If the man has fertility problems such as a low sperm count, is sterile or has undergone radiotherapy or chemotherapy treatment, a sperm donor can be used to conceive a child.
Fresh semen is collected and stored by immersing it in liquid nitrogen. Up to 50 per cent of sperm don’t survive the thawing and freezing process, but the healthiest most robust sperm will survive the process. All semen is checked for infections such as HIV or hepatitis B, and can then be used for insemination in a woman.
The feelings of the man who has fertility problems has to be taken into consideration here, as he will be bringing up a child conceived with a donor’s sperm and his partner’s egg, and can lead to feelings of inadequacy. The couple may also worry about what sort of man the donor was, and also whether their child will grow up and unknowingly meet a half sibling. The child may also want to meet their donor parent later in life.
If you are thinking of donating sperm here are some facts to think about:
- One in seven couples seek medical help to get pregnant at some point in their lives.
- There is a huge shortage of egg and sperm donations in the UK, probably due to the new anonymity rules.
- You can donate sperm if you are between 18 and 45 years old.
- Around 13,000 donor inseminations are carried out in the UK every year.
- In the UK sperm donation is legal and is regulated by the HFEA.
- It does not matter about your intelligence but you should not have any genetic or mental disorders or inherited illnesses. Your GP may be contacted to check your medical history.
- You will undergo a blood tests and a genital examination if you plan to become a sperm donor.
Who benefits from sperm donations?
Couples wishing to have a baby who discover the man has fertility problems. This can mean he has had a vasectomy, he has had testicular damage due to a sporting injury for example, he may have undergone radio therapy or chemotherapy, or have a very low sperm count. If the man has an inherited disease he does not wish to pass on to the child he may want to use a sperm donar. Single women or lesbian couples wishing to have a baby can also benefit from sperm donations.
You will be asked to abstain from any form of sexual activity from between 3 and 5 days before giving a sperm sample. A blood sample will also be taken and you will have an interview with a member of staff. You may have to sign a consent form to allow the centre the right to contact your GP.
If you are accepted as a suitable sperm donor the samples you donate will be kept for up to ten years, but you can decide if you wish them to be used in a shorter time. All effort will be made to match your physical details with those of the prospective parents so that the child looks most like the prospective parents. Your details will be kept on file and maintained by the HFEA so that sexual relations between children sharing the same genetic father cannot happen.
You may be expected to produce samples once or twice a week during the time
Couples who have been through the IVF treatment sometimes donate un frozen embryos to a childless couple, usually after they have had a successful outcome and want other couples to benefit too. The embryo is implanted in the women’s uterus and she will give birth to the child.
Surrogacy may be suitable for those who cannot carry a child due to absence or disease of the uterus, or where assisted conception has failed. A surrogate mother is a woman who bears a child on behalf of another.
Full surrogacy is where a surrogate mother conceives and carries the child of an infertile woman’s partner, using his sperm.
Partial surrogacy is when an egg and sperm from the couple is implanted into the surrogate woman’s uterus. Surrogacy can be problematic mainly because the ‘host’ mother has problems parting with the child after she has carried it for 9 months, especially if she is the genetic mother.
What are the anonymity rules?
Since 2005, the anonymity rights for people donating eggs and sperm have changed. Children conceived through donations made after 31 March 2005 will have the right, at age 18 to have the details about their genetic parent. Donations made prior to 1 April continue to fall under anonymity rules.