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a shortage of donated sperm

How a shortage of donated sperm is hurting aussies who dream of being parents

Local sperm donors are truly altruistic in their decision to assist others to fulfil their dreams of having a family. However, the requirements of sperm donors are high.

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Words by Kerry Mccarthy, first published September 2021

The process of IVF involves sperm being used to fertilise a woman’s eggs ‘in vitro’, or in an incubator outside the body. Sometimes, the sperm that is used for IVF treatment comes from donated sperm. Which means that, for many hopeful families, sperm donation could offer a way forward. But there is a supply issue. Professor Michael Chapman from the University of NSW, who is also a senior fertility specialist with IVF Australia, says the shortage has also been affected by relatively new regulations that the donor must be willing to be identified, and potentially contacted, by any children conceived using the donor’s sperm once the child reaches 18.

Original HCF referenced article: https://www.hcf.com.au/health-agenda/body-mind/physical-health/sperm-donor-shortage

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Dr Ryan Rose, Director of Research and Innovation at Fertility SA, and a researcher at the University of Adelaide, said in the original article, “The decision to remove the anonymity of donors was made to benefit the child”

“The removal of anonymity has without a doubt been a driving force causing the donated sperm shortage, but there were found to be significant impacts to the child when they weren’t able to know who their real fathers were. They felt like they didn’t have an identity.”

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Dr Ryan Rose, Director of Research and Innovation explains in more depth:

Anonymity has been shown to have significant impacts on the number of donations, however the decision to ban anonymous donation is for the welfare of donor conceived children.

Each person who decides to embark on a donor journey can invest a significant amount of time either at the clinic or waiting for results. In fact during around 6 – 9 months, the person will take on two medical appointments, two counselling appointments, blood tests, semen analysis and genetic screening, and this is not including the potential number of donations necessary to create a family.

The last thing we wish is for potential donors to be discouraged, however it is better to arrive with a realistic expectation of what sperm donation is and what it isn’t – and, it’s not as easy as walking into a clinic and depositing a sample.

Although sperm donors are de-identified at the point of donation, a condition of donation is that sperm donors agree to have identifying information released to children conceived from their donation, if requested, at the age of 18 years old.

That is, sperm donors no longer have the option to remain anonymous.

As the article suggests, the removal of anonymity has been a driving force causing the donated sperm shortage, globally.

This topic divides some of the most experienced fertility professionals worldwide.

And while we could say the removal of anonymity of donors in Australia would increase the number of men willing to donate sperm, it would not be the best policy.

Children of donor conceived gametes (eggs and sperm), experience psychological pain because they do not know “where they come from”, their genetics, their inherent biological meaning.

As the topic continues to be discussed and debated globally, at Fertility SA, I am proud to promote our team who are all dedicated to making this process as easy and efficient as possible within the regulated guidelines.

Our clinicians offer intelligent and honest advice and the right treatment plan for our patients. Our counsellors, Brooke Calo and Julie Potts, are available free of charge and in total confidence throughout the patient journey.

Dr Ryan Rose is available for further comment.

Dr. Ryan Rose PhD
Director of Research and Innovation, Fertility SA
Adjunct Lecturer, The University of Adelaide

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