In vitro fertilization with donor sperm is a fertility treatment used in cases of single women or heterosexual couples where the man is unable to use his own sperm due to zero sperm count or because the man is a carrier of a hereditary disease likely to be transmitted by offspring.
Russia is a popular destination for the so-called fertility tourism due to its comprehensive legal framework on assisted reproduction, which allows a wide range of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) to be used. Infertile couples as well as single women from a foreign country in which egg donation has a larger number of restrictions decide to travel to Russia in the pursuit of an in vitro fertilization treatment with donor sperm.
Sperm donation is allowed in Russia for heterosexual couples or single women, whereas lesbian couples are not allowed to undergo fertility treatments using donor sperm in order to have children.
Types of sperm donors
In Russia, two types of sperm donation can be found: donors can be anonymous or, conversely, known.
In the case of anonymous sperm donation, recipients can get some information regarding the donor’s general features, although the whole amount of info about him will only be handled my the fertility clinic or sperm bank. Some clinics allow recipients to have access to childhood pictures or audio recordings of the donor; still, donor information is strictly confidential, and the same applies the other way about as regards information about the couple or single woman.
Should the intended parents have a preference for known sperm donation, then the donor must be either a relative or a friend of theirs.
Gamete donors, i.e. egg and sperm donors, are allowed to get an economic compensation in exchange of their gametes, a type of donation that is known as commercial donation. Nonetheless, altruistic sperm donation, that is, with no compensation is permitted as well.
To become a sperm donor in Russia, having high quality sperm in terms of increased sperm concentration and sperm motility is required. Moreover, a series of screening tests are carried out as well to check whether the young candidate is indeed in good health. Such tests include:
- Semen analysis and bacterial culture of semen
- Determination of blood group
- General biochemical analysis
- Karyotype analysis and genetic testing
- Viral tests, e.g. HIV, hepatitis B, cytomegalovirus…
- Psychological interview
How donor-sperm IVF works
The process begins with the woman undergoing ovarian stimulation in order to obtain a greater number of eggs than in a natural cycle. Ovarian stimulation will be scheduled for the estimated starting date of the woman’s period: that day she will start self-administering ovulation induction drugs by means of subcutaneous injections.
After administering such medications for a few days, the first ultrasound exam is performed with the aim of checking whether ovarian response and follicle growth are developing as expected. The dose of medication required will be readjusted according to ovarian response, if necessary. Throughout the whole IVF process, various ultrasound exams will be carried out—3 or 4 approximately.
When the follicles reach an adequate size of around 18 mm, follicular puncture is scheduled, and consequently the woman is prescribed one last medication aimed at triggering ovulation. Even though determining how long ovarian stimulation may last depends on follicle growth, follicular puncture is usually performed within a range from day 9 to day 16 of the female menstrual cycle.
Egg harvesting is done through follicular puncture, a simple surgical intervention that is performed under deep sedation. The eggs contained in each ovarian follicle are retrieved in the operating theater. Then, the eggs harvested will be taken to the IVF laboratory, where fertilization will take place.
On the same day, the semen sample of the sperm donor will be used for the performance of the most indicated technique, either conventional IVF or ICSI, and the eggs will be fertilized, creating therefore human embryos.
Once the follicular puncture procedure is finished, the woman must remain under observation for a few hours. Then, she can leave the clinic by herself, although she is advised to rest at least during that day to minimize any potential discomfort derived from this surgical intervention. In case a fresh embryo transfer is to be performed, i.e. in that cycle, a medication for the preparation of the endometrium will be prescribed, therefore allowing it to reach its embryo reception-ready phase.
Embryos will be cultured up until the day when embryo transfer is scheduled, a process in which the embryo or embryos are inserted inside the woman’s uterus through cannula transfer. To this end, no anesthesia is required, given that it stands for a painless, simple procedure. After the embryo transfer, women have to rest for 15-30 minutes. Then, she will be able to resume her normal lifestyle.
Foreign heterosexual couples and single women traveling to Russia for IVF using donor sperm can previously contact their fertility clinic to adjust the time frame of each step, since for example the phase where ovarian stimulation is involved can be done in the woman’s country of origin, and later visit Russia a few days before follicular puncture. She will be able to return to her country once the embryo transfer has been done.