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Podcast Review: Donor Sperm and Treatment Abroad

20 December 2021
Appeared in BioNews 1126

The Fertility Podcast, hosted by Natalie Silverman and Kate Davies, is a weekly show that delves into a diverse selection of fertility-related topics. Silverman has struggled with fertility issues herself and her cohost Davies is an independent fertility nurse consultant. Together, their enthusiasm to help those struggling to conceive is evident through the knowledge they share, and the empathetic tone used throughout their discussions.

This podcast episode focuses on donor sperm and treatment abroad. The hosts interviewed JR Silver, an anonymous author of a children's book called Sharing Seeds, and Eloise Edington, the founder of the Fertility Help Hub. Both guests have used donor sperm to create their families, with Edington travelling abroad for her treatment.

Before listening to this podcast, I was slightly apprehensive. Both donor-conception and 'fertility tourism' are controversial topics that some people are strongly averse to (I personally feel that both are valid options so long as no one is exploited in the process). I needn't have worried, however, as the hosts handled the topic with care, asking thought-provoking questions that allowed their guests to tell their stories.

Silver and his partner opted to use donor sperm after he was diagnosed with the BRCA1 gene and non-obstructive azoospermia, with surgical sperm retrieval attempts proving unsuccessful. They wanted to see a photo of their donor (which isn't allowed in the UK), so sourced their sperm donor from the American sperm bank, Xytex. 

The hosts and Silver discussed the stigma that surrounds donor conception. Silver explained that he doesn't feel any shame around the topic but has opted to remain as an anonymous author in case his children do not want to be associated with his book when they grow up. A thoughtful and caring decision. They also touched on the topic of informing children they are donor-conceived, as advised by the Donor Conception Network. In my opinion it's essential to tell children early on, as everyone deserves to know their origins. It will also help mitigate against any surprises later in life that could cause emotional turmoil. Children's books, like the one written by Silver, are great tools that can help introduce the idea of donor conception at an early age.

Silver and Silverman are both Jewish and spent time discussing the mixed opinions of fertility treatment within the Jewish community. As a non-Jewish person, I found it interesting to learn about their experiences. They also mentioned the Jewish charity, Chana, who support people struggling with their fertility. It's great that they mentioned this charity as it could help someone listening be put in contact with much needed support.

The second half of the podcast we met Edington, who's partner suffers from a rare condition called Klinefelter's Syndrome, which usually causes men to have impaired sperm production. Edington's partner had a surgical sperm retrieval in America that was unsuccessful, leading them to use a sperm donor from the California Donor Bank.

The host asked Edington about her opinion on having fertility treatment abroad. Edington said that in her experience, having treatment abroad was less stressful as she did not have to manage appointments around her work schedule. However, she mentioned that she had to pay for a new flight when her cycle timings didn't go as planned which cost them extra money. She urged listeners to opt for flexible plane tickets in case the same were to happen to them.

When asked what advice she would give to listeners, Edington stressed the importance of finding an impartial fertility counsellor. This is great advice as fertility treatment, whether using donor gametes or not, is a stressful process that can put a strain on relationships. Sessions with an impartial counsellor will allow a couple to air concerns and work on them in a constructive way. Edington also implored listeners to advocate for themselves and listen to their own bodies. She stressed the importance of finding a fertility clinic you trust and to not worry about changing if you feel like a clinic is not a good fit for you. 

Though I thoroughly enjoyed this episode, I believe the conversation has the potential to be expanded on to create a richer narrative. This could by achieved by:

  • Including the experiences of LGBTQ+ people using donor sperm and having treatment abroad as this episode focused on heterosexual couples. It would be interesting to see how someone's background impacts their opinions and experiences. 
  • Including the experiences of intended parents who struggled with the decision to use donor gametes or people who considered using donor gametes but ultimately chose not to. Both interviewees appeared to have positive experiences with using donor gametes, however, I'm sure this is not the case for all the podcast listeners. Many intended parents struggle with the decision to use donor gametes and these people may benefit from hearing from someone who faced the same issues as them.

Overall, I thought this podcast episode was great. Both guests gave helpful advice to listeners, and the hosts were compelling and interesting to listen to. This episode of the Fertility Podcast hooked me in, and I have listened to every episode since!

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Donor Sperm and Treatment Abroad
The Fertility Podcast |  5 September 2021
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