Monash IVF proposes bulk sperm import scheme to cure Victoria's 'sperm drought'

Dr Burmeister's pending exit is the latest sign Monash IVF is failing to balance the challenges of earnings growth for ...
Dr Burmeister's pending exit is the latest sign Monash IVF is failing to balance the challenges of earnings growth for investors and keeping doctors on-side. Photo: supplied

Monash IVF produced the world's first human IVF pregnancy in 1973.

Now, in an attempt to address Australia's "sperm drought", the company is attempting another first for Victoria.

Monash IVF hopes to win approval for a scheme to import sperm in bulk from a large US sperm donation agency called California Cryobank.

An embryologist sorts eggs at the Monash IVF clinic at Epworth Hospital.
An embryologist sorts eggs at the Monash IVF clinic at Epworth Hospital. Photo: Craig Abraham

The importation of sperm from the US is commonplace in NSW and other parts of Australia because demand from prospective mothers has increased, particularly from single women and those in same-sex relationships.

However, there are very few importations into Victoria, just eight individual donations last financial year. A tiny proportion compared to the 476 new Victorian sperm donors registered in the same year.

The number of donations has declined with the tightening of regulations designed to boost the rights of resulting children, including a limit of seven prospective mothers per donor.

A new law enacted this month allows all Victorians conceived by egg or sperm donation to discover the identity of their donor regardless of whether the donor wants to remain anonymous. Men who gave sperm donations before 1998 had done so believing their identity would be kept anonymous.

Monash IVF said Australia was experiencing a "sperm drought". Its scheme would reduce the wait time for IVF treatment from more than a year to a matters of weeks, where donors are required.

The arrangement with California Cryobank has already been granted approval in NSW, with the first shipment of sperm from 10 specially-recruited donors due to arrive next month. Another 30 are waiting in quarantine.


Monash launched an online catalogue that allows NSW patients to hear the donor's voices, see childhood photos, learn about their food preferences, music taste and sense of humour, in much the same way a dating site does.

Other companies, such as NSW's IVF Australia, already have a similar arrangements with another North American sperm banks.

General Manager of Monash IVF in NSW, Amanda Mullins, said demand for "good quality donors" has far exceeded supply for a long time. Caucasian donors, who are educated, healthy and athletic are most in demand.

"We have been powerless to help single women and couples who are eager to start their family within their fertility window," she said. "We are really delighted to finally be able to help these patients by providing access to our US donor partner."

CEO of Victoria's regulatory authority VARTA, Louise Johnson, said she was aware of Monash's interest in bringing US donor sperm into Victoria but more detail was needed before the board could decide.

In order to gain approval, Monash IVF would have to prove the donations were altruistic and there was no commercial trading of sperm, with only donor's reasonable expenses reimbursed, Ms Johnson said.

She said sperm donors would have to agree to be on a central register so that resulting children could know their identity.

"The welfare and interests of a person born as a result of these procedures is paramount," she said.

The cost of reserving US donor sperm for those being treated in NSW is $10,500 for 10 vials of sperm that can be stored for use in subsequent IVF attempts if required, or used for any future siblings they may wish to conceive.