Babies with aid of donors

THE biological clock is ticking, you're yearning to have a baby and there is no Mr Right in sight. What is a woman to do? Get a sperm donor. At least that seems to be the growing trend.

THE biological clock is ticking, you're yearning to have a baby and there is no Mr Right in sight. What is a woman to do? Get a sperm donor. At least that seems to be the growing trend.

Until recently the sperm banks were a no-go area for black South Africans who had difficulties in having babies.

According to Aldo Esterhuizen, an embryologist based in Johannesburg, lack of the perfect man doesn't get in the way of a woman realising her dream for the perfect family. They can now fall back on sperm donation.

According to Elizabeth Nelson, a fertility specialist, 10 to 35percent of all couples in South Africa are infertile. Nelson says in 25percent to 50percent of the cases, male infertility - including inability to produce a healthy sperm and a sperm's inability to fertilise an egg - is the problem. Several factors such as stress, smoking, drinking, a compromised immune system, environmental factors (working with chemicals), heat (tight briefs, hot tubs, saunas) and age also cause infertility.

But in most cases, Nelson says, it is the woman who is blamed for failing to bear children and in some communities, using reproductive techniques is taboo.

"Many black communities believe that assisted reproductive techniques are unnatural.

"Many people would rather visit a sangoma for help than seek medical help."

However, sperm banking, which is formally referred to as "sperm cryopreservation", has become one of the major assisted reproductive treatments in South Africa.

Nelson also says though the number of women, especially black women, looking for sperm donors is increasing, there are a few black donors.

She blames social embarrassment and a conservative mindset for a lukewarm response among black men to donate sperm.

She says through tertiary institutions they have managed to get young donors willing to donate for a small fee.

She says mostly the donors are medical students aged 24 and older.

Nelson also bemoans the shortage of Asian and coloured sperm donors.

She says people from as far as Britain and France seek out South African sperm and that rich women from around Africa and Arab countries are also secretly coming in numbers.

"Though they have fertility clinics in their countries, South Africa is the destination of choice for privacy and financial reasons.

"White South African men, especially Afrikaners, are perceived as strong and big."

And while some people are curious about the religion and IQ of the donors, for others looks are the main priority, she said.

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