Thursday 18 April 2019

Wannabe mums running a risk in waiting for Mr Right

Dr David Walsh: 'Banning anonymous donation will remove that option for more than half the patients who want to have a family that way and they will be forced abroad'
Dr David Walsh: 'Banning anonymous donation will remove that option for more than half the patients who want to have a family that way and they will be forced abroad'

Sinéad Moriarty

The urge to have a child is primal. For many single women who haven’t met Mr Right, their sadness and disappointment has much more to do with not becoming mothers than not becoming wives.

This is why increasing numbers of women are now looking to sperm banks to help them become solo parents via sperm donation.

Using sperm donation is not actually a modern concept. There are reports of donor sperm being used for women struggling to conceive in Egypt over 2,000 years ago.

Yet, Ireland still does not have a donor sperm bank. The fertility clinics here have to import the sperm from abroad.

Denmark is the country providing the Irish clinics with the majority of their sperm. According to Danish sperm bank Cryos – the largest sperm bank in the world – over the last 15 years sales from their company have resulted in more than 2,000 Irish pregnancies.

The main reason for choosing Denmark as the major source of sperm donation is because of the fully regulated systems in place. Donors there are put through a thorough screening process that includes tests for HIV, hepatitis B and C, sexually transmitted infections and chromosomal disorders.

Having a baby via sperm donor raises a lot of questions not to mention eyebrows. But is it really more ‘ethical’ to go out with someone you know you’re never going to marry just to have babies with them? Is it better to go out and have a one-night stand just to get pregnant? Isn’t that a little like ‘stealing’ sperm?

No young woman dreams of ending up at 40 heading to a sperm bank to find a father for her child. It’s not in anyone’s life plan, but if you do find yourself single at 40 and do really want to have a child, it’s a viable option and one that single women are turning to in increasing numbers.

In Denmark the numbers of ‘solo’ mums are increasing daily. “Around 50pc of our clients are now single,” says Ole Schou, director of Cryos. “We’re seeing an avalanche of educated older women – 85pc are aged between 31-45. More and more of them are going it alone and we predict that by 2020, 70pc of our clients will be single.”

But becoming a solo parent isn’t in Danish women’s ideal game plan either. According to a study by Copenhagen’s University hospital, 90pc of women surveyed in the country’s nine public fertility clinics wanted to have a child with a male partner. Becoming a single parents is plan B, but at least women now have the option of a Plan B.

A big question on the minds of all potential donor sperm recipients is the one of anonymity. Irish recipients used to have a choice whether to opt for anonymous or non-anonymous donation.

Anonymous meant that the donor would never know the child’s identity and the child would never be able to contact or communicate with him. Non-anonymous meant that the child could make contact with the donor through the chosen sperm bank when she or he reached 18.

But this has all changed since the introduction, in April this year, of new Children & Family Relationships legislation which provides for a National Donor-Conceived Person Register.

Now, all Irish fertility clinics must supply the names and identifying details of the donor and the mother for all children born in the State through donor conception.

Schou says between 2012 and 2015, just 45pc of Irish orders were for non-anonymous donor sperm. But this year Irish orders for non-anonymous donor sperm have shot up to 59pc, reflecting an awareness of the need to keep in step with the new legislative reality.

Dr David Walsh, medical director of SIMS IVF Clinic in Dublin believes that “banning anonymous donation will remove that option for more than half the patients who want to have a family that way and they will be forced abroad,” he said.

For those people who are set on going the anonymous route, they can still source sperm online, have it delivered to their homes, without involving fertility clinics, and self-inseminate.

The worry with that is that people may end up buying online from banks that haven’t been properly vetted, thus getting themselves into risky situations outside the supervision of a medically regulated clinic.

Desperate people go to desperate lengths to get what they want. Age is another grave concern when it comes to pregnancy as increasing numbers of women are looking to become parents in their 40s.

A review of older women who attended the HARI clinic in the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin over 16 years revealed that the pregnancy rate for women after 43 is just 5.04pc, compared with 12.5pc for those aged 40-42,

It also emerged that even among those in their mid-forties who did become pregnant, the risk of losing their baby was substantially greater than among the younger age group.

The study comes against a background of growing numbers of Irish women in their 40s trying to beat the biological clock by seeking fertility treatment to get pregnant.

They made up 7.2pc of the clinic’s patients in 1997, but now account for nearly one in five.

But what are women to do? If they wait for Mr Right, he may never turn up?

Irish Independent

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