Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Donor Sperm

As with everything else, there are two sides to using donated sperm for your fertility treatment. For many the option can be a lifesaver, providing them with an opportunity to get pregnant that they may otherwise not have. For others however, the idea of using someone else’s sperm and not their partners isn’t particularly appealing. This article aims to explore the major talking points around using donor sperm for your fertility treatment.

What are the advantages of using donor sperm?

For lesbian couples and single mums, the advantages of donor sperm are many. Firstly, sperm donations mean that they have access to an essential part of getting pregnant from an independent source under the close watch of the National Gamete Donation Trust and HFEA, with all the legalities that can become quite complicated sorted. Before the advent of sperm donations and reproductive technologies both lesbian couples and single mums did not have a chance to get pregnant without direct male involvement, whereas now they do.

For infertile couples donor sperm can provide an answer to many long and arduous years spent trying to get pregnant with no success. Typically speaking donor sperm can be extremely advantageous where a male partner bears an inherited disease he is quite likely to pass on to his child, or if he doesn’t produce enough sperm to achieve pregnancy or defective sperm that are unlikely to achieve fertilisation. There are, of course, other circumstances in which the use of donor sperm can be remarkably advantageous, but the reasons discussed here tend to be the main reasons for using donor sperm.

What are the disadvantages and risks of using donor sperm?

Fortunately the HFEA, a national government body monitoring fertility practices, keeps a close eye on sperm donations and how they are done, which means that the risks of using donated sperm are kept minimal. Donors are assessed by the clinic and screened intensively for diseases of concern like hepatitis and HIV, as well as for any family history of inherited disease.

There are legal considerations which can be difficult for people looking to use donor sperm, and these need to be thoroughly considered prior to committing to a donor arrangement. By UK law a donor has no rights to a child born through the use of his sperm provided the sperm is donated through a clinic. However home insemination, which is still practiced in the UK, can become considerably more complicated (unless performed through an HFEA licensed clinic) as by law the donor is the child’s father. Arranging donor inseminations in this manner, particularly through internet companies, is a risky undertaking and can result in many complications further down the line. It is therefore recommended that if you are pursuing insemination through donor sperm, that you do so through an established facility under the HFEA’s banner.

You should also take note that as of 2005 donors no longer remain completely anonymous, and by law a child born from donor sperm has the right to find out about that sperm donor once they have reached the age of 18.

If you are single and looking to get pregnant then there are a number of considerations you should take heed of. The main concerns in this area are financial and whether you have any support to help you as you go back to work and a normal routine. Different clinics also have different eligibility criteria when it comes to donor insemination, so you will need to make sure that your clinic will consider you for insemination as a single woman, and you can expect the clinic to ask you about how you plan to manage.

You can in fact use a donor for multiple children, however in the UK there is a limit on the number of families a donor’s sperm can be used for (10 at the moment with the exception of their own families). This might limit you if you want to have more children using that donor’s sperm, and is not an issue in some other countries so using donor sperm from abroad might mean that your child is linked to a number of other families.

A sperm donor is entitled to withdraw his consent for the use of his sperm at his discretion at any stage up to actual embryo transfer in IVF. At this point a live embryo is implanted into a woman’s uterus, and she becomes the child’s legal mother. However embryos that haven’t been implanted, including those that have been frozen, are still technically the donor’s and can be withdrawn.

A big issue with sperm donation is when to tell a child that they were conceived using someone else’s sperm. Support is available if this is a major concern for you, and you can rest assured that over the years many families have made use of sperm donation and have broached the issue without much hassle or difficulty.

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