Fertility options for older singles
11 November, 2018
As a single woman of 40, I am now trying to make an educated choice for the purpose of extending my fertility.
With that in mind, I am considering many options and what their implications are. In this regard, I have a few questions.
1) If I go the route of embryo freezing (includes the use of a sperm donor) and then later marry a different man, would I be able to consider utilizing this frozen embryo? Or would there be concerns of any offspring in such a situation being a mamzer since the sperm used to produce the embryo is different than that of the husband’s?
(Yes, I am considering egg freezing as well but eggs do not freeze as well as embryos which is why I am looking at all my options.)
2) Also, as far as the option of becoming a ‘Single-mother-by- choice’ is concerned, I have learned that a respected Rabbi said that it is best to either have a known Jewish donor or a non-Jewish donor from a sperm bank. But I am concerned about these possibilities because on the one hand it is very difficult to find a willing and able trustworthy Jewish sperm donor and if I use a non-Jewish sperm donor from a sperm bank, I am worried that this would affect the child’s feelings of Jewish identity as every child wants to connect with their roots on both sides of the family. So, I am wondering if it is really so terrible to get a Jewish sperm donor from a sperm bank? I do not think there is a real worry that the child will end up marrying a close relative as modern day genetic testing can quickly tell you if two people are closely genetically related or not. Is there rather a concern that the Jewish sperm donor may be of mamzer lineage? But, I remember learning that if there is doubt about mamzeirus status, we just assume ‘not’ and we are not obligated to investigate. So, what is the real concern here?
I will appreciate any information or insights you can share with me.
Thanks for taking the time to read my questions.
We appreciate the sensitive nature of this question.
1) Using an embryo produced with donor sperm after you are married need not create a concern of mamzerut, depending on the sperm donor (see below). However, within a marriage, your husband’s feelings and fertility would both be factors in deciding whether to use a frozen embryo.
Although technology for egg freezing continues to improve, it is important to be aware of the current success rates and how they vary with age. According to a recent model, declining egg quality with age means that a woman freezing eggs at age forty would require something like twenty mature eggs to have a more than a 50% probability of achieving a live birth. Embryo freezing is more promising, but creating a viable embryo is also less than simple at this age.
2) In order to prevent concerns of mamzerut, it is generally recommended to use anonymous non-Jewish sperm (or, in some cases, known Jewish sperm). There are some differences of opinion among halachic authorities on this topic. DNA tests prior to marriage are not standard and may not be simple to impose. The possibility of mamzerut is considered so grave that we do not intentionally enter into situations that may raise doubts.
In general following sperm donation, one should receive professional guidance about how to discuss conception with one’s child. With proper guidance, the child’s Jewish identity can remain unscathed.
We hope these answers are helpful as you face these challenging decisions. As a matter of policy, Nishmat’s rabbis do not currently issue rulings on the permissibility of a single woman pursuing assisted reproduction, though they recognize rulings from other halachic authorities. We greatly value your commitment to halacha as part of your decision-making.
You may also find it helpful to have a personal consultation with a Nishmat Fertility Counselor, a Yoetzet Halacha who has completed additional specialized training in this area. Consultations are free and can take place in person, by phone, or via internet conference.
This response was updated on 13 April, 2021.
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