Sperm Donation can be used when:
- A man has had a vasectomy previously and now wants to father a child
- In same sex relationships and for single women
- Where the man in a relationship is a carrier of certain genetic diseases
- When there has been treatment previously which has altered sperm production such as radiation or chemotherapy for cancer
- Where previous illness e.g. mumps have rendered the man in a relationship infertile
It is estimated that around one in eight couples who are having problems with infertility need to use donor sperm in order to have a baby.
Obtaining Donor Sperm:
- Couples may choose to do their own research amongst friends and family and make their own negotiations and arrangements about sperm collection and insemination. They may choose not to use a fertility clinic at all and do their own research and conception planning.
- Couples may elect to go with a fertility clinic and use donor sperm where the identity of the donor is unknown to them. Some information about the donor is made available, but identifying information such as name and address are not shared.
- Another option is to use the services of the clinic to screen and organize insemination with the sperm of a known donor. The sperm is only used for one client and is the preferred option for single women who wish to conceive but who are not in a relationship.
How Donor Sperm is Used:
If donor sperm is arranged through a fertility clinic, it can be used via insemination or as part of an overall In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) procedure. Artificial insemination can be a very simple treatment for infertility; however, freezing and storing sperm is much more difficult and involves more cost. If donor insemination is done, the sperm is injected directly into the woman’s uterus and timed with her ovulation. If it is used during
IVF, the sperm is used to create an embryo with the woman’s ova and then transferred into the uterus.
Many couples worry that using donated sperm to achieve a pregnancy will affect its success. But research shows that there is the same rate of pregnancy complications from using donor sperm as there are through natural conception. Sperm donation in itself does not add to pregnancy risk.
If couples want to use sperm which has been arranged through the fertility clinic, careful screening procedures are done to ensure it is safe to use. Most clinics limit the number of times a donor’s sperm can be used to a total of 5-10 families, depending on which clinic is used. In cases where the donor is known to a couple the same checks are done as for anonymous donors.
Initial testing and analysis of the donor’s sperm is done to check whether it is suitable to use. A fresh sample is necessary to gain an accurate analysis of the number of sperm present and to analyze how it stands up to the rigors of being frozen. Donors are asked to abstain from having sex for up to 3 days before they provide a sample.
Every clinic has a private room which is donors use to go and masturbate and collect a semen sample. It takes 1-2 weeks before the clinic can determine whether it is suitable and donations can proceed.
Each clinic has their own practices but generally, up to ten separate donations of semen are required once it has passed laboratory screening.
It is also necessary for donors to have blood and urine tests to check they are not carrying any infectious diseases which could place the recipient or the potential baby at any risk. This is also when screening tests are done to identify if there is any risk of passing on any genetic abnormalities.
Sometimes, sperm is not suitable for donation but this is not obvious until it has been analyzed. Some of the more common reasons for this can be
- If there is insufficient number of sperm being produced
- They sperm are abnormal or carry genetically-linked disorders
- If the freezing process renders them unsuitable to use.
Most recipients are keen to have some say in the physical characteristics of the sperm they receive. Some choose to request sperm is stored for future pregnancies if they want to have future children with the same biological father.
Sperm donors have a legal right to know if their donation has resulted in a live baby, what its sex is and if there were any abnormalities. Likewise, when the child legally becomes an adult, they have a right to access identifying information about who the sperm donor was. Fertility clinics keep this information on file in the event that one day this information may be sought.