Transporting eggs sperm and embryos
There are many aspects to consider when shipping sperm, eggs or embryos, internationally:
- The laws and regulations in the countries the material is being shipped from or shipped to
- The potential risk of damage to the sperm, eggs or embryos if shipment is delayed
- The time it takes to arrange shipping, and potential delays because of the disruption of Covid on international air travel
- Your destination clinic
- Book a consultation with one of doctors to go through what would be involved for you individual circumstances. More here
- Contact our transport coordinator by filling in the online shipping form below.
How are my gametes shipped? Dry shipping at -196°C
- Once sperm, eggs or embryos are frozen, they are stored in liquid nitrogen tanks at -196°C.
- Since it is unsafe to travel with liquid nitrogen in a liquid form, sperm, eggs or embryos are transported in dry shippers.
- The dry shipper is primed with liquid nitrogen, which gets absorbed into foam inside the shipper.
- Vapour is then gradually released to keep the temperature at -196°C.
Potential damage - Recommended couriers to use and ensure No X-Ray during transit
- The shipper retains enough liquid nitrogen to maintain the low temperature for approximately 10-15 days. Shippers are robust but can lose their liquid nitrogen if physically damaged or tipped over.
- Some shipping companies have a person accompany the shipper throughout the journey to ensure there are no delays or damage, while others use unaccompanied shippers.
- Fertility Associates prefers to export/ import frozen material internationally with a personal courier to accompany the shipment. However, with the current border closures that is not always possible.
- We can provide you with some companies that offer this service. You will need to choose the shipping company you prefer, and they will invoice you separately for their services.
- It is important that your shipment is Not X-Rayed during transit as this could damage the DNA within the gametes/ embryos.
Things to consider when selecting a shipping company are:
- Whether the company tracks the temperature inside the dry shipper
- How they track the dry shipper, for instance by GPS tracking, in case the shipper gets off loaded or delayed
- Ease of communication with the shipping company and its agents
- Their experience with handling and shipping sperm, eggs and embryos.
Laws and regulations
- In New Zealand, Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) is governed by the HART Act, which has specific prohibitions and requirements. For instance, sperm or eggs cannot be imported from donors who have received more than a reimbursement of expenses.
- Donors need to be identifiable and have a certain level of counselling. If your donor sperm or donor eggs are being collected overseas and frozen for transportation, they will still have to satisfy the New Zealand donor requirements to be used for treatment here.
- We cannot receive gametes or embryos that have been involved in sex selection, nor can we send them overseas for treatment that includes sex selection.
- Other countries have their own requirements, some quite stringent or specific. We will communicate with your holding/receiving clinic to ensure all these requirements are met.
- Because shipping sperm, eggs or embryos can be complex, one of the first steps is a consultation with a Fertility Associates doctor to go over the risks and issues that may apply to your situation. For some people, their importing or exporting of sperm, eggs or embryos will need to be approved by Fertility Associate’s Medical Directors.
There are many steps to take before material can be shipped, such as collating documents and meeting the requirements of each clinic. Expect shipment to take at least two months to organise and execute.
Transporting gametes or embryos for fertility treatment is more costly than transporting people. The overall costs for international shipping include several components:
- Doctor consultation
- Initial coordination of international shipping
- Additional shipping coordination fee for countries that have particular regulatory requirements or where donation is involved
- Shipping company costs depending on the company, destination, and weather accompanied
- Overseas Administration
Click here to see current shipping fees.
About the fees:
Fertility Associates fees cover staff time and overheads and are based on extensive experience. The initial coordination fee is usually sufficient to cover the work required when we are importing or exporting a person’s own sperm or eggs, or embryos created using own sperm and own eggs, because the process is relatively straightforward.
The additional shipping fee is charged when donor sperm or donor eggs are involved, or when your material is being sent to countries outside of Australia. In these cases, the level of documentation required to satisfy regulations, permissions, and individual clinic requests is often be extensive. We will tell you if there are any extra fees, such as for obtaining statutory declarations or similar.