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Public-sector fertility clinics: Record level of egg and sperm donations this year

More couples and individual women will be able to begin fertility treatments, says Tampere University Hospital.

Tutkimus.
Egg and sperm donations are on the rise, but there is still a shortage of semen (file photo). Image: Toni Pitkänen / Yle

Fertility clinics in the public health system have received a record amount of egg and sperm donations this year, according to Tampere University Hospital. As a result, more couples and individual women will be able to begin fertility treatments, says Katja Ahinko, a specialist in gynaecology and obstetrics at Tampere University Hospital's fertility clinic.

Public sector hospitals and clinics stopped offering fertility treatments with donated gametes in 2016, but resumed them late last year, beginning with the Tampere and Helsinki university hospitals.

Prior to 2016, only a small percentage of all fertility treatments with gametes were carried out at public sector institutions in Finland.

Last year, individual women and female couples became eligible for public sector fertility treatments, with certain restrictions. For instance, would-be mothers must be residents of Finland under age 40 who are not significantly overweight and do not have more than one child already.

Semen imported from Denmark

“This year the total number of gamete donations is set to rise, as will the number of fertility treatments,” says Ahinko.

There is still however a shortage of sperm donors, though.

“There is such a major need for semen that many clinics in Finland have to import it from abroad, mainly from Denmark,” says Anna-Kaisa Poranen, a specialist in gynaecology and obstetrics at the Felicitas fertility clinic, owned by private health care provider Mehiläinen.

According to the THL, last year in Finland there were 239 egg donors and 139 sperm donors. About five and a half percent of births in Finland involve assisted fertility treatments.

Healthy lifestyles required

The Act on Assisted Fertility Treatments, which took effect in 2007, decreed that children born as a result of the use of donor cells have the right to learn the identity of the donor when they turn 18.

According to Ahinko, this led to a rapid drop in the number of donors, but within a few years the situation returned to what it had been before the law took effect.

Public sector egg donors must be aged 20–35 while sperm donors must be between 20 and 45. They must be healthy and not have any hereditary diseases in their families, explains Ahinko.

“In the public sector we also require a healthy lifestyle including being a non-smoker, which has a clear impact on the quality of gametes,” she told the news agency STT.

According to the THL, of all the assisted fertility treatments performed in 2018, 17.7 percent resulted in births.

As a result of those treatments, nearly 2,500 children were born, representing 5.4 percent of births in Finland that year.

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