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Sperm donation

Donor insemination (DI) is artificial insemination using sperm from a donor to help couples become pregnant if they are unable to conceive naturally due to low sperm count, poor quality sperm, or due to risk of an inherited disease.  It is also a consideration for an individual woman wishing to have a baby without a partner.

Many fertility doctors recommend counselling so that couples (or individuals) can openly discuss their feelings, fears and concerns about having a donor-conceived child and talk through issues such as if, when, or how to tell their child about their origins.

Donor rights and legalities will differ from country to country (some will not allow donor treatment, may have restrictions on age, single women, or same sex couples) as well as different limits on the number of live births from a single donor.

Donation is largely anonymous so think carefully and be sure about whether you or your partner agrees with this, or whether you believe that a child should have the option of knowing their genetic origins.

In the UK for example, people born through sperm donation now have the right to find out the donor’s identity when they reach the age of 18.  It is believed that the changes to the donor anonymity laws in 2005 has caused a shortage of donors and led to many British couples heading abroad, in particular to Spain or the Czech Republic.

An option would be to go to a clinic which offers ‘open identity’ donors as well as anonymous donors which allows the child to make contact with the donor after age 18.  If you would like your child to have this option make sure the clinic has a good record retaining system.

Going abroad for infertility treatment

Going abroad for donor sperm treatment and IVF/IUI is not just about avoiding waiting lists, lack of access, or saving money.  Having the procedure carried out in a sunny/relaxing environment in a holiday-like situation can greatly help with the success as fertility experts have proved that the more relaxed couples are, the higher the chance of success. Furthermore, you can choose to have complete privacy, telling friends and family that you are simply on vacation!

Some assisted conception units run their own sperm banks while others buy sperm externally. The technique of semen cryopreservation suspends sperm in a mixture that dehydrates the cell without causing damage to it while it is being frozen and is then stored until needed.  

Standards will vary clinic to clinic so as with all treatments abroad patients should check the hospital/clinic’s standards of quality and safety, ask about their success rates for donor offspring (i.e. how many sperm donations result in a live birth) and raise with them any ethical issues like payment to donors and donor anonymity.

Find out what codes of practice the clinic has signed up to and whether they adhere to EU or US regulations.  The EU Tissues and Cells Directive sets out standards of quality and safety that should be met within countries inside the EU/EEA.

In all cases when considering Third Party Reproduction (the use of eggs, sperm or embryos from a donor) it is vital to check what procedures the clinic has in place to ensure that the sperm is screened thoroughly for genetic defects or diseases.  Ask for details about screening.

Fertility clinics will try to match a donor’s physical characteristics with a couple’s requirements.  Ask the age of the man donating the sperm and check that they have been properly screened to ensure good general and reproductive health.  Also ask about their genetic history and psychological stability.

Generally, you will find out about a donor’s height, weight, hair colour, age, complexion and blood group and some hospitals/clinics may also provide additional information about the donor’s achievements and educational merits.

Before undergoing donor egg treatment the mother will need a thorough medical check up to establish whether her body is suitable for pregnancy, especially if aged over 40 years.

If you are thinking about donating sperm ensure you understand your rights – and the rights of the person who may receive your sperm.  Ask how many times your sperm may be used.  In some countries donors can find out how many children were born from their sperm donations.

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