Couples who have had difficulty conceiving a pregnancy often turn to ART (assisted reproduction therapy) to hopefully accomplish what they desire - having a child of their own. There are many different methods of ART available to couples and depending upon the specific issue, donor eggs or donor sperm are used.
How to Become a Donor
When there is a need for donor sperm, the obvious place a couple will look is to a sperm bank. Sperm banking is done by men who, by and large, remain anonymous in terms of the recipient of the sperm. The sperm bank has a full record of them - their background, medical, person and family histories, and details about them as individuals. Before being eligible to be a donor, a man must fill out the forms, be over the age of 18, not adopted, not have any illness or health related issues and not have a family history of genetic diseases.
A lab sample of semen is collected and tested by the lab for contagious diseases and several other types of disease and genetic problems. After the initial testing is completed, the sample is judged on how well it freezes, as well as on the quantity and quality of the sperm. If the sample meets the criteria of the sperm bank and is a good sample, then the donor is invited back to produce a sample of both urine and sperm. It is retested for all of the diseases and issues that can possibly be passed to a child and if it is clean, the individual becomes a recorded donor.
Since it takes a full six months for some diseases and disorders to become evident, the sperm is retested after six months. If it continues to perform well, it is then released to use as donor sperm for IVF. All donors are screened and all sperm are handled in this way in registered clinics around the world. The US has the highest number of registered donors and, as it turns out, the donor sperm from the US is making its way around the world.
Legislation Causes Sperm Shortage
Within the past five years there has been legislation in England, Scotland and Australia removing the anonymity factor from sperm donation. Previously, donors had the option of being anonymous or non-anonymous. However, with the new legislation, many men have been scared off and have chosen not to donate their sperm. The reason? New laws enabling IVF children to track down their biological fathers when they turn 18. US donors seem to have less trouble being identified than men in other countries. Perhaps that is why the importation of donor sperm from the US is a booming business these days.
IVF Australia head Professor Michael Chapman declared that donor shortages had become critical, falling from 100 to 10 at his clinic in the past four years. "Last year we only had two or three donors on our books," he said. "Today around Australia there are about 50 donors, but the demand is still substantially higher than that." As a result, IVF Australia began to import donor sperm from the US.
In the UK, similar legislation five years ago pushed infertile couples to look for sperm from abroad following the resulting sperm shortage. Infertility support groups have warned that Great Britain is on the brink of a "national crisis" and they have called on their government to run a campaign in order to recruit sperm donors.
Clare Brown, chief executive of Infertility Network UK notes that the legislation has made a "huge difference" to the number of donors willing to volunteer their sperm. She said, "Clinics across the country are having to close because there is a shortage of donor sperm - and that constitutes a crisis.
"Before the anonymity law was introduced we didn't have a shortage of sperm donors - now we have.
"This is a very real worry and something has to be done to help the thousands of couples out there who face a childless future without donated sperm."
One Man's Thoughts
But, for the men who do choose to remain donors, those who are not concerned about a child they are biologically connected to finding them, carry on donating their sperm. One man, living in Scotland, says that he regularly donates blood, he is a bone marrow donor and he carries a donor organ card should anything happen to him. He has become a sperm donor because he sees it as just another way to help people in need.
Scotland has also been hit with the depletion of donors due to legislation. New figures in that country indicate that there were only 29 new sperm donors registered in all of Scotland in 2010.
With the growing trend of insistence upon the identity disclosure of the donor, there are things showing up that are disconcerting - like the fact that one man may seemingly sire up to 100 children. The concern of those pressing for identity disclosure is that genetic disorders may be passed on and there is a risk that random meetings of half siblings could turn into involuntary incest.
Donor Identity Demand
Wendy Kramer, founder of Donor Sibling Registry in the US states, "Donor anonymity is an archaic practice, and it's something that should be banned." She wants to see donor medical records updated over time and some way of tracking where men are donating their sperm. However, sperm banks say this is a very complicated issue.
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