Is there a Black Sperm and Egg Donor Shortage?
Black sperm and egg donors’ shortage creates stumbling block for black women already facing infertility disparity. Black women are twice as likely to be infertile than white women.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 11 percent of women of reproductive age in the U.S. have faced reproductive problems. Although Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show the national birth rate is higher among Black women than White women, NIH research also shows married Black women have nearly twice the odds of infertility as married white women.
According to the International Fertility Law Group, reproductive conditions such as fibroids, endometriosis, PCOS also disproportionally impact Black women and may lead to infertility.
While males can face sperm reproduction issues and infertility too, the latest research shows that hormonal and structural problems make it hard to conceive even with assisted reproductive technology, leading to the need for donor replacements.
Black Sperm and Egg Shortage
Experts say Black sperm and egg donor shortages have existed since the 1980s. Still, the absence of young professionals and college students in metro areas because of COVID-19 restrictions and modified work settings have made recruitment a greater challenge.
Sperm donors must return once or twice a month for six months, egg donors have to go through at least three months of screenings — must report self-inject hormones and medications on a strict schedule for weeks.
According to the WSJ, during one week in February, four out of the 242 available sperm donors at California Cryobank said they were Black, and 18 of 360 donors at Fairfax Cryobank, based in Fairfax, Va., identified as Black. California Cryobank Medical Director Dr. Jaime Shamonki stated they “cannot replenish the catalog fast enough to meet demand.”
Egg donors must pass psychological and medical screenings, including testing for the sickle anemia trait, which is more prevalent in Black people.
Why Aren’t There More Black Egg Donors, Black Sperm Donors?
Many of the same cultural and socio-economic factors that historically have discouraged Black intended parents from seeking, or impeded access to, ART treatment also has contributed to the shortage of Black egg donors and sperm donors.
In a November 2020 statement, the ASRM Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force “concluded that the lack of people of color in key positions in our profession, high price of treatment, inaccessibility of medical care, differences in success rates, lack of accessible patient education, and implicit biases and discrimination by some offices pose immense burdens to infertile individuals of diverse backgrounds, in same sex relationships or who are without a partner.”
Factors include stigma of infertility, distrust of medical profession, lack of information for Black sperm donors and egg donors, difficulty of donating, lack of diverse representation,
Advocacy organizations such as ASRM, which has for years studied racial inequalities both in access to ART and outcomes, have begun to formulate solutions. “Understanding the racial disparities in outcomes of different IVF treatments is a critical first step in assuring access to care for all patients,” stated Michael Thomas, MD, ASRM Secretary and Chair of the ASRM Diversity, Equity and Inclusion task force.
“Due to lower implementation rates and higher clinical loss rates, Black women are experiencing disproportionate barriers in pregnancy through IVF.” Among the ASRM recommendations are increasing the representation of Black people and other people of color “in the profession and leadership of reproductive medicine” through enhanced recruitment and educational efforts.