Entertainment And News

The Procedure Women Are Using To Have Babies With Their Deceased Partners

Photo: Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock  
woman and baby

With advancements in technology, woman who previously might never have been able to have children via methods like in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination. People are now able to be intentional about how they have children and who they have them with.

But one surprising development in the quest to get pregnant is a process that allows women to conceive children with deceased partners.

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Posthumous sperm retrieval enables women to have babies with deceased partners.

It sounds impossible to retrieve sperm from a corpse, but it is actually something that is not unheard of. The first record of postmortem sperm retrieval (PSR) was reported in 1980 and the first child born as a result of the process was in 1999.

But you can’t go to just any hospital and request PSR. The places that are allowed to perform the operation are required to adhere to strict guidelines that decide when and how it can be done and who it can be requested by.

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Postmortem sperm retrieval must be done within a small window of opportunity.

The bodily fluid can be extracted from a patient who is brain dead and only surviving due to life support. For those already deceased, the ideal time frame is within 24-36 hours of death, according to a study published in February 2021 by Medicinski Glasnik.

The procedure is performed by either penetrating the skin with a needle to extract the sperm, doing a testicular biopsy, or by way of completely removing the testicles from the body an taking the sperm from them.

It is then frozen and stored until the deceased man’s partner is ready to get pregnant.

At that time, doctors attempt to fertilize a woman’s egg with sperm in a laboratory. One caveat is that because the sperm was not ejaculated as semen, it cannot simply be placed into the uterus using a catheter.

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Children born as a result of posthumous sperm retrieval are not widely studied.

There are no widely accepted studies on how successful the process is or the health of the children who are conceived this way. However, in a 2015 study, Human Reproduction shared that out of four women using postmortem sperm retrieval, all got pregnant and with the exception of one premature baby, they developed normally.  

The Journal of Law & Biosciences notes the legal complexities behind the simple reproductive process.

In a 2018 article, they said, “Posthumous reproduction raises a wide range of legal and ethical issues that are among the ‘most challenging, difficult and sensitive that are likely to be encountered in the field of medicine, let alone reproductive medicine.”

Some of those issues raised include ownership of the gametes (male and female cells that join together to reproduce), the inheritance rights and benefits of children conceived after the death of one parent, and of course, the social makeup of families.

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The issue of consent in posthumous sperm retrieval is a divisive topic. 

The Journal of Law & Biosciences article asks the question on all of our minds, should this manner of reproduction be permitted without the consent of the person that died?

In a repost of another article about sperm retrieval on Reddit, some users were quick to point out what they believe is an unethical medical practice while others cracked jokes about the strange revelation.

One person commented, “Anyone else think this sounds like the beginnings of a zombie apocalypse movie? Retrieval of 'undead' sperm leads to a new race of zombie babies! First baby zombie puts a new spin on “breastfeeding” by eating his mother’s breasts. Beginning the infection of the entire human race…”

Another reader posted, “When I said, "I'll be a father over my dead body", this is not what I meant.”

That comment was upvoted over 10,000 and another jokester added to it, saying, “I can’t even convince anyone to do a pre-mortem retrieval from me!”

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NyRee Ausler is a writer from Seattle, Washington, and author of seven books. She covers lifestyle and entertainment and news, as well as navigating the workplace and social issues.

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