04 January 2008

Australia in sperm drought

Sperm donation is becoming as rare as rain in Australia, leaving more and more infertile Australian couples facing up to a two-year wait for sperm donors.

Sperm donation is becoming as rare as rain in Australia, leaving more and more infertile Australian couples facing up to a two-year wait for sperm donors.

"The sperm drought is throughout Australia," Dr Anne Clark, medical director at Fertility First told Reuters on Thursday.

A proposed new law that will create a donor register ending anonymity, a reduction in the number of families that can use an individual donor, and a reduction in the maximum age limit for donors from 50 to 35, have all led to a fall in sperm donors.

There is a ban on sperm from all European countries with exposure to mad cow disease and US sperm banks are also running dry, which limits access to donors for Australian couples.

Many factors involved
"A whole lot of things have contributed essentially to the issue of a sperm drought," said Clark.

About 1.5 per cent of all births in Australia have been achieved through some form of assisted conception. In other words, about 3 600 children are born each year because one or both parents had problems conceiving a child naturally. Since Australia's first in-vitro fertilisation birth in 1980, more than 37 000 IVF babies have been born in the country.

Under the new law about to be introduced in Australia's most populous state New South Wales, a donor register will allow donor-conceived children to access important information about their donor parent once they turn 18-1/2 years of age.

"Once you introduce that the donor can no longer be guaranteed anonymity, it makes people much less keen to be a donor," said Clark.

Families halved
The amended law will also halve the number of families from 10 to 5 that may be created with one donor.

"The change that is going to be difficult for us in the state law is that they have halved the number of families that can be created with one donor," said Clark.

Fertility First's last donation was a couple of months ago and reduced access to international sperm donors is only making it harder.

"We advertise regularly for donors but essentially what's happened is that a number of clinics are no longer offering a donor sperm service because it's so difficult," said Clark.

"We really couldn't offer a viable service with just Australian donors. You'd just have two or three people to pick from and that's really not appropriate," she said. – (Reuters Health)

Read more:
The oldest sperm donor?
Fertility expert

January 2008


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