IVF clinics in NSW and Victoria are addressing the lack of available sperm to couples with fertility issues by launching an advertising campaign aimed at increasing the number of men putting their hand up (or down) to donate sperm.
Last year the federal government passed laws which meant that donor-conceived children could access information about the identity of their donor once they were 18, leading to a sharp downturn in the number of men making donations. This, coupled with a ban which came into effect from January this year prohibiting the import of sperm from overseas into NSW and Victoria, as well as new legislation which has opened up assisted conception to single women and same sex couples in Victoria, has meant that available sperm in NSW and Victoria has reached critical levels.
Some clinics have been forced to close their waiting lists to couples and women hoping to conceive via donor sperm.
“Between 2005 and 2007, the number of IVF cycles facilitated by donors decreased from 3,356 to 2,458," said Professor Michael Chapman, clinical director at IVF Australia. "These are the latest published figures, and anecdotally we believe the numbers have continued to decline since then,” he said.
“We have more than 100 women looking for sperm donors in our clinics in NSW, and many have to wait more than six months for that donation. Every month of waiting can lessen a woman’s chance of falling pregnant as her likelihood of conceiving decreases as she gets older, particularly after the age of 35. So even waiting six to 12 months can have a huge impact,” he added.
Every month of waiting can lessen a woman’s chance of falling pregnant.
Donor sperm is used in a variety of circumstances. Usually it is to help couples conceive when the male partner is unable to produce viable sperm, whether through accident, illness or unknown causes.
In January, new laws allowed single women and women in same-sex relationships in Victoria to access IVF programmes for the first time, which has seen an increase in demand for donor sperm in that state.
“The new laws have to be welcomed as it means we no longer discriminate on the basis of sexual preference or marital status regarding who is eligible for IVF. However, it does mean that we will need more sperm donors in Victoria to cope with demand,” said Professor Chapman.