Lesbian families and single women could become the largest group using donor insemination at fertility clinics, according to new figures.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) figures reveal that the proportion of single women and women in same-sex relationships seeking artificial insemination went from 18% of the total in 1999 to 38% last year.

The figure has risen from 28% to 38% in the past three years.

If the trend continues, the majority of children born with the help of donor insemination will be to families with no male partner.

Some patients who register as single women are actually lesbians who

do not wish to disclose their sexuality, according to Gedis

Grudzinskas, director of the Bridge Fertility Centre in London, which promotes the rights of same-sex families.

“I would say that applies to well over half of those who say they are single,” he said, speaking to The Times.

“The fact that they are actually gay often emerges during treatment.”

Sociologists say the increase is evidence that same-sex and single

parent families are becoming increasingly accepted by society.

Same-sex couples will in future be recognised as ‘co-parents’ by new

legislation expected to be passed next year.

The Human Tissue and Embryos Bill also recognises lesbian parents

equally and removes the requirement to name a biological father.

Under the new legislation, fertility clinics would not need to consider the need for a male partner.

A report from the parliamentary committee considering the bill is due this week.

A 2002 study found that children born to lesbian women using donor

sperm were as well-adjusted as children born to heterosexual couples.

“We can conclude that growing up in a lesbian family does not

jeopardise children’s welfare,” Dr Katrien Vanfraussen of the

European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology told the BBC.

“They seem to cope rather well.”