VICTORIA Australia is so short of sperm donors that some women are flying interstate for IVF treatment, prompting calls to ease restrictions on importing sperm.
Fertility doctors say demand for sperm has surged since laws giving single women and lesbians access to IVF were brought in last year, with some patients waiting up to nine months.
The removal of anonymity has also made some men reluctant to donate, and restrictions that mean they can only give sperm to 10 families have also increased the need for more donors.
With just 184 registered sperm donors left in Victoria, fertility doctors say some patients are resorting to DIY inseminations using unscreened sperm, which carries the risk of infection.
Importing sperm is prohibited in Victoria unless approved by the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority, which last year granted permission in just three cases. But states without specific reproductive legislation such as Queensland are routinely importing sperm, often from American sperm banks.
Melbourne IVF director John McBain said the regulator was being too strict with the rules.
''The shortage is as bad as it's ever been and when the wait is so long to get access to a donor it just pushes it underground again and people seek their own remedy using uncounselled, unconsented donors and unquarantined sperm,'' he said.
''The worrying risk of that is chronic viral illness infection with either hepatitis B or HIV because a lot of single women tend to source gay men as their donors.
''One of the main things … is that we have minorities here in Australia who would quite like the child to look like its parents but no one has any Indian, Asian or Arabic sperm donors.''
Melbourne mother Lee, who did not want to use her real name, went to the City Fertility Centre but was told there would be a six to nine-month wait for sperm.
The clinic, which has only six donors on its books and has launched a website to attract more, referred the couple to a sister clinic in Brisbane, which uses samples from the US. Lee became pregnant on her first attempt with donor sperm and now has twin two-year-old girls.
''It was so simple. We could look at all their profiles on the internet and see baby pictures of them or in some cases what they look like as adults,'' she said. ''We wanted someone who had blond hair and blue eyes because my husband has Dutch in his background and it was important that the girls look like him.
''We were fortunate we had the finances to fly to Queensland, but it would be great if they could get more donors in Victoria by importing sperm.''
Louise Johnson, chief executive of the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority, which regulates fertility treatment, said decisions on importation were based on complex legal requirements and the welfare of the child.
Federal laws prohibit paying donors for sperm, although reimbursing costs is allowed. Clinics often differ in what they interpret as reasonable costs. State legislation also requires donors to be counselled by a Victorian counsellor before giving sperm.
''It's not just a simple matter of saying there's a shortage of donor sperm let's import a whole batch,'' Ms Johnson said. ''The guiding principles of the act are that the welfare of persons born as a result of treatment is paramount, and they have a right to information about their genetic parents. ''There would be no regulatory body in the US ensuring that their donor's details are kept up to date because there is no central register like there is in Victoria.
''There's a growing body of evidence that young people want to have the choice to obtain information about their donor when they become adults, so it not just the matter of supply.''
Adnan Catakovic, of Brisbane's City Fertility Centre, said his centre's US supplier exceeded Australian standards.
Men interested in donating sperm can visit spermdonorsaustralia.com.au
Article: 19th February 2011 by www.theage.com.au
Read more about donating sperm by personal arrangement at www.prideangel.com