NZ in grip of sperm drought, women pin hopes on foreign donors

New Zealand is in the grip of a sperm drought with kiwi women hoping a foreign donor will be the answer. Photo / Michael Craig
New Zealand is in the grip of a sperm drought with kiwi women hoping a foreign donor will be the answer. Photo / Michael Craig

New Zealand is in the grip of a sperm drought and fertility clinics and childless women are pinning their hopes on a law change to relax rules on foreign donors.

As prospective mums face a two-year waiting list for sperm the focus is shifting to a report advising the Government to allow foreign sperm and eggs into New Zealand.

The Guardian has reported fertility counsellors complaining the long wait times are putting significant strain on already stressed prospective mothers as the demand for treatment keeps growing.

This had led to many New Zealand would-be mothers travelling overseas for treatment in the increasingly popular reproductive tourism market.

The health minister is currently assessing a report by the Advisory Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technology to bring New Zealand into line with Australia and England and allow in foreign sperm.

Fertility Associates general manager Dr John Peek said there was usually enough sperm in the country to treat about 80 families but there was demand for four times that.

"New Zealand has had a shortage of sperm donors for a long time," Peek told the Guardian.

"I think rather than peaking it has become a continuous drought. Like climate change, it has become the new normal."

Repromed medical director Dr Guy Gudex told The Guardian his clinic needed to "seriously investigate" importing foreign sperm as the drought showed no sign of abating.

Peek said his clinic could not explore overseas options until the minister ruled on import and export legislation, but it was "difficult not to say yes" to women who were increasingly desperate.

The decline in sperm donation coincided with a sharp rise in same-sex couples and single women applying for donated sperm.

Last year, Fertility Associates treated 300 women with donated sperm. Of those 35 per cent were heterosexual couples with male infertility issues, 25 per cent were lesbian couples and 40 per cent were single women.

Last year the Advisory Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technology (Acart) advised the New Zealand government that foreign sperm and eggs should be allowed into New Zealand and subject to the same rules that apply to local donors.

The Guardian said the report found many New Zealand women were already travelling overseas to procure sperm, but time, cost and murky trans-border legislation meant it was not a viable option for most.

"Increasingly we are hearing of New Zealand women travelling overseas for reproductive tourism," said Fertility Associates' specialist Dr Mary Birdsall.

Counsellor Fiona McDonald said the lengthy waiting list for sperm was adding pressure on women at what should be an exciting and positive time of their lives.

"It is really hard for women whose biological clock is ticking and every month that goes past feels like an age," she said.

The Guardian said the health minister was expected to assess the report by the end of the year.

- NZ Herald

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