The process of having children is seen as being a very natural and relatively simple one. Most people take it for granted; at least until they discover that they may not after all be able to conceive children. This realisation can have far reaching implications for many people.
Most of us do not realise that even for those who “do not have any difficulty in conceiving” the average chances of conceiving are only about 20-25% per cycle. (Interestingly this is about the same chance of becoming pregnant through some assisted conception techniques.) Indeed, one in seven couples will have fertility problems at some stage in their lives.
There can be many reasons why some couples fail to achieve a pregnancy. The male partner may have sperm abnormalities, poor sperm production or no sperm at all. Some men carry inherited genetic diseases and are thus seeking donated sperm so as not to transmit the disease to their children.
There is a shortage of sperm donors and many people have to wait to benefit from donated sperm. Some couples are fortunate enough to have friends and family willing to donate sperm as a ‘known donor’. However most are not so fortunate and thus they are likely to be ‘in the queue’ waiting for around 1 year on average for sufficient donors to volunteer to donate their sperm.
To meet the demand, over 500 sperm donors are needed every year. Donors from all nationalities, religions, ethnicities and cultures are needed to fulfil the demand.
Donors are people from all walks of life – there is no such thing as a ‘standard donor’. What they have in common is a desire to help people to achieve the pregnancy they otherwise couldn’t have.
The British Fertility Society guidelines state that all healthy men who are aged between 18 and 40 are eligible to donate. Sperm donors need to be a non-smoker, not obese, free from any serious medical problem and disability and with no history of congenital, family, hereditary or transmissible disease.
Assessment and screening of potential donors will take place in the following stages:
- A medical consultation to ensure the donor meets the criteria detailed above. With the donor’s permission, their GP will be involved in this process as well and the GP’s statement about good health of the donor is required.
- A session of implications counselling to ensure that the donor and partner (if applicable) are fully aware of the implications of the donation before proceeding. The counselling session can be helpful in exploring how your donation might affect you, your partner and any children you may have in future.
- Initial screening for Cytomegalovirus (CMV), HIV 1 & 2, Hepatitis B surface antigen and core antibodies, Hepatitis C Antibodies, Syphilis screen IgG/IgM, HTLV 1 & 2, Cystic Fibrosis carrier screen, Chromosome Analysis, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea. All of these tests can be performed in a single blood test, except Chlamydia and Gonorrhea, which are performed from a urine sample.
An initial semen analysis will be performed to ensure the donor’s sperm is of suitable quality for donation.
Appointment with a nurse or patient coordinator to complete paperwork indicating your consent to donation.
Please note: the screening test above may result in the donor becoming aware that he might be a carrier of a genetic disorder and will not be eligible for donation. In addition the assessment might reveal previously unsuspected low sperm count or other infections.
The assessment and screening process will take approximately one to two months.
You will be asked to abstain from sex and masturbation for 2 to 3 days before donating a sample. Each time you attend the clinic to provide a sample, you will be provided with a private, lockable room for you to produce the sperm sample by masturbation. The sample is passed to the laboratory staff for processing and storage. The laboratory staff will advise you how many times they would like you to attend to donate – it may be up to 2 or 3 times a week for anywhere up to 4 months.
Like adopted people, people born from donations have the right to ask the regulatory body: The Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA) for the donor’s identity when they reach age 18 or older.
As an HFEA licensed clinic, Harley Street Fertility Clinic must conform to strict medical, legal and ethical standards to ensure that everyone involved in the donation is protected and clear about their legal position:
It is a legal requirement for you to consent to your donation in writing before donating sperm for the treatment of others. You can change or withdraw your consent at any time up to the point at which your sperm is used in treatment.
You can also place some restrictions on your donation – please see http://www.hfea.gov.uk/1972.html for more information.
You can help create up to ten families
The person/people who received your donation will be the child’s legal and social parent(s) – you will not be named on the birth certificate.
You have no legal, financial or social obligations to any child created from your donation either now or in 18 years time.
You must inform us of any inherited disabilities and/or physical and mental illnesses in your family; a donor-conceived person born with an abnormality could sue you for damages if it was proved you had deliberately withheld information.
We will give you a special HFEA form to complete. This form is for personal details about yourself that could be handed to the donor-conceived person when they reach age 18 or older. This information enables the child’s parents to talk to them about their origins as they grow up and helps them build a mental picture of you.
If you would like us to, we will be able to tell you whether a baby/babies were born as a result of your donation and, if so, how many births, how many children, the sex of any such children and/or the year they were born.
You can claim compensation of up to £35 per visit. We will generally reimburse you at the end of your donation but you may request to be compensated as and when you attend the clinic.