To a large extent, male infertility is mainly related to the sperm count, quality of sperm and the man’s ability to produce sperm.
Men who are not able to produce sperm or whose sperm is not of the required quality are advised to use the sperm from a donor to have a child. The thought of having someone else’s child can be quite unnerving for some couples, but sometimes it is the only option, and things change once the baby is born.
WHO IS A SPERM DONOR?
A sperm donor is an anonymous person who donates his sperm to a sperm bank. The sperm bank pays the sperm donor a nominal amount for his sperm. However, not every male is eligible to donate his sperm. The conditions and criteria for the sperm donor are quite stringent. He has to undergo a number of different medical tests to ensure that he does not have any diseases that can be passed down through his genes. The sperm donor has to be young and of good health. A semen analysis test is done to ensure that his sperm meets the required criteria of a good sperm count and has a good sperm quality. The medical history of the sperm donor as well as the medical history of his parents are checked to ensure that there are no illnesses and medical problems that may surface later on in the child as it grows.
WHAT IS DONOR SPERM?
These sperm, once accepted by the sperm bank, can be used by any person. The sperm bank will not disclose any information to any party regarding the sperm. The couple who use the sperm do not know who the donor is and the donor is not aware of who is receiving his sperm. This sperm can be used by whosoever has a need. Even if the donor does happen to find the user of his sperm, he has no legal claim on the child as he has to sign a disclaimer at the time of donating his sperm. He is just the biological father with no legal rights of claims.
HOW TO GET DONOR SPERM?
Donor sperm are easily available from sperm banks. Many fertility clinics have their own sperm banks and reserve of sperm. Sometimes the patients may bring the donor along with them, who may be a friend or a relative of the husband’s family. In India, especially the couple may prefer to use a relative as a donor to preserve the bloodline, but it is not allowed to use a known donor in our country.
WHAT IS THE NEED FOR DONOR SPERM?
One may wonder what the need is for donor sperm. Medical science has advanced so much that even men who suffer from severe cases of male infertility are able to have their own children. Men who have undergone irreversible vasectomy, those who have no sperm in their semen or those who have erectile dysfunction are all able to have their own children owing to the new breakthroughs in medical science. Every day researchers are finding new techniques and methods to manipulate and perform new wonders on the human body.
Even though there are numerous ways that have been devised for people to be able to use their own sperm, there are few circumstances where a person’s own sperm will not do. There are many cases where a male is not able to produce sperm. This could be either because he is born with defective reproductive organs that do not function as they are supposed to or he faced severe damage to his organs at a later stage. In a case where the organs are not able to produce sperm, and the male has no sperm production, a donor’s sperm is used. There are other conditions where a male may have got injured in the pelvic area that has left him infertile and unable to produce sperm.
Sometimes there are shortcomings in the sperm which does not allow successful fertilisation of the female egg, and hence the couple is not able to have a baby. A male may have some genetic problem that does not allow him to produce healthy sperm. These are odd cases and not very common, but all the same, these are cases where the male partner’s sperm is not suitable to father a child. Age also plays a vital role in fertility, even though age affects female fertility more than it does male fertility, sometimes men lose their potency as they get older. Some older men are not able to produce healthy sperm.
Men who have abused their bodies with the use of harmful drugs sometimes suffer permanent damage to their fertility. Many drug users later opt for using donor sperm to have children to avoid any kind of possible birth defect.
Due to such conditions, it becomes near impossible for these couples to have children with their own sperm. However, the desire for a child is great, and a donor sperm helps them to fulfil this longing. Even though it might not seem like it, there is quite a huge demand for donor sperm not just in the West but in India as well.
Having children is not restricted to married couples today. With a broadening mindset and culture taking a side step, many single women who are not inclined towards marriage are using donor sperm to have their own children. This trend has been endorsed by our celebrities and now seems to be quite acceptable in urban society. Today many single women who want to have a baby opt for the use of donor sperm.
WHEN IS DONOR SPERM RECOMMENDED?
Many men whose quality of sperm is not suitable to father a child or where there are risks of genetic problems and birth defects are advised by the doctor to use donor sperm. Some of the cases where the doctor recommends donor sperm are:
- Very weak sperm: Some men have very weak sperm. Usually, weak sperm is not able to fertilise an embryo on its own. With the ICSI technique where the sperm is injected directly into the egg, the sperm doesn’t need to do much work. But if the sperm is too weak creates a weakness in the embryo. A weak embryo may not implant or may result in a miscarriage.
- Abnormally shaped sperms: The shape of the sperm is very significant when it comes to fertilisation. The head of the sperm has been designed in a manner such that the sperm can easily push its way through the tough exterior of the egg and get inside to fertilise the egg. The typical characteristic of the abnormally shaped sperm includes tails defects, which also hinders the movement of the sperm, reducing its motility rate.
- No sperm motility: A male whose sperm has no motility means that his sperm is not able to move. He has sluggish sperm that has no movement. Such sperm is not able to fertilise a female egg, as even that requires some amount of motility of the sperm. Hence couples who have no sperm motility are usually not able to conceive naturally or through IUI. The options left for the couple is ICSI treatment or the use of donor sperm for IUI treatment if they are very keen on having a baby.
- Hereditary problems: Today, we are all very aware of hereditary problems and the way it can affect our health. Diabetes, heart disease, nervous system problems, brain degeneration problems are genetic and carried down in the genes. For avoiding of passing these diseases to the next generation, many couples opt for donor sperm.
- Chromosomal abnormalities: Normally, up to 4% of the sperm have chromosomal abnormalities. Some males may have a higher percentage of sperm with chromosomal abnormalities leading to abnormalities in the foetus. Normally a sperm has 23 chromosomes, and an egg has 23 chromosomes. An embryo has 46 chromosomes. Sometimes if there is a chromosomal abnormality, the baby can have one chromosome less or one chromosome more, which may cause some health issues in the child at a later stage.
- Azoospermia: This is a male infertility condition where the semen does not contain any sperm in it. It is not a very common problem, and very few men have Azoospermia. Sometimes azoospermia is caused due to a blockage in the passageway of the sperm. If sperm retrieval is not possible, then doctors recommend donor sperm.
- Oligospermia: This is a condition of male infertility when the sperm is of a poor quantity and quality. There is a very low sperm concentration, and there is no way the couple can conceive naturally, hence donor sperm is the only option.
Donor sperm is used for any situation where a male is not able to produce sperm, and the couple would like to have a baby. In situations where a man has sperm, which is genetically defective and not able to form a proper embryo or has some other problems with his sperm also calls for the usage of donor sperm. Donor sperm is used when there are limitations with a man’s sperm, which does not allow him to make his female partner pregnant. Weak or poor quality sperm leads to frequent miscarriage, even with assisted reproductive treatment. Hence, doctors recommend donor sperm.
SAFETY OF USING DONOR SPERM
The one concern that many Indian have is about the safety aspect of using donor sperm. For traditional families, the concept of donor sperm is not very acceptable. The older generation feels that even though half the genes are that of the mother, it is still someone else’s child. They view the child almost like an adopted child.
Some families are very keen for a child even if it is with donor sperm. Mainly, this is because they want an heir. Unlike the west in India, the concept of leaving all your worldly possessions to your own child is mandatory. Very rarely will families leave their assets and wealth to relatives. Hence, for these reasons having a child is a necessity.
The concerns regarding donor sperm stem from minor concerns such as the physical attributes of the child, will it be fair or dark, how tall or short will it be, what kind of features will it have? To a large extent, these concerns are not very well-founded because there is a profile match done of the parents with the donor to ensure that the child will blend in with the family. Usually, the sperm bank ensures a similar ethnicity and background.
All donors are tested for a number of diseases which can be passed down to the mother through the sperm. These are some of the safety aspects carried out by the sperm bank. Some of the tests the donor has to go through are:
- hepatitis B
- cytomegalovirus (CMV)
- streptococcal species
Any of the above can also affect the foetus and cause deformities or birth defects. Donors are also questioned about their sexual activity. Men who have had homosexual relationships or sex with numerous partners are rejected as unsuitable candidates.
An HIV and AIDS test is mandatory. The semen is also checked for any traces of white blood cells, which indicates that the donor has some infection in the reproductive tract. A donor should not have received a blood transfusion in the last one year as this will disqualify him as a sperm donor.
WHY INDIANS ARE APPREHENSIVE ABOUT DONOR SPERMS?
One of the great fears that Indians have regarding donor sperm is the fact that the child is not biologically their own. They feel that at some point, the child may come to this realisation and take all their wealth and possessions and abandon them. This rarely happens, but the fear is embedded deep in the hearts of some parents.
In most families, the fact that a donor sperm was used for conception is a well-guarded secret, and only the close family circle is let in on the secret. Social acceptance of donor sperm is not very high in India among family members. Generally, the child is never told that they were conceived using donor sperm.
SUCCESS RATE OF DONOR SPERM
For a good success rate with donor sperm, a woman should be very fertile and under 35 years of age. Women who suffer from fertility problems such as irregular ovulation, endometriosis and pelvic infections or are older than 35, have lower success rates of conception.
The donor sperm can be inseminated through cervical insemination. This is a procedure where the sperm is inserted through a catheter tube into the cervix. Western countries still commonly use cervical insemination. However, in India, the IUI method is more popularly used. The intrauterine Insemination has a much higher success rate too. Under the IUI treatment, the donor sperm is injected into the female partner’s uterus during the fertility period. Usually, the IUI is performed prior to ovulation to ensure a greater chance of pregnancy success.
The IUI procedure will need to be conducted several times before a woman becomes successfully pregnant. Normally by the third IUI cycle, at least 70% of the women conceive. Women who do not conceive by the 3rd cycle may have to undergo a hysteroscopy test. This test is carried out by inserting a laparoscopic camera through the cervix to view the uterus and fallopian tubes to ensure that there are no internal problems like endometriosis, adhesions or any other problems that could be affecting the reproductive organs and preventing the patient from conceiving.
Amit and Shreya had experienced many failed IUI treatments. The doctor advised IVF treatment. The two times that Sherya did conceive both ended in a miscarriage. It had been five years since they had started fertility treatment and were quite disheartened with the lack of success. The Fertility Consultant suggested that they use donor sperm as Amit’s weak sperm was most probably the cause behind the lack of pregnancy success. They were able to find a good sperm donor profile matching their own. They went ahead with the IUI treatment with the donor sperm. Shreya was able to conceive in the first attempt itself, and they were very happy with the conception. Amit said that they were not going to tell anyone about the donor sperm and that he felt like it was his own baby from the start.
For a better chance of success, many clinics administer hormone injections that are ovulation stimulating. This injection prepares the environment in the uterus and makes it more receptive for receiving the embryo. It also stimulates the ovaries and helps in ovulation.
Before receiving the donor sperm, the woman’s has to undergo certain tests such as the rubella titer and antibody test for CMV. CMV is a common virus that affects a large percentage of the population. Women who are CMV negative are given sperm from a donor who is CMV negative. The blood type of the woman and the donor are also matched. A woman with a negative blood group is never given sperm from a donor with a positive blood group as this can cause pregnancy complication is the development of the baby.
DONOR SPERM FERTILITY TREATMENT AT MEDICOVER
Medicover Fertility Clinic is the leading fertility clinic in North India and has a very high overall success rate for fertility treatment. Those couples who are not able to conceive due to a problem with the male partner's sperm can avail of the facilities offered by Medicover Fertility Clinic, which includes sperm bank services for patients.
Medicover is rated as the best fertility clinic in Delhi and NCR. They have their own sperm bank making it easier for couples to get donor sperm along with their IUI or IVF treatment. Patients are free to use any sperm bank and are not compelled to get their donor sperm from the clinic’s own sperm bank.
Medicover offers world-class facilities and fertility treatment of an international standard. The in house panel of fertility consultants are internally certified. Patients are given personalised care and specialised advanced fertility treatment at Medicover Fertility Clinic.
Q: We have been advised to use donor sperm, but we are concerned about the child looking different from us.
A: A profile match is done of the sperm donor and the couple who will use the sperm. The ethnicity as well as the features, background etc. are matched prior to allocating the sperm. This helps to ensure that there are minimal differences that will cause the child to appear totally different.
Q: How will we know if the donor has some genetic defects that may get passed down to our child?
A: A preimplantation genetic diagnosis test (PGD) can help to determine that there are no genetic issues. The background and history of the sperm donor are checked to ensure that there are no hereditary diseases and genetic defects.
Q: They say intelligence is hereditary. What if the sperm donor has a low IQ and my child turns out to be poor in studies.
A: This is the risk one has to take. There is no guarantee that the child will take the IQ only of the sperm donor; it may inherit the mother’s IQ or that of other bloodline family members.
Q: Everyone in my family and my wife’s family has an O+ve blood group. Can I ensure that my child with a donor sperm also has O+ve blood group or it may raise questions among relatives?
A: You can request for a donor sperm with O+ve blood type.