Married couples in Malaysia who cannot conceive due to problems with their sperm or eggs have had to resort to assistance from local and foreign donors for the past ten years. Now, it appears that the number of such donations have increased.
Infertility on the increase
To date, official statistics are non-existent, but local medical experts think that such donations may have risen because of the increasing infertility rate.
“Over the last five years, we have seen an increase in male infertility from 15% to 30%,” said Dr Mohamad Farouk Abdullah, head of the obstetrics and gynaecology department of the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital in Klang, and he added that, “More women are also coming to seek treatment at an older age with problems with ovulation and the quality of their eggs,” the senior consultant added.
Need for regulated guidelines for
As of now, there seems to be no enforceable laws or regulations in Malaysia that prohibit or allow sperm and egg donations between infertile couples and third party donors. The Malaysian Medical Council has set guidelines on assisted reproduction, but only in the medical profession.
A check by The Star newspaper has discovered that sperm and egg donations are offered by many fertility centres in Malaysia. Sperm donors are chosen from men between 20 to 40 years old, and eggs come from women between 20 to 30 years old. Sperm donors can be paid RM 200 whereas egg donations can go for up to RM 7000.
“It is often a question of what is accepted between the infertile couple (and) the attending doctor.” said Dr. Farouk, and added that basic ethics should be considered, such as having both parties understand the risks involved in the procedures of assisted reproduction.
Beware of the ‘eggs-tra’ risks
Although sperm and egg donations are on the rise, couples and potential donors must be aware of the attendant risks:
“Egg donation carry more risks than sperm donation,” says Dr. Paul Tay, a consultant obstetrician, “ A woman needs to be chemically stimulated to produce more eggs in her menstrual cycle and the procedure may pose risks of overstimulation that could lead to complications…including death in rare cases.”
Dr. Tay also commented that although laws are required to regulate the procedures of egg donations, he expressed hopes that the regulations do not result in so much red tape that egg donations become impractical.
An egg-ceptional solution?
According to Singapore General Hospital, some Singaporeans are going elsewhere to try their luck. The main reason they go overseas is because they are too old to qualify for IVF treatment here, or they need to find an egg donor.
The two egg banks in Singapore are reported to be short of supply due to the long process of being a donor. A donor must undergo 10 to 14 days of daily injections to stimulate her ovaries to produce eggs, and after this process, a needle is inserted into the ovaries to retrieve the eggs.
According to Dr Yu of SGH, who says the process is time-consuming and “can be painful”. Besides, donors are not paid and get only $150 to cover their transport fees and effort, she added. SGH’s egg bank has not had a single donor for the past three years and the wait for a donor’s eggs is “indefinite”. Patients who need eggs must produce their own donors now.
It appears that only a few donors come forward each year at the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. These egg donors “are usually friends or relatives of the egg recipients, whom recipients find using their own resources”, noted Dr Loh Seong Feei, director of the KKIVF Centre.
The scarcity of egg donors here means Singaporean women unable to produce eggs, or whose eggs are of poor quality, often have no choice but to go overseas where egg banks have stock at hand.
Sources: Yahoo.sg, The Star, SGH.com
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