COVID-19: Sweden faces sperm shortage as potential donors for assisted pregnancy avoid hospitals during pandemic

Sweden is facing a shortage of sperm for assisted pregnancy as potential donors have avoided hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic.

Men are being urged to come forward after inseminations were halted in large parts of the healthcare system and waiting times were driven up sharply.

Those hoping to start a family will now have to wait about 30 months or longer, compared with six months last year, doctors told Reuters news agency.

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

Sweden has taken a different direction to most countries during the pandemic, spurning lockdowns and instead choosing to keep businesses largely open with some restrictions.

The country has reported 13,720 coronavirus deaths, higher than its Nordic neighbours but still lower than many other European countries.

It is now facing another surge in cases, and in recent days it has had the highest number of daily coronavirus infections per person in Europe.

As the pandemic situation appears to be worsening, people who need help getting pregnant are facing a difficult wait.

“It’s stressful that we can’t get a clear time or date for treatment,” said Elin Bergsten, a 28-year-old maths teacher from southern Sweden.

Mrs Bergsten and her husband learned he was unable to produce semen two years ago and immediately applied for assisted pregnancy.

She was due to have her second cycle of insemination but now her treatment has been delayed indefinitely due to the shortage.

Private clinics are able to buy sperm from abroad but treatment can cost up to £8,500, making it unaffordable for many, while assisted pregnancy remains free within Sweden’s national health service.

Under Swedish law, a sperm sample can only be used by a maximum of six women so only those who have used a specific sperm sample before are able to use assisted pregnancy in many areas at the moment.

Some regions have campaigned on social media to encourage male donors to take part, but they have had varying results.

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