Black people looking to get assistance in having children are facing yet another challenge –– a yearslong Black sperm and egg shortage that experts say has only been made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the US, Black people face a number of reproductive health disparities including Black women being twice as likely to be infertile as white women, and a disproportionate rate of Black women suffering from conditions like fibroids, PCOS, endometriosis which can all lead to infertility.
With shortages of Black sperm and eggs, fertility assistance for Black people has only become more challenging.
After going through the process of getting pregnant via a donor, Aisha Jenkins saw firsthand how difficult finding a Black sperm donor is, so she chose a different route. "I knew there were other colors in the spectrum that would give me a brown child," Jenkins, a DC-based project manager who used a sperm bank to conceive, told The Wall Street Journal in February. Jenkins has two daughters, ages seven and two, who have Egyptian and Indian ancestry.
Industry experts explained to WSJ that Covid-19 prompted a major pool of donors –– young professionals and university students –– to leave big cities, creating low numbers for some of the nation's largest banks.
Seattle Sperm Bank clinic relations manager Alyse Mencias told the Mocha Single Mothers by Choice podcast last year that only one in every 1,000 applications across all races and ethnicities successfully complete the screening process. That process includes genetic testing, a criminal background check, infectious disease testing, and semen analysis to determine quality.
Additionally, because there is such high demand for Black and other nonwhite donors, clinics are not always able to replenish supply fast enough.
Other experts note that mistrust of the medical field within the Black community is also a barrier in bringing donation numbers up.
"There is a fear many people have about what is going to be done with their sperm and eggs," Dr. Michael A. Thomas of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine told WSJ.
One sperm bank in California is launching a study to determine barriers to sperm donation Black people face in an effort to address the issue.