pregnancy

How exactly do you find a sperm donor in Australia? We investigate. 

In the wake of Fifi Box’s pregnancy announcement, there is one question we’ve found ourselves Googling.

How do you get donor sperm?

Fifi’s Instagram post announcing her pregnancy openly and honestly gave us a peek into a far less told fertility journey.

The Australian radio presenter and television host has longed for a sibling for her daughter Trixie for years, and that dream was made a reality through the use of a donor sperm.

“We’re having a baby! Yes Trixie and I are over the moon/jumping out of our skin/can’t stop smiling/floating on air/dancing in the streets/walking on sunshine and every other metaphor that conveys absolute pure joy. How did this happen you might ask?” her Instagram post begins.

 

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We’re having a baby!! Yes Trixie and I are over the moon/jumping out of our skin/can’t stop smiling/floating on air/dancing in the streets/walking on sunshine and every other metephor that conveys absolute pure joy ???? How did this happen you might ask? Well, a few years ago I made an appointment to see an IVF specialist, the amazing Dr Sameer Jatkar at Monash IVF, and I began an IVF journey to extend our little family. After a series of egg retrievals and freezing, last year I started the process to become pregnant via an anonymous donor. I am still pinching myself that I have been this blessed and that this little miracle is growing within me, a much wanted and longed for sibling for a very excited big sister! I know the value of this miracle because I have seen first hand the heartbreak, tears and sacrifices so many women and couples suffer on their IVF journeys and my heart goes out to those who are facing that pain and struggle. It is not lost on me that I am one of the lucky ones. Being a mum is my greatest joy in life, it is quite simply everything to me. Trixie has brought me more happiness and love than I ever imagined possible and to feel my heart expanding to include this little angel kicking and rollicking within me, I am overwhelmed with how much love and happiness the future holds. I will cherish Trixie and this little angel forever, and hold them so close for the rest of our lives ???????????? #family

A post shared by Fifi Box (@fifi_box) on

She goes on to explain how she began freezing her eggs a few years back, had sought an anonymous donor sperm and using IVF – fell pregnant.

For Professor Beverley Vollenhoven from Monash IVF (which is where Fifi had her treatment done), the radio star using her public platform to talk so openly about using donor sperm as a single lady will do wonders.

“It will help to normalise it,” she said.

Beverley personally has about one patient a fortnight go down the path of donor sperm, which gives you an idea of just how common it is on a wider scale.

“Usually the chat starts with fertility as a wider topic,” Beverley explained about how she might work out if you’re a candidate for donor sperm while in her clinic.

“Donor sperm is largely used by single women and gay women, however heterosexual couples do also follow that route.

“The decision [for donor sperm] is usually made when there is nothing else to try,” Beverley said of male-female couples.

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Fertility First on the other hand say they have a “real mix.”

“We do have quite a few heterosexual couples use donor sperm, but the largest groups are probably an equal split between single women and same sex female couples,” Fertility First’s lab director Julie Zieschang said.

Julie’s gut tells her the rate of single women accessing sperm donors, for the purpose of having children alone, is on the rise.

“There is more acceptability around IVF in general,” she said.

“But yes, I do think it’s on the rise.”

So what happens next? Is there a catalogue to… peruse?

Yes, actually.

“Most people prefer an anonymous donor rather than a ‘known’ donor – so they don’t have to have a relationship with them,” Beverley said.

In said catalogue, each male… specimen, comes with a very detailed description. There are no photos, but there are descriptions of physical attributes, information on their career, a detailed family history… that kind of thing.

“It can be stressful, because there aren’t a lot of people to choose from.”

There is no monetary incentive to donate sperm in Australia, so everything in the “bank” so to speak, is given out of purely wanting to help. Monash IVF have regular “sperm drives” to try and get more people interested.

Fertility First, on the other hand, say they’ve got “a fair amount at the moment” with about 40 donors currently in their NSW bank. However, most are from overseas – in particular the United States.

“We struggle to get local donors,” admitted Julie.

“I think it’s a little bit cultural. In the States they liken it to doing a good deed like doing a blood donation. Donors here – there’s an element of them potentially wanting a relationship in the future. There’s a subtle difference in motivations,” she explained.

There are a lot of black market ‘sperm banks’ in Australia – and Julie suspects it’s because potential donors don’t want to have to give their identity away.

If you’re mind-blown over the underground world of the IVF black market, watch this. Post continues after video.

Video by health

By law in Australia, a child born of an anonymous sperm donor will be able to – if they want to – know the identity of their ‘father’ once they turn 18.

Further to that, they also have to have counselling before they donate (so does the recipient by the way). It’s a lot to ask of someone.

“There has to be a reason they aren’t coming through clinics,” suggested Julie.

How do they know if the sperm is OK?

Don’t worry there is heavy screening of each donor.

The sperm is put through a rigorous disease screening that checks for cystic fibrosis, spinal muscular atrophy and fragile X syndrome.

The donor’s chromosomes are tested, and it’s checked if they are a carrier of thalassemia.

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HIV, Hep B, Hep C, syphilis, gonorrhoea and chlamydia are also ruled out.

From here, the sperm is frozen for six months, and then tested again.

In vitro fertilisation, illustration
It takes a long series of tests for a donor sperm to be ready for In vitro fertilisation (IVF).

Once a patient makes a decision to go with a sperm donor, things can move quite quickly.

"You can do treatment within three to four months," Beverley said.

How much does donor sperm cost?

It does cost a little bit on top of an IVF procedure (which averages about $12,000 a cycle), but in the professor's words; "it doesn't cost a substantial amount more".

The cost will differ from clinic to clinic.

Fertility First charge $1080 for use of donor sperm for example.

The experts take on donor sperm....

"I have been in this medical field for a long time, I have seen significant change - not that long ago same sex couples didn't even have access [to me]. It's all for the good, everyone who wants to have children - should," said Beverley.

"This helps [Fifi's announcement] It doesn't make it so 'oh this is unusual'," she said.

"It is everyone's right to be pregnant if they're healthy and they want it," she concluded.

Fertility First's Julie Zieschang is of a similar opinion.

"I think it's pretty amazing. Sonia Kruger was also really open about her fertility journey and her use of IVF treatment," she said.

"It's important for all patients to see [referring to single, same-sex and hetero].

"The biggest message we need to get out there is to be conscious of fertility and the choices that are available. Be a little bit more proactive."

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