Sperm donation is closely regulated in Europe and North America there are many rules surrounding the process of sperm donation, which help to protect the donor, the intended parents and any offspring created as a result of the donation.
Why is sperm donation needed?
Donor sperm is used by people from all walks of life. For female same sex couples and single woman, the use of donor sperm is a necessity when embarking on intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment. Many heterosexual couples also use donor sperm when the male partner has poor semen parameters or is azoospermic (absence of sperm in the ejaculate). Heterosexual couples may also opt for donor sperm if the male partner is a carrier for an inheritable disease which he does not wish to pass on to his offspring, or where numerous rounds of IVF have been unsuccessful or led to recurrent miscarriage.
Who can be a sperm donor?
In most countries only men between certain ages can apply to become a sperm donor. Once an application has been made, a rigorous screening process is performed before he can be accepted as a donor.
First, a potential donor will provide information about his and his immediate family’s medical history. If the donor has a healthy lifestyle, does not have a serious medical condition and has no hereditary disorders present in his family history.
The potential donor will also need to provide a semen sample for analysis by the clinic. If the screenings are normal, and the semen parameters are fine, then the man must agree to become registered as a donor. Once he has done this, he will officially be a sperm donor.
The process of donating sperm
Before the first sperm donation is given, the donor must attend a counselling session to ensure he fully understands the implications of gamete donation and how it may affect him and his family in the future. Sometimes the donor may be asked to write a personal description and goodwill message for the intended parents and the potential offspring created as a result of the donation.
The donor will need to regularly visit the fertility clinic to produce samples for donation. Semen will be ejaculated into a sterile cup and then frozen by a Scientist. In some instances, the donor may receive a small amount of money to cover their travel expenses.
In most countries, in the time between the first and last semen sample being produced, donated semen will be stored in a specially allocated ‘quarantine’ storage container. Once the final sample has been stored, blood screenings will be performed again to ensure the donor has not acquired any diseases over the time in which he was donating. This means the donor does not have to have blood screenings before every semen donation. If the post-quarantine screenings are clear, the samples are released from quarantine and are able to be used by patients.
The legal stuff – consents, anonymity and parenthood
What needs to happen depends on where your clinic is located as the rules vary from one country to another. In many countries now, children who were conceived through the use of donor sperm (or eggs) have the right to find out the identity of the donor once they reach a certain age. In other countries donors always remain as Non-ID-Release and in others, donors can choose to be Non-ID-Release or not.
In many countries, the intended parents will be able to see information about the donor, such as eye colour, blood group and occupation, but not information that would identify the donor, such as his name or address . This information can help patients chose a donor who has characteristics which are suitable for them. In some of these countries, any children are conceived will be able to access non-identifying information about the donor at the age of 16, and at the age of 18 they can apply for identifying information such as the sperm donor’s name and last known address. The donor is not required to inform the donation clinic if he moves address, so contact with the donor cannot be guaranteed.
A sperm donor has no legal rights or responsibilities with any offspring produced and will not be registered as a parent.