Sperm donation is the process when a man (known as the sperm donor) donates his semen to a recipient with the intention of it being used to achieve a pregnancy. The aim is to produce a baby in a woman who is not the man’s sexual partner. Sperm donated in this way is known as donor sperm.
A donor may decide to donate his sperm directly to a recipient or via a clinic known as a sperm bank or fertility clinic. Although most people undergo Sperm donation at a fertility clinic, more and more singles and couples choose to conceive via home insemination. Single or lesbian people may sometimes use a known donor if they want the donor to be involved with the child’s upbringing. Recently it has increasingly been used as a way for single women to achieve a pregnancy. Some clinics report that lesbian couples and single women make up 70% of the people using their service.
Whereas those who opt for a sperm donor in a fertility clinic can be assured that their donor will have undergone extensive screening, this won’t necessary be the case with a known donor. Advice regarding infertility screening can be gained from a GP or through a fertility clinic.
Another consideration is the legal responsibility of the donor. Known donors may be seen as the child’s legal father unless legal donor agreements have been drawn up in advance. The decision to use a sperm donor should be discussed at length. It should not be a decision made without considering every potential problem. Not all couples will feel comfortable with the prospect of bringing up a child who they are not biologically related to. Counsellors are available to discuss all possible points to consider. This is particularly important when using a known donor.
Generally sperm donors using clinics should be aged between 18 and 40 years old and be free of any serious medical disease. There should also be no family history of inherited disorders. The success rate depends on many factors including the woman’s age, health and also whether she is using her own eggs. For many people it can be their best chance of realising their dreams of becoming parents.
How to get a sperm donor?
Sperm donation can be a wonderful opportunity to give the gift of a child to people struggling to start a family. Donor sperm is one of the most affordable and least invasive methods of infertility treatment. Many couples and single females (both heterosexual and Lesbian) come to us with the statement “I need a sperm donor” and are desperate to make their dreams of parenting come true.
The main choice when deciding on using donor sperm is whether to use an anonymous or know donor. Sperm banks are specific clinics where donors provide semen specimens and remain completely anonymous. All sperm banks have thorough regulations they must adhere to regarding donor screening. Anonymous donors must be between 18 and 40 years old, free of any serious medical disease and have no family history of inherited disease. There are several sperm banks worldwide and all sperm banks differ in their prices. The donor will have no legal rights relating to a child conceived with the donated sperm. The recipient also knows that the donor will have been screened for infection and disease.
Some people decide to use a known sperm donor. This could be a friend or someone met on a site specifically for the purpose of sperm donation. Using a known donor has certain advantages such as the ability to understand more about the donor’s personality. Women may also choose a known donor, as they want them to be involved in the child’s life. A known donor can be involved in the child’s upbringing but this is dependent on the agreement made between both parties. The main disadvantage of using a known donor is that there is not the same strict screening programme in place there would be for anonymous donor.
It is important to know the rules before deciding what type of donor sperm is used. If a woman receives donated sperm through a clinic or sperm bank (anonymous) the donor will not be classed as the child’s father and have no legal responsibility.
What is a private sperm donor?
When a person donates sperm at a sperm bank or clinic the sperm is frozen and stored until it is needed. If a person decides they do not want to use this facility another choice could be to find a private sperm donor.
Many sperm donors and recipients arrange sperm donation privately and directly. There are several websites dedicated solely to matching donors and recipients. Recipients also can decide to advertise directly for a donor if they have specific requirements.
Several donors advertise their services on websites. There are several reasons for this. Some people have a genuine desire to help people realise their dreams of becoming parents. For others it can be a purely financial arrangement. If they feel sperm donation at a sperm bank or clinic is too anonymous they may prefer to be a private sperm donor. It is especially important in these situations that all parties know what is expected of them. It is also important that they agree on any legal rights the donor will have with regards to the child.
There are many companies that specialise in matching donors and recipients. If arranged through a specialist company both parties may get to know each other. It is possible that some companies can facilitate contact that keeps identities partly anonymous for legal reasons.
A private donor may offer artificial or natural insemination. Some donors offer natural insemination after attempts at artificial insemination have failed. The donor inseminates the woman through sexual intercourse. This is for the sole reason of enabling the woman to achieve a pregnancy. It is not linked to any emotional attachment and is seen as an arrangement to simplify the act of insemination. One of the great benefits of using a private or directed donor is that the sperm does not need to be frozen.
Natural insemination avoids the need of any medical procedures and so reduces the need of any third party involvement. Although it may lack some of the safety precautions and screening built into the artificial insemination process, on the positive side it is claimed that natural insemination produces higher pregnancy rates.
It is important when using a private donor that all parties involved understand and agree to the arrangements made regarding any future contact for the donor. This must all be agreed beforehand to avoid any misunderstandings later on.
Medical tests to be done before sperm donation
Before a man is accepted as a sperm donor there are several tests and screens to be completed. To be accepted as a sperm donor a man has to be between 18 and 40 years old. They must have no serious medical disability or family history of hereditary diseases. The donor will have to complete a detailed questionnaire about their own and their family’s medical history. This will usually need to be confirmed by the donors GP.
The next step is to provide a semen sample, which is analysed in order to assess the quantity and quality of the sperm. A physical examination is also undertaken prior to acceptance as a donor and blood tests to determine blood group. These are repeated at certain intervals if the donor is accepted.
A full health screen is completed including urine testing, full blood count, blood pressure, infection testing and genetic testing. Infections to be tested for include HIV, Hepatitis B and C, Syphilis, CMV, Genital Herpes, Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea. Tests are also undertaken to exclude Cystic Fibrosis and chromosomal abnormalities.
It is also important for a potential sperm donor to understand the possible emotional, psychological and legal issues of sperm donation. Some clinics will provide a psychological evaluation carried out by a mental health provider to assess a person’s suitability. Potential donors are also advised to think how they would feel if a child born from their donated sperm wanted to make contact with them in the future.
People classed as at high risk for HIV should not donate sperm. As information about genetic medical history is also required men who have been adopted should not become donors unless they have access to the medical history of their natural parents. Anyone who is accepted as a donor but intentionally hides either a generic or sexually transmitted disease could face legal action.
A donor’s samples can be used until they result in a maximum of ten live birth events. Twins or triplets count as one birth event. The HFEA permits the storage of donated sperm for up to ten years.
It is important that anyone considering sperm donation makes sure they understand all the implications relating to this. It is not just the physical act of sperm donation but also the psychological and emotional aspects.
Sperm Donation regulations in different countries
In the United States there are no regulations governing who may engage in sperm donation. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine provides recommendations and guidelines. The guidelines limit a donor to 25 live births, although law does not enforce this. It has been reported that only 40% of third party assisted births are reported and there is no central tracking in place. It has been estimated that some donors could have over 100 genetic children.
In the meantime some clinics continue to export semen and to import vials almost on an exchange basis. This gives them access to a wider pool of donors but they must still ensure that one donor does not produce children to more than ten families. In the UK generally you must be between 18 and 40 or 45 to donate sperm. After rigorous health screening and tests the sperm must also be processed and checked for 6 months after donating.
In New Zealand the Human Assisted Reproductive Technology Act 2004 regulates sperm donation. When donating sperm as in the other countries the donor must provide identifying information in order to comply with the principle that the donor offspring should be made aware of their genetic origins. Sperm donation should also be made free of charge. The limit for donors is that one donor should only be allowed to father a maximum of 10 children to 4 families.
Australian law may differ depending on which area of Australia you are in. Although generally the limit is 10 live births per donor in Western Australia the Human Reproductive Technology Act limits the number of families for each donor to 5. In Australia it is against the law for a person to profit from the donation of sperm (Human Tissue Act 1982). The clinics realise that the extensive screening and health questionnaires are time consuming, so they pay travelling expenses to compensate for a donors time. On average a sperm donor will be compensated with about 300 dollars for each donation.
Current Legislation in the US relating to Sperm Donation
The process of sperm being frozen and thawed has been taking place now successfully for the past 40 years. People use the service provided for many different reasons. Many heterosexual couples experiencing problems conceiving, lesbian couples and in the past few years more single ladies also known as choice mothers. For whatever reason donor sperm is needed, it is important that everyone involved is aware of the rules relating to this service.
In the US, legislation differs depending on state, and also which fertility clinic is used. The general Act governing sperm donation is called the Uniform Parentage Act. This act, also known as the UPA, was first set up in 1973 and is adopted by almost 50% of states. This statute basically states that any mother whose husband permitted her to be artificially inseminated by another mans sperm, would legally still be the father of any resulting child. The donor is absolved of any legal obligation to the child if he donates sperm via a physician to be used on any other woman other than his wife.
Some states have now adopted an adapted version of this act, which was updated in 2000. This revised version states that donation of sperm not conducted through a physician can also render the donor as a non-parent if a written agreement is drawn up.
The statute governing artificial insemination however, do not distinguish between known and unknown donors and in some cases there have been complications in cases pertaining to women artificially inseminating themselves at home, or there have been disputes regarding the existence of a written agreement between donor and mother of the resulting child/ren.Complications can also occur in states that have no statute specifically addressing the rights of sperm donors and their recipients. While many of the courts that have considered these cases have not agreed on the reasoning or outcome, certain key points can be taken from each case.
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