoption. Here’s a closer look at how these fertility treatments work and costs to consider.
In cases where a parent is trying to have a baby using their own sperm (though sperm donation is always an option), the first step is finding a donor egg. Typically facilitated by a donor agency or egg bank, egg donation is the process by which a woman provides an intended parent with unfertilized eggs. Parents can select from donors with diverse backgrounds and many different physical traits, allowing some degree of control for single fathers who want a child who has physical or other characteristics they desire.
There are various costs associated with egg donation and the process of turning that egg into an embryo. In addition to compensating donors for their time and services, parents should plan to pay for egg retrieval, ovarian-stimulating drugs, and IVF to fertilize the egg and culture the embryo.
People who go through IVF sometimes have frozen embryos left over, which they may choose to donate to single men who want a child. Although intended parents will not have a biological connection with their child, opting for an already fertilized embryo means parents can avoid the costs of IVF. Additionally, embryo donors are not compensated for their donation.
Single men and individuals without ready access to a womb will inevitably face higher assisted reproduction costs than parents who carry their child to term. For parents who will need a surrogate carrier, starting with a fertilized embryo is usually more cost-effective than opting for egg donation.
Gestational Carrier (aka Surrogacy)
Once they have a fertilized embryo, aspiring parents who were assigned male at birth will need to find a gestational carrier, often called a surrogate, to carry their baby to term. Surrogacy packages typically cover the cost of obstetric, general, and emotional health screenings for the gestational carrier, as well as embryo transfer and monitoring during the pregnancy.
In most surrogacy cases, intended parents must pay a surrogacy agency to find a surrogate carrier. They will also need to compensate the gestational carrier for their time, effort, and risk of the services they provide. Some single men may have a friend or family member willing to act as their surrogate, bypassing the costs of working with an agency. In all cases, it is important to draw up a legal contract with a surrogacy attorney, since surrogacy is a complicated medical, legal, emotional and social process for all people involved.
If fertility treatments are not feasible, or by choice, single men may consider adoption for their family-building journey. Though parents have less control and involvement during the pregnancy, if any, adopting may cost less than the various medical processes necessary for conceiving a biological child. Adoption is a lengthy process, with high costs depending on what avenue you choose: domestic, international, or adoption through the foster care system.
In the case of a domestic or international adoption, individuals or couples pay a private agency to find a birth mother giving a baby up for adoption. Intended parents often cover the expectant mother’s living and medical expenses during the pregnancy. Those adopting internationally will also need to pay for visas and travel expenses. Individuals considering private adoption, whether domestic or international, will also need to pay for legal services during the process.
Many states will either fund or reimburse many of the costs for adoptions through public child welfare agencies, making this option much more affordable than private adoptions. Adoption assistance can even include subsidies for parents to help cover the costs of raising their child.
Thanks to modern reproductive technology, single men and people assigned male at birth can become parents whether they have a partner or not. However, these individuals face higher family-building costs since they almost always start the process from the very beginning, by finding an egg or embryo. Traditional insurance providers do not offer sufficient financial coverage for single men’s lengthy journey to becoming a parent. Employers can attract a wider range of applicants by providing fertility services to all employees equally, regardless of gender.
Adoption Benefits: The Forgotten Side of Fertility Benefits
Male Fertility and Corporate Benefits
How Fertility Benefits Drive Recruiting and Retention