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Why are sperm donors so vital ?
1 in 7 couples will have difficulty becoming pregnant. This may be because the male partner is unable to produce sperm, or there may be something wrong with the sperm he produces. Sometimes the only way for them to have a child is with donated sperm. We also use donor sperm to treat patients who have no male partner e.g. single women, and lesbian couples. Some patients recruit their own sperm donor from within the family, or ask a family friend. However most patients at the Centre for Reproductive Medicine in Coventry use donor sperm from our own stocks or sperm we have purchased for them from another donor sperm bank.
Donated sperm is scarce and so we are very grateful to men who offer to become semen donors. Due to recent changes in the law, and the increasing demand for infertility treatment, we constantly require new sperm donors.
Basic information about becoming a sperm donor.
- You must be between 18 and 45, fit, healthy and free from any serious medical condition.
- You must be able to produce semen samples at the Centre for Reproductive Medicine in Coventry during our laboratory opening hours (Monday to Friday, 9.00 a.m. until 2.30 p.m). If your first sample and subsequent screening tests are satisfactory, we would expect you to produce 10 - 20 samples over the next few weeks.
- You will need to be screened for genetic conditions and sexually transmitted diseases. These tests take place before you begin donating samples, and some are repeated 6 months after donating the last sample. We will arrange these tests for you.
- A payment is made to cover expenses incurred in the process of donation.
- Your identity will not be known to the patients actually undergoing treatment.
- Any child resulting from treatment with donated sperm is be able to apply for identifying information about their donor when they reach the age of 18. The couple who are treated with the donated sperm, rather than the sperm donor, are the legal parents of a resulting child.
Screening procedures for donors.
All our sperm donors are screened to British Andrology Society guidelines, to prevent passing on an infection or genetic disease to the patients and / or resulting children. You will be tested for a genetic disease called Cystic Fibrosis, and general chromosome abnormalities ('karyotype analysis'). If you have a particular ethnic background, you may also be screened for other genetic diseases (e.g. Thalassaemia if you are of Mediterranean origin). We will discuss these in detail with you before taking the blood samples.
You will be screened for a variety of sexually transmitted diseases. The tests may change in the near future, but currently include: HIV, Hepatitis B and C, Cytomegalovirus, Syphilis, Gonorrhoea and Chlamydia.
Donor anonymity and the recent law change
All sperm donors are registered with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). Your identity will be entirely unknown to the patients actually undergoing treatment, although they have access to certain pieces of 'non-identifying' information about you such as your height, eye colour, and occupation. Usually they are given this information to help them make a choice about which donor to use for their treatment.
You are allowed to ask how many children have been born as a result of your donated sperm, but you will not be given any identifying information about those children.
Any child resulting from treatment with your donated sperm will be able to apply to the HFEA for identifying information about you when they reach the age of 18. The information that will be disclosed will include your name, date and place of birth, and the last address registered with the HFEA.
The HFEA will attempt to contact you if they receive a request for your information; bear in mind that the earliest this could happen is 2024. Since this is so far in advance, there is no defined process by which this will happen, to allow for potential advances in technology in the intervening years.
Even if a donor is contacted in the future, the husband or partner of any woman who has a donor child is still the legal father of that child, rather than the person who donated the sperm. The sperm donor has no legal or financial obligation to any child conceived from their donated sperm.
How many children can be produced from donor sperm?
The HFEA has set a limit of 10 'families' that can be created from any one sperm donor, not including any children that the donor may already have.
Example 1: if the donor has 3 children of his own when he donates, and his sperm is used to create 10 families, each of 3 children, then a total of 33 children will have been created.
Example 2: if the donor has no children of his own when he donates, and his sperm is used to create 10 families, each of just 1 child, then a total of 10 children will have been created.
Usually the final number is nearer 15. Donors must bear in mind that they may have children of their own after they have donated. '10 families' has been carefully calculated to avoid the risk in the future of related people marrying each other. The donor is permitted to set a limit of less than 10 families if he wishes.
The need for counselling.
Both potential donors and recipients will be seen by our unit counsellor who will discuss the implications of donating sperm with you. This is not intended to be a 'test' of your suitability, but is to ensure that you are aware of all the issues about donated sperm, both for yourself, and for any family you may have now or in the future.
How can I find out more information?
Please telephone on 024 7696 8887 if you are interested in finding out more about sperm donation.
Alternatively you may wish to read through the information contained in the HFEA document 'What you need to know about donating sperm, eggs and embryos' by clicking on this link: http://www.hfea.gov.uk/HFEAPublications/HFEAleaflets/DONOR5PWFINAL1.pdf
You can also contact the National Gamete Donation Trust, a nationwide organisation which aims to raise awareness of donation, and to help both donors and recipients through the process. Their website can be found by clicking this link: http://www.ngdt.co.uk