Women travelling abroad for IVF amid sperm donor shortage in Scotland 

Fiona is one of many single women who travelled abroad for IVF due to lack of options.

Single women are travelling abroad for IVF as Scots clinics face a shortage of sperm donors.

Women who want to have babies are undergoing their treatments in countries such as Greece and Denmark as they feel there are better options available.

Meanwhile in Scotland, clinics are urging more men to come forward to help them meet demand as donations are being imported from overseas.

The number of single women going through IVF in Scotland soared by around 20% since 2019.

Fiona Wark began thinking seriously about starting a family after the first Covid lockdown.

After having a dream about a little girl with red hair, she decided to go it alone and travelled to Greece for treatment at the age of 36.

She is now mum to nine-month-old Maura.

She told STV News: “I can meet someone at any point in my life and they can be a partner to me, but my time to have children isn’t never ending.

“I got it into my head that my time was running out. I tried first with a known donor, but it didn’t pan out. I kept my IVF option open. I had initial testing done just to find out where I was.”

As a single woman, she wasn’t eligible for any fertility treatment on the NHS.

Dr Martins Da Silva said Covid has had a 'knock-on effect' on sperm banks

Only couples who meet certain criteria can have up to three full cycles of IVF treatment funded by the health service.

Same sex couples can also access this, as well as six cycles of donor insemination treatment.

Fiona felt her options were better at clinics abroad, and eventually chose to go to Greece to undergo IVF treatment – using donor sperm from Denmark.

She interviewed nine or ten different clinics before settling on her chosen service, spending around £8,000 in total.

She said: “They gave me a much better feeling than I ever got from clinic over here. They were invested in the outcome.

“The options in this country in terms of sperm banks and donors are limited, the sperm bank connected to the clinic is very limited. I was giving myself a better choice to select what I was really looking for.

“I was lucky I only needed one round and one transfer.”

In Denmark, sperm donation is big business – and demand for it in the UK is growing.

Almost half of all donated sperm used in Britain came from abroad in 2020.

Over a quarter (27%) was imported from America, with a population of 332 million and 21% was from Denmark, which has a population of six million.

Patients can pick exactly what they want from a donor, from an extensive list of physical traits to even what type of music they like.

The process of donating here in Scotland is equally rigorous, but there are fewer men coming forward.

Dr Martins Da Silva is a lecturer in reproductive medicine at Dundee University and consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the assisted conception unit in Ninewells Hospital.

She said: “In the early part of the pandemic, fertility services were closed down by law.

“They reopened in June 2020 but for a period of time we were reluctant for people to be encouraged to come to hospital and healthcare settings due to the risk of transmitting Covid.

“We weren’t really able to encourage fit and healthy people into a hospital setting. That has had a knock on effect on the availability of sperm in our clinic.”

Fiona can store her embryos in Greece until she’s in her 50s, giving her the freedom and flexibility that she never had before.

She added: “I’m proud of myself. I was confident I could do it on my own and what I could give to a little one.

“I’m not saying there aren’t lonely and hard moments as it can be for many solo mums. But all of my energy goes into her into making sure she’s got the best I can give her. That’s a wonderful thing.

“I’m delighted. She’s a firecracker and she’s wonderful.”

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