In case the reason why you are unable to achieve pregnancy is due to male fertility problems, resorting to sperm donation may be a definitive solution. By undergoing a fertility treatment using donor sperm you can solve potential fertility problems and make your dream of being parents come true.
In addition to heterosexual couples, lesbian partners as well as single women find in sperm donation a way through which achieving motherhood in spite of the absence of a male partner.
When donor sperm is used, two possible fertility treatments can be carried out: artificial insemination (AI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF). This article shall explain what IVF with donor sperm is all about.
In which cases is donor sperm indicated?
Sperm donation becomes necessary mainly in the following two cases:
- Poor sperm quality: When the partner’s or husband’s semen sample is not of high enough quality as to fertilize the egg.
- Absence of a male partner: Lesbian couples and single women wishing to have a child. Even though single women usually have a preference for artificial insemination, IVF with donor sperm is more common in the case of lesbian couples, especially for reciprocal IVF, that is, a member of the couple hands over her eggs to the other woman, who will be the the one who becomes pregnant.
As for the reasons why sperm quality may not be high enough to achieve pregnancy, forcing therefore the use of donor sperm, we highlight the following:
- Cancer treatments: techniques used for oncological therapies may slow or stop the man’s sperm production function.
- Being a carrier of any hereditary disease: even though neither of the members of the couple is infertile and a natural pregnancy could be achieved, donor sperm may turn out to be necessary to prevent the transmission of a hereditary disease or because a genetic alteration worsens the quality of the semen sample.
- Azoospermia: complete absence of sperm in the ejaculate.
- Oligospermia: low sperm concentration in the ejaculate.
- Necrospermia: the great majority of spermatozoa found in the ejaculate are dead.
- Severe asthenozoospermia: extremely low sperm motility.
The steps involved in the donor-sperm IVF process are quite similar to those taken when the partner’s own sperm used. Thus, the main steps involved are the following:
- Ovarian stimulation to the woman.
- Collection of the semen sample; in the case of sperm donation, it will be obtained by thawing the samples the donor will have delivered previously.
- Follicular puncture for ovum pick-up.
- Fertilization of the egg with sperm in the IVF lab, either by means of conventional IVF or ICSI.
- Pregnancy testing to detect the presence of the beta-hCG hormone.
The main difference is that donor sperm has to necessarily go through a freezing-thawing process, whereas in cases where own sperm is used, using a fresh semen sample is the preferred option, in which case it is collected the same day when egg retrieval and fertilization in the IVF laboratory are scheduled.
As for donor sperm, it must have been previously frozen for at least 6 months before being used, due to the window period for HIV infection. This means donors must undergo a screening process for HIV detection before delivering his first semen sample and another one 6 months later. Only in case both HIV tests show a negative result, prospective donors will be accepted in the sperm donation program. Throughout this period of time, semen samples are cryopreserved to make sure they preserve their optimal reproductive potential.
About sperm donation
There exist some basic traits that characterize the sperm donation process in Spain, according to Spanish Law regarding Assisted Human Reproduction Techniques:
- Even though it stands for an altruistic procedure above all, donors can get an economic compensation of €30-€50 due to any inconvenience derived from the process.
- Donors must remain anonymous. Specialists in the fertility clinic will be responsible for selecting a sperm donor according to his physical characteristics and immunologic acceptance, always maintaining the donor’s confidentiality. Intended parents cannot get information about the donor’s identity, nor the other way about.
- Donors must meet a series of strict requirements in relation to age, physical and mental health, etc.
- Semen quality must be above the reference values established to determine sperm parameters such as sperm motility, sperm morphology, sperm concentration…