What Do Women Want When It Comes To Sperm Donors? Not What You Think

What do women want? Now there’s a question worth answering. Not by me. But if, by some miracle, I was, ever able to accurately answer that question, as opposed to providing what I think might be the right answer, then I would be exceptional indeed.

Now before anyone jumps to conclusions, I don’t even come close to having an answer. I’m not even going to try. But some researchers in Australia have. Especially in relation to what women are looking for in the prospective father of their chid. And what researchers discovered might surprise you. It surprised me.

A study of online sperm markets shows women value more than just money when it comes to choosing a father for their children. Queensland University of Technology behavioural economists, Stephen Whyte and Benno Torgler conducted a survey of 70 women who were shopping for sperm donors via the web, instead of traditional fertility and IVF clinics.

Ok. But let’s just pause the narrative for a moment. Why would women be shopping for sperm donors on the Internet instead of the traditional methods and means? In Australia the answer is because of dwindling anonymity for sperm donors. In fact, around 95 per cent of the sperm donations are sourced from overseas, the vast majority coming from the sperm export powerhouse, the United States. One of the dwindling few Australian men willing to donate said his decision to donate sperm was influenced by the inability to conceive with his wife and the lengthy process of adoption. “I knew the trouble some couples go through to conceive and just how emotionally draining it can be – that feeling of helplessness at times,” he said. “I was happy to help other families overcome these challenges in any way I could.” But he is very much the exception. Unfortunately, most Australian men remain extremely hesitant to donate sperm because they fear they might be identified by their potential offspring at some future time. The shortage of sperm donors is an issue across the entire country. IVF Australia spokesman Professor Michael Chapman said the shortage continues to force many to turn to the United States for a steady supply of sperm. He said imported sperm was being used to alleviate waiting lists and shortages. “In New South Wales the waiting time for donor sperm for married couples is two to three months, while single women often have to wait six months,” he said. The discrepancy is due to some donors specifying that their sperm is only to be used by couples wanting to conceive a child. City Fertility’s chief executive Adnan Catakovic said his national organisation imports between 50 and 200 sperm donations from the US each year. Melbourne Law School Professor Loane Skene said the right of children to identify their genetic parents. once they become adults, has undoubtedly reduced the number of sperm donors in Australia. “Although the child can find out who their parent is once they turn 18, there are no legal rights associated between them – a genetic father can’t be made to financially support the child,” she said. So are donor children interested in meeting their genetic father? The answer probably lies somewhere in between. Donor children are often not interested in meeting their fathers but want to know that their genetic father is a person and not just a number . The law in Australia is very clear about separating parenting rights from donor rights.

Anyway, lets get back on to the topic we began discussing at the very start. And that is the research that suggests women value more than just money when it comes to choosing a prospective father for their children. One of the behavioural economists, Stephen Whyte, responsible for conducting the survey of 70 women shopping for sperm donors online said the results were totally unexpected. “We’re interested in cognitive, psychological or emotional factors that are involved when people make decisions,” Whyte said. “Probably the biggest economic decision you’ll make in your life is your choice of partner, and having any subsequent offspring.” But the women surveyed were motivated not by money or career when considering a prospective father. He said women using online sperm markets provided a unique opportunity for a study of this type, because it took the issue of “parental investment” – the amount of time a potential partner would invest in the child’s growth and welfare – out of the equation. “This is an opportunity for women to go out and choose a donor that fits their aesthetic, the purely physical characteristics that they’re after,” he said. “But the study actually shows the most important things to women when they choose a donor in this online market are behavioural traits, like kindness, openness and reliability.” Whyte said those were traits taught by parents, arguably making them unimportant when it came to choosing a donor, but women still rated them as most important. He said the study also showed women didn’t value men with a high-profile or high-earning careers as much as popular wisdom might suggest. “They’re putting behavioural traits at the top, physical aspects like eye colour and hair colour next, then, at the bottom, the least important things are income and occupation,” Whyte said. “It’s a step away from the evolutionary psychology argument that women favour resources or indication of resources in a partner, to help them bear the heavy burden in having kids.” The world-first research will be published in the Journal of Bioeconomics, but Whyte said it wasn’t the end of the story. “These sorts of sperm sharing websites have only been around for about five years, and what’s going to be interesting is will that change, and will more women seek to use these services?,” he said. “It will be interesting to do a larger study into the why – are they going to those services to get better contact than at current fertility or IVF clinics?”

He also said work would be done in examining the male side of the equation. “When we did the survey we collected both women participating, and men donating, but we’re still in the process of finishing the paper on the men,” he said. In fact the findings in relation to men could be just as crucial as women. Men forgo any right to anonymity when the donate sperm online. And that is what interests scientists like Stephen Whyte.  “But it’s the same thing… why are men happy to participate in this online sperm marketplace, when a regular donation at a clinic is completely anonymous? “ It’s a change in the way the human race is mating.”

You could say that again.

Older Women Wanting To Have Healthy Babies, The Trick Is Eat More Ice Cream

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, something comes along that makes you realize you haven’t. Actually, there are a lot of things that I haven’t heard of but this is so bizarre it’s worth talking about.

Here’s a question: What do you think might help older women have babies? Fertility treatment? No. Having a relationship with a man who has a high sperm count? Well yes, but in the context of what I am talking about here, Nah. Give up? Ok. The answer is ice cream.

This revelation, has greater relevance at this time of year if you happen to live in the southern hemisphere, as I do, where the daily summer forecast varies between hot and hotter.

The bottom line is, according to researchers, if you eat ice cream regularly, and you’re an older woman, then it’s going to significantly improve your chances of conceiving a healthy child.

Personally, I don’t need a reason to eat ice cream. Summer or winter. It happens to be one of my favorite pastimes and I have a waistline to prove it.

The research comes from the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center in the United States. They asked women, over the age of 35, to keep a record of what they ate during their IVF treatment.

And when researchers began collating the figures, they discovered something unusual. Those who ate the most ice cream, cream, yogurt and milk, were 21 per cent more likely to give birth than those who rarely ate dairy products. And the quantities don’t need to be big or eaten frequently, every day, to make a difference.

Just three portions of dairy each day is enough to have a significant impact – the daily equivalent of one scoop of ice cream, one glass of milk and a slice of cheese.

So, is there a scientific explanation for why this is happening? Well, apparently there is. According to lead researcher, Dr Jorge Chavarro, of Massachusetts General Hospital, cow’s milk contains hormones that will improve the chances of an embryo being successfully implanted inside the womb.

“We found that women who had the highest intake of dairy were more likely to have live births,” Chavarro said. “ For women under 35 there doesn’t seem to be an association but for women over 35 the association is much stronger. That is the exact opposite of what we expected to find.”

But, I am beginning to think there is an element of the pre-ordained about this research. It turns out the situation is the exact opposite for men. According to this same researcher, if a man eats lots of ice cream, milk, cheese and yoghurt, their fertility will in fact decrease and they’ll end up firing blanks. It is even worse news for obese or overweight men, who eat lots of soy products. This type of food has a catastrophic effect on sperm production. And there’s a scientific reason for this as well. Sperm production is affected by something called phytoestrogens, which are plant compounds that behave exactly like the hormone, oestrogen, which doesn’t like male sperm.

And because obese men, produce more oestrogen than their slimmer counterparts, the adverse effect on sperm production is compounded if you’ll pardon the pun. So the lesson is if you’re male and want to have children it’s best if you are not a vegetarian and you do it at a young age.

But then again if you are male and eat a lot of bacon and processed meat then your sperm count is likely to be 30 percent less than men who avoid these kinds of food.

In fact, Doctor Chavarro is deeply concerned about how beef is produced in the United States because of its possible, harmful effect on male infertility. He says many beef producers give their cattle, natural or synthetic hormones, to stimulate growth, a few days and weeks before they are slaughtered at the abattoir.

These hormones may well be one of the culprits in lowering the male sperm count. In fact if men want to eat food that is going to boost their fertility rather than reduce it, they are better off eating walnuts. They not only improve the quality of sperm production, they can also turn weak swimmers into sperm strong enough to swim across the English Channel.

But getting back to the story of how ice cream is helping to improve the fertility of older women, dairy products contain the hormone, progesterone and that is very good news.. This hormone, makes the female womb become sticky which can have a glue like effect when an embryo is implanted using IVF.

Progesterone production, is known to decrease in women as they get older so this is giving them a new lease of life..

Personally, I’m not quite sure what to make of this research. On the one hand, it offers a glimmer of hope for women who might have left the decision to have a family very late in life. But on the other, it is basically saying that overweight, middle aged men, who are either vegetarian or eat too much processed meat, are almost good for nothing.

And while I am not a vegetarian, nor do I eat a lot of processed meat, I do pretty much fulfil the other requirements which makes me feel a little besieged by all of this news.

I guess if nothing else it gives true meaning to the phrase, you are what you eat.

The Cougar Phenomenon: Science Is On Your Side Older Ladies (Apparently)

I came across something the other day called The Cougar Phenomenon. It was basically answering the question why older women should choose young lovers? It was written in such an important and breathless fashion it would have to be the question on everyone’s lips. Well it is, isn’t it?

It was quoting research, which is always a good sign if you are looking to go up a notch in the credibility stakes. Women in their 40s, should look for younger partners to boost their chances of becoming pregnant, according to a group of academics at Gill University in Canada. I guess it’s yet another example of Canadian researchers, coming up with creative ways to spend their research grants or have a lot of time on their hands or both.

Anyway, I’ll park the cynicism for the time being and get to the point.

Would be mothers in their 40s, will struggle to have children with male partners the same age. There might be no such thing as male menopause but that doesn’t mean the biological clock isn’t ticking for blokes. Gill University researchers say the fertility clock stops for men at the age of 43. According to their study, a man’s age is maybe just as important as it is for a woman when they both reach their 40s and want to conceive.

It upends previous thinking on this because it was said that men could go on fathering children indefinitely because they are continuously producing new sperm in contrast to women who have the same eggs from birth. But scientists are starting to believe and see evidence of mutations creeping into sperm over time, which affects male fertility. As if men didn’t have enough to worry about.

One of main Gill University researchers told a fertility conference in Hawaii that the findings were “astounding.” There’s no such thing as understatement at Gill University.

He said it was previously thought that young women could always “fix” any defects in genetic material in sperm but once she hit the naughty forties forget it. The lead researcher went on to say that this gives a biological argument to the cougar phenomenon of an older woman selecting a younger male partner. This was the first study of its type to look at this in a scientific way.

The researchers studied women aged between 40 and 46 who undertook 904 IVF cycles between 2010 and 2012. In couples where the male was 43 or older, no children were born. But older women with younger partners went on to conceive babies.

The news just keeps on getting worse for older would be fathers. Previous studies have shown the children fathered by men over 55, are at greater risk of autism, bipolar disorder, low IQ and schizophrenia.

But the new research suggests that even in their early forties, men are already beginning to lose their fertility.

According to the Gill University researchers for a 37 or 36-year-old woman, the man’s age is not such a factor. But once she hits 40, a woman’s reproduction undergoes changes and when those changes occur the age of her male partner becomes a factor.

The reality is that most men are probably with women of a similar age, so as the woman gets older, so does her partner. But when they both reach 40, the scientific evidence suggests the biological clock in the man contributes to his ability, make that inability, to produce children.

Over the past 40 years the average age for bearing children in the UK, and pretty much everywhere else in the world, has been steadily increasing for men and women. According to the UK Office for National Statistics, the average woman gives birth just a week short of her 30th birthday while first time mothers are also older, at just over 28. The average age of a father is now 32 years and six months.

Women are born with all their eggs, but male sperm is constantly replicating. Each time, a single sperm replicates, there is a chance for mutation in the DNA to occur. As men age, they are also exposed to numerous environmental toxins over time which have been shown to cause DNA mutations in sperm. Molecular genetic studies have shown that the sperm of older men have far more mutations than those of younger men.

Professor Dagan Wells, a leading fertility expert at Oxford University backed the Canadian findings saying that older women may find it easier to get pregnant with a younger man.

“We know that the DNA in the sperm of older men suffers a loss of integrity. The DNA should be a nice long uninterrupted molecule but in older men it breaks up into little bits. The egg is rich in enzymes which repairs DNA damage but it could be that (as women age) that the egg is getting more challenged. There might be a tipping point,” he said.

What about older men who manage to have children with much younger partners? Surely that is a sign they still have what it takes? Not according to these scientists. Men who become fathers in their 50s or 60s are not more virile, they are just more likely to have a younger partner whose egg has repaired their mutated sperm.

And just to complete the humiliation for older guys, Professor Charles Kingsland, consultant gynecologist at Liverpool Womens’ NHS Foundation Trust, added: “There are biological reasons why an older woman would benefit from a younger man. Not only are male sperm likely to be healthier but women live a lot longer.”

Ouch.