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Sperm shortage in New Zealand

19 September 2016
Appeared in BioNews 869

New Zealand is facing a shortage of donor sperm, with some fertility experts saying women are waiting up to two years to receive treatment.

The Guardian reports that sperm donations have declined in New Zealand since 2004, when donor anonymity was removed. At the same time, demand has risen as more same-sex couples and single women have applied for donated sperm.

'Even in the days when we had relatively low demand, we could never keep up with that demand,' Dr Richard Fisher of Fertility Associates, the country's largest fertility clinic, told Radio New Zealand. 'And now there is an increasing demand, particularly because that is coming from single women and lesbian couples, it's becoming even more difficult.'

The government of New Zealand introduced legislation in 2004 to give donor-conceived children the right to access  identifying information about their donor once they turn 18. The law also prevents donors from being paid – apart from minimal costs, such as travel to the clinic.

'Increasingly we are hearing of New Zealand women travelling overseas for reproductive tourism,' Dr Mary Birdsall, a fertility specialist with Fertility Associates, told the Guardian. 'It's a very challenging situation. It's challenging to recruit donors, and it is tough on the women who are psychologically and biologically ready to start a family, but can't.'

Although some fertility experts believe using donors from New Zealand would give children the best opportunities to get in touch with their biological fathers, the government of New Zealand is considering allowing the import of foreign sperm and eggs. The Advisory Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technology (ACART) advised the government in 2015 to allow these imports, but the health minister's assessment is not expected until the end of 2016.

'What we're actually hoping is that the minister will just hurry up and make a decision,' said Dr Guy Gudex, the medical director of Auckland clinic Repromed.

'We know that the success rates from donor insemination or from IVF using donor sperm progressively reduces as the woman approaches 40. The average age of our patients is 36 or 37 already, so being told that you need to wait nine to 12 months for treatment is a big concern for some of our patients.'

Call for govt to ease NZ's need for sperm
Radio NZ |  16 September 2016
New Zealand is suffering from a 'continuous drought' in sperm
The Independent |  15 September 2016
New Zealand's serious sperm shortage: 'It has become a continuous drought'
The Guardian |  15 September 2016
7 November 2016 - by Anthony Bagshawe 
The closure of the National Sperm Bank is disappointing, but we must now ask how we can change the gamete-donation process to make it easier to attract sufficient numbers of donors...
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