Couples wishing to start a family may use a sperm donor when the male partner has a low-quality semen analysis. This can be due to oligospermia (low sperm count), azoospermia (no sperm in the ejaculate), or poor motility. A sperm donor may also be used if the male partner has a genetic problem which could be passed on to the child. Single women or LGBTQ couples can also use donor sperm to become pregnant.
Starting a family: choosing an egg donor
Treatment with donor eggs is part of an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle in which a woman uses donor eggs to become pregnant. This treatment is often used by women who are able to carry a child but do not have viable eggs. Egg donors are usually between the ages of 21-34, free of infection and not carriers of the cystic fibrosis gene.
Mental health and donor screening
Both sperm and egg donors are carefully screened by fertility clinics who arrange the donor match. A general health screening is conducted which includes blood count, urine testing, and blood pressure. Screening for sexually transmitted diseases such as hepatitis, chlamydia, and HIV is also performed. Some fertility clinics also perform a psychological evaluation. Occasionally the donor’s family member’s history is provided if there is a history of mental health conditions.
Anonymity of donors
In the past, anonymity of sperm donors was practically guaranteed however with recent advancements in DNA screening, this may prove to be a problem in the future.
The problem we have now is that the science has kind of overstepped where we are, in terms of legality,” said Dr. Peter McGovern, an infertility specialist.
A recent case has left a woman without the ability to provide a genetic sibling for her child because of legal action from the sperm bank.
Genetic screening for egg and sperm donors
All donors should also have a 3-generation genetic history taken. This shows any possible risks of genetic disorders based on family history. The genetic screening should be done by a professional genetics lab and should include chromosomal analysis, testing for cystic fibrosis, spinal muscular atrophy, hemoglobin variants, and thalassemia. Egg donors should also be tested for fragile X. In cases where there is a known genetic disorder in the family, this should also be tested for. Knowing how to find a sperm or egg donor can be complicated. Working with a well-established fertility clinic is often the best choice as many have physicians in-house available to provide recommendations.