Sperm Donation

Sperm donation is a reasonably common practice in the world of fertility treatment and research into human reproduction. Sperm samples are much easier to procure than their female counterparts, and so are generally easier to come by and are used extensively for both research and to help couples who are infertile or struggling to conceive get pregnant.

What is donor sperm used for?

Donated sperm can be used in a number of different fertility treatments, and most often is used where male infertility is the main contributing factor to a couple’s inability to conceive. It is also used to help single mothers and same sex couples get pregnant, usually by artificial insemination, IVF, or ICSI. These are the main fertility treatments which make use of donor sperm.

How is donor sperm used?

Donor sperm tends to be used for artificial insemination or in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Through these treatments donor sperm are extremely effective at achieving conception as they are often examined for their fertility. Before donor sperm is used for your fertility treatment you will be assessed through a physical exam and a detailed look at your family’s medical history. Counselling might be recommended, and you will be screened for transferable diseases like HIV and hepatitis. You will also have your hormone levels checked to make sure you are ovulating (releasing eggs monthly) as you should be, and undergo what is called a ‘tubal patency test’, which basically examines your fallopian tubes and makes sure they are healthy.

Your actual fertility treatment will be performed around the time of ovulation, usually within 36 hours or so of the release of your eggs, which can be assessed by watching your body’s temperature fluctuations.

Should I use donor sperm?

Using another person’s genetic material during your conception is quite a big step, and one that you should take your time making. A lot of support is available from counsellors and other professionals if you are having difficulty making the decision, or are unsure if it’s for you. As with the use of any other donor material, it’s completely up to you whether or not you want to proceed with the treatment and you shouldn’t feel any pressure to do so from any quarter.

Your clinician might suggest that using donor sperm will be beneficial in certain instances. For example where you don’t have a male partner (whether as a single mum or lesbian couple), or your male partner generates no sperm, has had a male sterilisation surgery (vasectomy), is likely to pass on a genetic disease, or produces sperm that can’t fertilise an egg.

What are the chances of successfully having a baby through donor sperm?

The usual factors affecting fertility can come into play if you are receiving a treatment involving donor sperm. As donor sperm’s fertility tends to be established beforehand, these factors tend to revolve around the women receiving the treatment and donor sperm. The biggest element is undoubtedly age, which can dramatically reduce your chances of success if you are over 35 years of age. The HFEA reports that under the age of 35 success rates are around 14%, compared to 11% between the ages of 35-39, and as low as 4-5% between 40 and 42.

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