Gay men in Australia have responded in droves to a sperm donor recruitment drive, and are being credited with a massive reduction in waiting times for IVF treatment.
Dr David Molloy of the Queensland Fertility Group said:
We’ve had the gay population coming from NSW and particularly Victoria, where the laws are draconian – you have to have a police check before you can go to an IVF clinic and donate sperm.
Law changes which have removed donor anonymity have been blamed for the drop in donations.
A gay representative of the advertisers who ran the campaign, Scott McKeown, said:
“The difference between gay guys and straight men in wanting to be a sperm donor is, we are not going to create a complication for ourselves or a future partner and kids, more often than not.”
“We’re not going to have to deal with a future wife or husband, and those kids, and then someone knocking on the door or making a phone call years later, because it’s less likely that we’re going to have that kind of lifestyle,” he said.
He added that for many gay men “it would kind of be nice — as you get older to actually see someone, possibly see yourself in their face and actually say, well the surname may not pass on but maybe my genes will live on.”
“It’s the basic human driver for both men and women — why we live, and how we came about anyway. What a nice thing to leave,” McKeown said.
The advertising campaign also promoted the use of the company’s services for lesbian and gay couples wanting children.
Demand for IVF is rising, IVF Australia spokesman Professor Michael Chapman told the Sydney Morning Herald, because women are putting off getting pregnant. The average age at which Australian women fall pregnant for the first time rose from 27.5 years in 1990 to 28.9 years in 2010.
According to a survey by Clearblue, who sell pregnancy test kits, 90% of Australian women could see the benefits in having kids early, however, the sentiment was outweighed by the reasons, mainly job security and income, for delaying motherhood.
Chapman said that Australian women were waiting up to 18 months for donor sperm about a year ago but that it is now about eight weeks. He also said that improved adherence by U.S. sperm banks to Australia’s strict legal requirements had helped with importing sperm, but the response by gay men to the advertising campaign was immensely significant.
The increasing take-up of IVF has led to an increase in babies born with birth defects, according to Dr Molloy. New research from the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Institute says that the risk is 50% higher compared to natural births.
Dr Molloy said Queensland had led in pioneering such recent technology such as oocyte (egg) freezing and AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone) testing — “a measure of how many eggs you have left” — but they were no substitute for good planning and prioritization.
“It doesn’t get around the problem of reproductive ageing completely,” he said. “You don’t want to be 31 and thinking you can delay getting pregnant. At 31 you have lovely DNA but if your egg stocks are very poor it’s still going to be harder to get pregnant and you mightn’t be able to fit your two children in.”
Professor Chapman said that “more women are putting off faster than science is able to reverse it…The sad part is that we don’t know how to reverse the inexorable decline in egg quality over time. That’s the conundrum.”
Watch a report about the launch of the advertising campaign:
Photo credit: ICSI sperm injection into oocyte courtesy of RWJMS IVF Laboratory