Dozens of young heterosexual women have had virgin births after undergoing IVF in Britain, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
Some are using the £5,000 fertility treatment to bypass the need to involve a man, and others so that they can save themselves for a ‘special relationship’.
Doctors said last night at least 25 straight women had given birth in the past five years despite being virgins. But campaigners for the traditional family said the ‘distorted’ move turned babies into little more than ‘teddy bears’ to be ‘picked off the shelf’.
Religious groups said it undermined the importance of bringing up children in a stable marriage, while a leading psychotherapist warned that having a mother who had never been in a relationship could harm a child’s development.
At least four major British IVF firms have helped heterosexual, virginal women conceive and become mothers, The Mail on Sunday has found.
One is Care Fertility, which runs five centres across England. Maha Ragunath, medical director of its clinic in Nottingham, said: ‘The number of single women I see has doubled over the last decade and single women now account for at least ten per cent of my patients.
‘A lot of them are very young, in their 20s, sometimes studying or doing very ordinary jobs and often living with their parents, rather than career women who have been driven and focused too much on their work.
‘When I ask them why they are coming for treatment, very often the response is that they are ready to have a child and they don’t want to wait around for the right partner to come along.
‘A small percentage have never been in a relationship and never had sexual intercourse.
‘They are extremely happy to go ahead on their own and don’t care about the implications that might bring for the child or how they would go into a new relationship.’
Over the past three years, Miss Ragunath has treated three such single virgin women: one a nurse, another living at home with her parents, and a third who needed multiple rounds of IVF. All became mothers.
Heterosexual virgins will have paid for their own treatment, as NHS rules state women must ‘have been trying to get pregnant through regular unprotected sexual intercourse’ for two years before applying.
But the development has angered many. Josephine Quintavalle, of the group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said: ‘What is the child for these women? A teddy bear that they pick off the shelf?
‘The message from nature is for a male and female to have a child, and I am saddened that we are willing to distort this. The diminished role of the father is not desirable for the child. Once you start down this route, where do you stop?’
But Laura Witjens, chief executive of the National Gamete Donation Trust, said: ‘These women have a right to choose this path if they want to, but clinics do have a responsibility to consider why they want do so.’
She said society tended to ‘freak out’ when they heard about single women going for motherhood. But she said such women tended to be much better prepared financially, socially and emotionally, to be parents than those left as single mothers through a failed relationship.
SOURCE: RACHEL ELLIS and STEPHEN ADAMS