For couples who are experiencing fertility problems resulting from male infertility, seeking a sperm donor may be an option. Indeed, if your partner is experiencing low sperm count, poor motility or abnormal sperm morphology, sperm donation can help increase your odds of getting pregnant.
What is Donor Sperm?
Put simply, donor sperm is sperm taken from a healthy male donor, so that it can be frozen and stored in a sperm bank. Then, the sperm becomes available to women looking to become pregnant. Once a donor has been selected, his sperm will be used to fertilize the female recipient's egg, normally during artificial insemination or other assisted reproductive technologies (ART), such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
If the egg is fertilized, it will be implanted inside the uterus and (ideally) result in a pregnancy.
Who is Sperm Donation Recommended for?
A fertility specialist will generally recommend sperm donation for couples in which the male partner has:
- Low sperm count or is suffering from azoospermia (i.e. no sperm in his semen).
- Genetic defects, such as haemophilia, that may be transmitted to the child.
It can also be a good option for couples in which both partners have normal reproductive organs, but may not be able to have a child because of Rhesus incompatibility, as well as single women or gay couples wishing to have a child.
It should be noted, however, that women how have fertility problems such as ovarian failure, will not be eligible for sperm donation.
What are the Requirements for Becoming a Sperm Donor?
There are several requirements men must fulfil before becoming eligible sperm donors. They must:
- Be between the ages of 18 and 40
- Have no history of fertility problems
- Have a healthy medical history as well as lifestyle.
- Have healthy children.
- Have high sperm count, and excellent sperm motility and morphology.
In addition, before a man can become a sperm donor he must undergo testing for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) as well as drug use. A sample will also be provided to the clinic so that it can be analysed by their doctor as well. Normally, there will be quarantine phase during which time the sperm cannot be used, so that it can undergo further quality testing.
If he is approved, he sill generally be required to enter into a contract with the donor clinic for a period of six months to two years. In the United Kingdom, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is the governing body of all sperm banks and fertility centres. As such, it must be given full disclosure of any and all sperm donors.
In regards to the anonymity of the donor, unless you choose a man you know to become your sperm donor, you will not be entitled to any information about him. In fact, according to the HFEA, the identity of the sperm donor cannot be revealed to the recipients, though his physical characteristics, blood group and other pertinent information can be told in order to help find the most suitable match. Similarly, the donor is also not permitted to receive information about the recipient. He also does not have any parental rights to any children born from his sperm.
However, due to increasing interest around the identity of sperm donors, national registries have been set up to help children born of these donors, find a match.
Before a couple will become eligible for sperm donation, however, the female partner must also undergo fertility testing to ensure that there is nothing prohibiting pregnancy on her end.
These tests normally check for levels of reproductive hormones in the body ï¿½ namely, oestrogen, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and progesterone. These tests can also verify the condition of her reproductive organs.
She may also be required to undergo a pelvic exam as well as screening test for other diseases such as AIDS, hepatitis B/C, and other STDs. Additionally, a womanï¿½s blood group, blood glucose level, and Rh factor will be tested to ensure she is in good health. This is also done to ensure she receives the most suitable donor.
Finally, some fertility clinics may also want to inquire as to the marital status of the recipient.
Risks of Using Donor Sperm
In terms of physical risk, the most significant one associated with sperm donation is infection. This is of particular concern when dealing with known donors, as they are generally not required to undergo the same extensive testing as anonymous donors. That being said, it is critical that you ensure any potential sperm donor undergoes rigorous testing.
However, what is generally of greater concern for couples choosing sperm donation is the potential of legal complications. While anonymous donors are required to waive any legal rights, this can become an issue for those who use known donors. Whatever the case, itï¿½s important to draw up a legal contract that outlines exactly what your wishes are with respect to this issue.
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