A Melbourne mum is sharing her journey after providing "the most precious gift" to another woman unable to conceive.
Sarah* and her female partner went through several rounds of IVF before she finally fell pregnant with twins using donor sperm five years ago.
"IVF is such a tough and emotional journey and I am one of the lucky ones," she tells 9Honey Parenting. "I have two beautiful babies that are healthy."
The 37-year-old mum-of-two felt so passionately about helping other women who are struggling to start a family, that she donated all the eggs that she could last year through Melbourne IVF, 32 in total.
And she recently received the amazing news that two babies have been born from her donated eggs.
"I burst into tears when I received the email," she declares. "I was just so happy and excited. I just knew it was something I had to do.. to help someone else have children as I was lucky enough to do.
"I wanted to pay that gift forward. It was the most beautiful moment."
Thousands of women across Australia are currently sitting anxiously on sperm and egg donor waitlists as the shortage escalates. Women who are desperate to have a child and have already exhausted all other options.
According to Melbourne IVF, their sperm and egg donor waitlists have "escalated" because of the pandemic. There has also been a spike in demand for eggs and sperm, with increasing numbers of single women and same-sex couples wanting to start a family.
"For every donor allocation, we currently have three potential sperm donor recipients lined up," Dr Melissa Cameron tells 9Honey Parenting. "And for every egg donor, we have 10 recipients waiting. We simply can't meed the demand."
Last month, Australia's largest IVF provider, Virtus Health, launched a campaign aimed at tackling Australia's sperm and egg shortage.
The campaign is called 'Life. Pass it on.'.
'Thousands of Australians need help becoming parents. Your donation can change lives', reads the tagline on the website.
"The goal is to rally the country and encourage people to donate by generating awareness that a lot of people are in possession of eggs and sperm which could literally change someone's life by helping create a family," Dr Cameron explains.
The campaign shows joyous childhood moments - a child laughing on a swing, a child dancing with an ice block ¨C and helps people associate beautiful childhood memories with the actionable act of donation.
The campaign's creative is built on research that taps into the emotional reasons why donors gift their sperm and eggs to others - highlighting their genuine need to care and help others.
"We discovered that most donors had witnessed someone in their life struggling with fertility issues, which is why they wanted to help and 'pay it forward'," said Virtus Health Group CEO Kate Munnings. "There is an urgent need for a national donor drive."
In Australia, all sperm and egg donations must be done altruistically (without payment).
"A lot of people, like Sarah, donate because they have been through treatment themselves and know how traumatic it can be," Dr Cameron explains.
The campaign also highlights donor conception truths, including the importance of donor-conceived people to know about their genetic heritage and origins.
"The way we approach donation now is light years away from the approach 80s," Dr Cameron says. "The core of all our decisions is to take in the best interests of the child. We strongly encourage parents to ensure they understand who they are, where they come from and to know their genetic and medical history."
For Dr Cameron, the quest is also personal, as she also used a sperm donor to conceive two children with her partner.
"I do feel like I understand the complexities of the situation a bit more and can give something extra," she admits. "Kids know a lot these days.. and families come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
"Today's Australian family no longer consists of only a biological mother, biological father and biological child."
It's a sentiment that is echoed by Sarah.
"I am very open and tell my kids they were created by donor sperm," she reveals. "And I hope that one day I will meet the children created from my donor eggs."
"And I would urge anyone who may have that inkling to donate their eggs or sperm to go ahead and help someone else have children. You really will change someone's life."
* Not her real name
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