A doctor at Tu Du, a leading obstetrics hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, processes an IVF for a woman wanting to be a single mother. Photo by Doc Lap
Hong works for a PR company in Ho Chi Minh City.
Her job provided a stable income that kept her in fancy clothes and a series of open relationships--so open, she said, that men began to bore her.
But kids did not.
At age 35, after listening to friends babble on about their little ones, she decided to have one too.
“Not having a husband doesn’t matter to me but I was longing to be a mother,” she said, asking that her name be changed to keep her anonymous.
Her daughter, conceived through in-vitro fertilization (IVF) at Tu Du, a leading maternity hospital in the city, is now three years old.
Doctors say that, for different reasons, single-motherhood has suddenly become an attractive option for many local women, despite a persistent stigma against it.
Hoang Thi Diem Tuyet, deputy director of HCMC’s leading obstetrics hospital and head of its infertility department, said single mothers delivered less than ten babies at the hospital which sees roughly 400-500 IVF babies a year.
“It's a new trend,” Tuyet said.
But the public continues to be hard on single mothers, she said.
“So the woman needs to be very brave.”
Hong was inseminated by the hospital’s sperm bank after her younger brother agreed to make a donation.
Sperm donors are in such high demand in Vietnam (due to fertility problems) that public banks will only provide a "withdrawal" in exchange for a "deposit"--which can be surprisingly difficult to come by.
A woman, waiting for doctors to assess her proposed donor at the clinic, said she’s gone through a lot to find one.
“It’s sperms, very sensitive. Who would give theirs to you?”
The 33-year-old had approached several friends and close acquaintances to no avail.
After learning about a Facebook page dedicated to sperm donation, she found a man who agreed to "donate" his sperm in exchange for VND20 million (nearly US$1,000).
She also paid for his transportation and examination costs.
“He looked good. He told me that he graduated from university, but I never know.”
An, a single 40-year old accountant in Hanoi, found a donor who insisted she have sex with him. Some women opt for such donors to save VND40-50 million on medical intervention.
Dr Tuyet said hospitals that offer IVF to a single mothers make them jump through a lot of hoops.
In addition to finding a sperm donor, the woman needs to produce written confirmation from the local authorities that she’s single and able to afford to raise a child.
The donor must be a Vietnamese high school graduate between 18-45 years old who is in good health and agrees to give up his sperm.
He must submit to screenings for sexually transmitted diseases, blood diseases and genetic complications before his donation can be accepted.
Three sperm samples are taken but only one is used after another HIV test, conducted six months later, comes back negative.
Each man is only allowed to donate sperm once in his lifetime.
Dr Tuyet said Tu Du hospital provides consultations for all potential single moms, but many are not prepared for the process.
On a Facebook page for Vietnamese single moms, including those who became pregnant as teenagers, many members said their biggest fear was to be confronted with questions about their child's father.
Some said they told their childreh their father worked far from home; others told them he'd died and others told fairy tales about birds brining babies out of the clouds.
Luu Viet Thang, a page member whose child is now 14 months old, said she wants to tell the truth as she worries it will be more painful for her child to cling to false hope.
Another member, nicknamed HoaminhNguyen, said the misery their children have to face isn't really worth it.
“Being a single mom is not easy, and it isn't fashionable. So if one is not forced by circumstance, don’t torment yourself, your child or your family,” she said.
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