The rise in the number of single women seeking to have children via sperm donation has helped create one of the biggest sperm shortages New Zealand has faced since the banks began here in the 70s.
RNZ reports that in 2014, single women accounted for more than half of the 300 babies born in New Zealand via sperm donation from fertility clinics.
Times have changed since 10 years ago. Back then, fertility clinics say, it was mainly heterosexual couples struggling with fertility issues and same-sex couples who used donor sperm to conceive.
Now, with a current 18-month-to-two-year wait for sperm from fertility clinics, New Zealanders are exploring other avenues, using social media to create sperm-donor communities.
Melissa Maynard, mother to six-month old Emerson, told RNZ she thought she might never have children at all, until she voiced her concerns on a women’s group Facebook page. “Someone reached out to me and said there's other options out there. She was pregnant by a private donor. I thought about it and it felt like the right thing to do. I'd always been a do-it-myself-type of girl. Very independent. And I've always felt perfectly happy by myself.”
These options include website coparents.com, with 100,000 registered members, or the NZ Sperm Donors Forum, with 492 members, and a host of Facebook pages.
The expense of fertility clinics, where initial consultations can cost as much as $300, and artificial insemination $1500 per cycle, is a major factor in the growing popularity of social media donors who often donate for no monetary reward.
However, medical director of Fertility Associates Wellington Andrew Murray said the unregulated nature of these donations was problematic, including an increased risk of future incestuous relationships and genetic and medical issues. In a clinic, donors are limited to a total of 12 children and five different families, and sperm is also tested for STIs.
"You don't know the medical history if you're going through Facebook. You're relying on those donors being upfront with you about what they choose to tell you," Murray said.