Since the two-child policy became effective in China, there have been reports that there is shortage of donor sperm within the country. On May 5th, CCTV America’s Rachelle Akuffo spoke to Dr.John Zhang about the general perceptions in China about donating sperm. Read the full article here.
Q: What is the general perception of donating sperm in China?
These are my person experience from my patients from China, who, unfortunately, for different reasons they need to use donor sperm. It is a very private matter and they are always embarrassed to let people know that they are using donor sperm. So in the old days, it is very common that we just use the brother’s sperm. But for many couples, they do not have a brother. So they have to look for donor sperm. Because of this cultural background and people being embarrassed about using donor sperm, sometimes it will make the procedure even more complicated.
Q: What do you think help change that perception? Do people get more comfortable?
I think yes. With education, with development of the culture, I think the new young generation are starting to become more open to use donor sperm, or as we call it in the US, third party reproduction, which uses donor sperm, donor eggs, or surrogate mothers. I think for the young generation it is becoming more acceptable.
Q: China is now struggling with some insufficient sperm supplies. So when you look at some of the key factors behind that, what would you say are the biggest ones?
I think there are 2 big factors. One is obviously the cultural background. Not only people are ashamed of using donor sperm, not many people are willing to donate the sperm. But I do not think this is the major reason. I think the major reason is from the regulation because in China, as compared with the US, there are a lot more strict regulations in setting up IVF centers, fertility clinics, and to licenses a facility to bank and sell donor sperm. It is very restrictive and this reduces the production and the supply of sperm. I personally feel that those are the two major factors.
Q: Speaking of regulation, in China, it is public hospitals that have traditionally been primarily the main source of sperm donations and you also have, perhaps around 2 dozen sperm banks there. What do you think about, perhaps, from the private sector and loosening some of the regulations?
That’s absolutely right. I think that of course we lived a very different ethnic background and social system, but I think the system to control fertility treatments in China is very strict. If you go to a fertility center, the center treated 20,000 patients a year, you can’t really provide better quality. Why? Because there’s a restriction on how many centers can be opened in each city. So I think this is a major imbalance between the demands of the services we can provide. If the government can loosen the regulations a little, I think we can get the private sector involved. If the government just provide a guideline and provide inspections and allow the private sector to do what only the state hospitals are doing, that problem would be fixed in 6 months.
Q: You also mentioned that previously that people would turn to, perhaps, a brother, if one is available, to be their sperm donor. So perhaps with this loosening out on the one-child policy, how do you foresee that change in the industry?
That is a very good question. I think the new policy to allow a second child will definitely affect the couples and definitely affect the demands for the sperm. But I don’t think that it will change that much because the second-child policy usually applied to couples who already have a first baby. It is usually a challenge on the lady’s side. Their average age is usually above 40. The overall chance to get pregnant in this group of patients who really want to have a second child, the average age is always 40. So what they really need is not donor sperm. They really need donor eggs, which is even more complicated in China which is not allowed.
Q: Lastly, if you have to give people a message about overcoming the perception, becoming comfortable with talking about sperm banks, and being open to some of these solutions, what would you like them to understand?
I really want them to understand that in the end, it’s a process to raise a child between a loving couples. I really don’t think where the sperm or egg comes from really plays an important role. We’ve been doing sperm donation and egg donation for the last 20 years. I see that the couples are equally happy using their own eggs or donor eggs, using their own sperm or donor sperm, as long as they produce a healthy, happy child and they raise a very happy human being, they really don’t care where eggs come from or where the sperm comes from.