Sydney woman turns to poster campaign to find egg donor
She was with her son’s father for five years but the couple broke up last year during the first COVID-19 lockdown. She has embryos in storage but they are in Europe; in order to use them, she would need consent from her ex-partner plus a travel exemption from the Australian government.
“I used to imagine as a teenager that I would find my soulmate, have five kids and live happily ever after, and it just hasn’t worked out that way,” she said.
“It’s not like I was out to catch a man and have a baby – I wanted to have a really amazing relationship and children would be the natural result of that. Now I’m doing it in reverse order.”
When Ms Sweeney first tried to conceive, she thought she would still be fertile because she looked after her health and her mother and grandmother both had a later menopause.
She believes there should be an Australian egg bank and young women should be encouraged to freeze their eggs and also do a donation round at the same time.
Associate Professor Mark Bowman, the medical director of fertility clinic Genea, said to donate eggs, a woman must go through one round of IVF, taking medication and having a procedure to extract the eggs.
Egg donation in Australia must be altruistic – meaning a woman can’t be paid to donate her eggs – and it is usually only something women do for their family and friends. Dr Bowman said the same rules apply to any eggs imported from an overseas supplier such as the World Egg Bank on behalf of an Australian woman.
IVF in Australia is subsidised by Medicare with no age limit. However some women head overseas for treatment to access donor eggs in countries where women can sell their eggs or to find a doctor willing to help them conceive with their own eggs when the woman has a low chance of success. There are also experimental treatments not available in Australia.
Most Australian IVF clinics report their results on the Your IVF Success website, launched by the federal government in February.
Dr Bowman was sceptical about the prospects of an Australian egg bank.
“How many responses has she got by putting up posters on telegraph poles?” he said. “If thousands of women have come forward, you’ve got yourself an egg bank. If she can’t get one, that’s telling you something.”
Sarah Dingle, the author of Brave New Humans, has seen the posters around the inner west and is concerned the advertisement does not mention the rights of the child, including the right to know their biological parents and any siblings.
“Why not mention the rights of the child up front?” Dingle said. “To me that’s the biggest thing with donor conception – it is the start of the conversation.”
Dingle, who was conceived with donor sperm, has previously addressed the United Nations about the rights of donor-conceived and surrogacy-born children. She believes there should be national regulation of the fertility industry.
Dingle said she also found it “deeply disturbing” that the poster was seeking a woman aged 18 to 32 because “no 18-year-old should be undergoing hormone treatment for a stranger”. She pointed out Ms Sweeney would also need donor sperm.
Ms Sweeney says women in Generation X were sold the myth of being able to have it all, while some men the same age had been too cavalier about wasting a woman’s childbearing years.
“I’ve got guy friends my age who are now saying they wish they had a family,” she said. “They can now go and find a 25-year-old while the women they dated when they were younger could be childless.”
Bronwyn Harman, a senior lecturer at Edith Cowan University, said the experience of women being childless because they’re “waiting for Mr Right” or other social circumstances is increasingly common.
Dr Harman said Ms Sweeney’s desire to have at least two children was also typical for Australian women, while studies have found people perceive the parents of only children as “selfish” or “irresponsible” because they weren’t giving their child a sibling.
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