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Everything You Need To Know About Sperm Donation

Getting pregnant can be a challenge for a number of reasons. But if you’re part of a same sex couple, you’re single, there is a worry that a genetic abnormality carried by the male partner could be inherited, or male fertility is making conception more difficult; then receiving donor sperm could be the best option for getting pregnant. Similarly, those who may not have a viable egg might consider IVF using a donor egg.

Once you (as an individual, or a couple) have made the decision to try for a baby using donor sperm, the next decision is to find the best clinic for you, in order to get the greatest chances of a successful pregnancy. Donor sperm can be used in conjunction with both Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI) and IVF treatments.

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Finding A Donor

The next decision is whether to choose an identifiable (known) or anonymous donor: As there are no sperm donation facilities in Ireland, most Irish fertility clinics use sperm banks in Denmark, where the law allows for donors to be identifiable. This does not mean that you as a parent can receive the donor's identifying information. But any child born using an identifiable donor will, at the age of consent, be entitled to the donor's identifying information. Identifiable donors incur an additional cost compared to anonymous donors.

Either way, the donor is not allowed to receive information about the identity of the recipient couple or the child, and has no paternal rights. The most common sources for many Irish clinics are the European Sperm Bank and Cryos International Sperm & Egg Bank.

The amount of information you know about a donor can vary between different companies, and sometimes depends of the cost. Basic profiles are likely to include appearance, blood type and a brief bio; while extended profile donors might include everything from baby photos and family medical histories to personality tests. Many people using donor sperm might choose a profile that echoes the characteristics of the intended father, or mother.

READ MORE: Fertility Treatment Options In Ireland

What Testing Procedures Do Donors Go Through?

Of course, if you’re going through the expensive process of fertility treatment, you want to ensure the best possible chances of a healthy baby. This is why all donors in regulated sperm banks have to go through a rigorous screening process, including:

  • An interview covering their medical history, their family’s medical history, and a detailed sexual history (number of sexual partners, history of sexually transmitted infections etc.)
  • A physical examination.
  • Blood tests. Semen and blood samples from the donor are tested more than once, to make sure results are accurate: First when the man applies to become a donor, but also after the samples have been frozen for six months and re-tested.

Can We Use The Same Sperm Donor Multiple Times?

In principle, it is possible to use the same sperm donor for siblings. However, this is dependent on availability, and certain limits on the number of times a single donor is purchased in the same country. Because of this, if you decide early on after a first pregnancy that you would like to use the same donor in the future, it is advisable to buy more in advance, which can be stored by sperm banks and fertility clinics for you. The sperm is deep frozen and imported in ‘straws’, with one straw containing one unit of sperm.

READ MORE: Top Ways To Overcome Fertility Challenges

What Does It Cost? 

Of course cost is dependent on how many treatments you have, whether you choose IUI or IVF, and the level of information you have about a donor. For example, each straw from an anonymous donor can cost around €500, while a straw from an identifiable donor could cost up to €1,000. Likewise, IVF can cost around €4,500, while IUI can cost around €500 per cycle. There may also be extra costs for medical tests, and storage.

Emotional Impact

Whatever reason you are considering fertility treatments, whether using donor sperm or not, it’s always important to consider the emotional impact of the process. Fertility treatments can be expensive, and results are not guaranteed. There is also the impact of the intended father not sharing his baby’s genes to consider, as well as the decision about whether to tell the child or not. It is wise to give all these factors a great deal of thought in advance, which is why many clinics include counselling sessions as part of the process.

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IUI

Intra-Uterine Insemination is a proccess in which specialised medication (in the form of tablets or self- injections) is used to stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs, and a further injection (HCG) is used to release them at the optimum time. Following this, the sperm sample is prepared in the laboratory one hour prior to the procedure, then drawn into a fine catheter and inserted into the uterus. This maximises the chance of pregnancy occurring, as both the egg(s) and sperm are in the reproductive tract at the same time.

Mum’s Story
"I tried IUI’s but they didn’t work with donor. After my second IVF attempt with a donor I am now a happy mum to a beautiful baby boy. It was the best thing I ever did. My advice to any one contemplating this is to go talk to your GP and get the ball rolling."  Lilian, mum of one

IVF

Often offering the best chances for those receiving fertility treatments, the IVF process involves collecting eggs from the woman’s ovaries and placing these together with prepared sperm. The sperm and egg develop into an embryo in special laboratory conditions and are then transferred back into the uterus a few days later.

Other Options

There is also an option (though it is not approved in all clinics) to use a known or directed sperm donation; either from someone you know, or from a donor-recipient matching website such as co-parentmatch.com. However, it’s important to only choose regulated sites to ensure your safety, and to ensure that any potential donors have submitted to health screening. It is also strongly recommended that all parties sign a contract agreeing the process (though it is recommended that fertilisation is done in a registered fertility clinic, there are also at-home insemination kits available), parental rights of the donor, renumeration, and whether they wish to remain anonymous.

Is there anything else you'd like to know about sperm donation, or have you used Donor Sperm to expand your family? Tell us in the comments below.


About the Author

Emily is our Digital Editor. She has three awesome nieces, and has accidentally worn the same outfit as them on at least one occasion. Emily likes making things, including hand-drawn cards, and a darn good chocolate cake. She still sounds very English, despite living in Dublin for the last nine years. More insight into the workings of her brain can be found on dancingcakesandsilence.blogspot.com.

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