Sperm donation is the fertility treatment of choice when achieving pregnancy with the intended father’s semen is not possible, and also in cases of lesbian couples and single women, given the absence of a male partner.
Using donor sperm may also be interesting in cases where the intended father is a carrier of a genetic abnormality or disease, and does not want his children to inherit it, regardless of whether there exists a fertility problem or not.
Within Cyprus, sperm donation is allowed for carrying out both an intrauterine insemination (IUI) or an in vitro fertilization (IVF). The following article shall explain the requirements to undergo IVF with donor sperm in this country.
IVF process step by step
Every donor-sperm IVF procedure is comprised of the following phases:
- Controlled ovarian stimulation (COS): Maturation of the ovarian follicle is triggered so that a greater number of eggs is produced. To that end, the patient has to self-administer hormone medications subcutaneously.
- Ultrasound monitoring: As the patient follows the IVF ovarian stimulation protocol as indicated by the doctor, the cycle is monitored through ultrasound scan and blood tests with the purpose of examining follicle growth. When the follicles reach an approximate size of around 17 mm, a date for egg retrieval is set, and medications to trigger ovulation are administered 36 hours before that date.
- Follicular puncture: This surgical intervention is performed in order for the mature eggs to be harvested from the ovarian follicle. It is done under mild anesthesia, and does not take longer than just 15-30 minutes.
- Sperm washing: The frozen donor sample will be thawed and then prepared for fertilization. This process is known as sperm capacitation, and allows for the sperms to become able to fertilize the egg.
- In vitro fertilization: Whether it is done via conventional IVF or ICSI, the union between the eggs and the sperms will be carried out in the laboratory.
- Embryo culture: The embryos that have been created will be cultured in the laboratory up until the day of the transfer. They can also be frozen if the transfer is postponed for future cycles.
- Embryo transfer: In fresh cycles, the patient will have to take hormone medications after the egg retrieval in order for her to boost the chances of embryo implantation. Supported by an embryo-transfer cannula, the embryo(s) will be transferred to the patient’s uterus, waiting for them to be able to attach.
Should the embryo transfer be scheduled for another cycle, the embryos will be frozen via embryo vitrification, and defrosted in the very moment at which the transfer is set. That is when the woman has to take hormone medications for endometrial preparation.
These are in short the fundamental steps involved in every donor-sperm IVF process. The duration time of each medication protocol may vary according to the characteristics of the patient, and each woman’s own personal situation.
Regulation of donor conception
The legal framework that regulates sperm donation in Cyprus, and medically assisted reproduction (MAR) in general, is the Law 69(I)/2015, which establishes that sperm donation should be based upon anonymity and altruism.
This means, on the one hand, that donor identity will not be revealed to the intended parents, nor to the donor-conceived child. Neither donors will be given information on the recipients or the unborn child. Also, the selling of genetic material, that is, male reproductive cells, is forbidden.
However, donors are allowed by law to be financially compensated in recognition of the inconveniences causes, such as travel expenses and time off work.
In order for a candidate to be eligible for donating his sperm, he should be 45 years old or less, and being free from hereditary, genetic, and/or infectious conditions.