Sperm deficit hits Sweden as COVID-19 keeps donors away from hospitals

Health authorities in Sweden have raised alarm over the acute shortage of sperm for insemination as COVID-19 is keeping potential donors away from clinics.

Reuters reported that the shortage in sperm for assisted pregnancy has largely halted inseminations in most hospitals, and this it said could drive up waiting times by years.

Those planning to begin their own family now have to wait for around 30 months or more compared to about six months in the past year, doctors told the newspaper.

“We’re running out of sperm. We’ve never had so few donors as during the last year,” the newspaper reported the head of the reproduction unit at Gothenburg’s University Hospital, Thurin Kjellberg, as saying.

The calls for men to come forward to donate sperm has intensified since then.

This scarcity is not peculiar to public healthcare centres. Private clinics in the Scandinavian country are also grappling with sperm deficit, but they are now buying sperm from abroad.

Assisted pregnancy is free within Sweden’s national health service, but its treatment could cost as much as 100,000 Swedish krona ($11,785), one that not many can afford.

“It’s a national phenomenon,” Ms Kjellberg said. “We’ve run out in Gothenburg and Malmo, they will soon run out in Stockholm.”

Because under Swedish law, according to Reuters, , a sperm sample can only be used by a maximum of six women, most sperm samples in the country have reached their legal capacity.

According to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, Nordic countries (which is made up of Denmark, Finland, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) and Belgium have the highest assisted conception rates in the world, in terms of availability of cycles per million of population.

Efforts by some Swedish regions to urge potential sperm donors on social media have returned little changes.

“We need to go on TV and tell Swedish men to come forward,” Ms Kjellberg said.

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Sweden has reported 13,720 COVID-19 deaths, more than its Nordic neighbours but lower than many other European countries.

But it is now grappling with a surge in recent days which has now left the country with the highest number of COVID-19 infections per person in Europe.

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