Cheryl Tweedy has revealed plans to have more children by sperm donor.
The pop singer, 36, explained that she wants to provide “more than one” sibling for two-year-old son Bear, who she shares with ex-boyfriend Liam Payne, 26.
Speaking to The Times Magazine, the star, who is currently single, said that the thought of potential solo fertility treatment “makes me very happy”.
She continued: “If time was on my side and I was in my twenties, yeah, I would wait and consider more options, or wait for somebody I felt was right, but…
“You could meet somebody and for that year it feels incredible, but there is never a guarantee because there are so many variables that can happen.
“Life is a funny old game.”
Cheryl, went on to confirm that she is considering having a second and possibly third child with the help of a sperm donor from “out of town”.
She explained: “You can get it from abroad.
“Do you imagine some guy from Newcastle saying, ‘That’s my child!’?
“There’s a lot to choose from and a lot to think about,” she added.
What is sperm donation?
Cheryl Tweedy certainly isn’t alone in considering fertility treatment without a father.
Latest figures from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) show the number of women attempting to start a family without a father increased by more than a third (35%) in two years; 1,272 women registered to have fertility treatment without a partner in 2016 – up from 942 in 2014.
Likewise, there has been a rise in the use of sperm donation to start or grow a family. In 2016, 4,306 treatment cycles involved a patient using their own eggs and donor sperm, up 15% from 3,749 in 2015.
So why is sperm donation becoming more popular?
Some experts believe women are feeling more empowered to make that choice, while Dr Geetha Venkat director of Harley Street Fertility Clinic believes the fact that many women are waiting until they are older to have children, and the changing circumstances surrounding starting a family are both contributing to the process becoming a more popular option.
Of course sperm donation is also considered by some couples where the male partner has sperm abnormalities, poor sperm production or no sperm at all.
“Some men carry inherited genetic diseases and are thus seeking donated sperm so as not to transmit the disease to their children,” Dr Venkat continues.
“Sperm donors can change lives and make families a reality.”
How does sperm donation work in the UK?
According to Dr Venkat there is a shortage of sperm donors in the UK and many people have to wait to benefit from donated sperm.
“Some couples are fortunate enough to have friends and family willing to donate sperm as a ‘known donor’,” she explains.
“However, most are not so fortunate and thus they are likely to be ‘in the queue’ waiting for around one year on average for sufficient donors to volunteer to donate their sperm.
Dr Venkat says that to meet the demand, over 500 sperm donors are needed every year from all nationalities, religions, ethnicities and cultures.
“UK fertility clinics are able to import sperm from overseas, but only under certain conditions,” she adds.
What are the legalities surrounding sperm donation?
Dr Venkat says the person/people who receive a sperm donation will be the child’s legal and social parent(s) – the donor will not be named on the birth certificate.
“The donor has no legal, financial or social obligations to any child created from the donation either now or in 18 years’ time,” she explains.
Donors are asked to complete an HFEA form and this details personal details about them that could be handed to the donor-conceived person when they reach age 18 or older.
“This information enables the child’s parents to talk to them about their origins as they grow up and helps them build a mental picture of the donor, but they cannot meet them,” she adds.
It’s worth nothing that if you’re having treatment at a licensed fertility clinic in the UK, the donor will have no legal rights or responsibilities to any children born with their sperm.
Anonymous vs known donor – which is better?
“This is a personal choice,” says Dr Venkat. “But the most important thing is that donor procedures are carried out and that only healthy, safe sperm is used for your health and that of any child you have.”
Is it possible to choose a donor?
If you use a donor through a fertility clinic can find out:
height, weight, eye and hair colour
the year and country of birth
whether they had any children at the time of donation, how many and gender
their marital status and medical history
they may choose to write a message at the time of their donation but you won’t be able to find out any information that might reveal who the donor is.
What does the insemination process involve?
When fertility treatment involves directly inserting sperm into a woman's womb, it is called Intrauterine insemination (IUI).
“The donor sperm is prepared in the laboratory to separate fast moving sperm from more sluggish or non-moving sperm,” advises Dr Venkat.
“The sperm is washed in the laboratory before insemination in order to concentrate the best sperm into a small amount of fluid.”
Dr Venkat explains that using a catheter, your doctor will place the concentrated sperm directly into your uterus through your cervix, under ultrasound guidance.
“The insemination procedure is relatively painless and is performed in a few minutes, although some women may experience some temporary, menstrual-like, cramping,” she says.
IUI treatment can be performed in a natural cycle without fertility medicines or in a stimulated cycle with fertility drugs.
What does IUI with sperm donation cost?
Though the treatment is available on the NHS, the waiting list can be very long in some areas and there are strict rules.
Dr Venkat advises speaking to your GP about your personal situation.
To give you an idea of costings, prices for IUI start at £1,100 per cycle with the HSFC.
Though you can go abroad for sperm donor treatment, like Cheryl Tweedy seems to hint she’s considering, Dr Venkat says suggests remaining in the UK for the safest option.
What are the success rates of donor insemination?
The success rate with IUI treatment depends on your partner fertility status and your age.
“Most couples who opt to undergo IUI have a 5 to 20% chance of becoming pregnant with each attempt,” Dr Venkat says.
“The chances are higher for stimulated IUI cycles in younger women using good quality sperm. However, it is not uncommon for multiple IUI cycles to be attempted due the poor success rate with a single cycle.”