Friday, 11 September 2015

One in two IVF sperm donors for Australian kids is American

Australia has a strong record of helping couples conceive — one child in every classroom is now said to have originated from IVF — but at least half of all donor sperm still has to be imported from the US.

The latest data on the use of Assisted Reproductive Technol­ogy shows that strong demand for infertility treatment has levelled off but outcomes continue to improve­, with genetic testing expecte­d to revolutionise the industry­ in the coming years. Mich­ael Chapman, the vice-president of the Fertility Society of Australia, said it still took a concerted effort to find local sperm donors, who until recently were outnumbered by American donor­s two to one.

“I don’t know what the current statistic is but certainly, if you’d asked me about IVFAustralia’s figures 12 months ago, it would have been two-thirds American,” said Professor Chapman, a senior fertility specialist with IVFAust­ralia and a leading academic.

“Over the last 12 months, our campaign to find more local donors­ has had some success — so I would say (the figure) is now closer to 50-50.”

Queensland Fertility Group clinical director David Molloy said yesterday that in his experience the split was 70-30, with the majority coming from the US, where the practice of paying for sperm had a bigger influence on American donors than doubts that they would remain anonymous, which still seemed to deter Australian men.

While there appear to be no import or regulatory controls on the use of American sperm, Dr Molloy said clinics sought out providers with similar practices to Australia.

Launching the ART data report­, Professor Chapman said that about 14,000 babies were deliver­ed in Australia and New Zealand each year as a result of IVF, and advances in technology meant frozen embryos had the same chance of success as fresh embryos. “One in 25 babies born in Australia is the result of an IVF cycle,” he said.

Professor Chapman said Australia led the world in single embryo­ transfer — multiple births carry more risks — with a twinning rate in the 2013 data period­ of 5.6 per cent, the lowest ever and well under the 20-25 per cent rate in the US.

With half of all embryos “genet­ically doomed”, Professor Chapman said better and cheaper testing would be likely to result in success rates of 60-70 per cent within a few years.

A ban on selecting the gender was also under review, and Professor Chapman said that while a majority of people might oppose the concept, probably 60 per cent of IVF patients wanted that option­, given how emotionally and financially invested they had to be in the process.

“If a woman is producing eggs, and she persists over cycle after cycle … if they can afford it and if they can emotionally cope with it, if you keep going for up to six cycles­, your chances of pregnancy — if you’re under 40 — is in excess­ of 75 per cent,” he said.

“That’s going home with a baby. But many women fall by the wayside, many couples fall by the wayside.”