Using donor insemination to conceive
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Robert Winston
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Fertility expert and one of the world's pioneers of IVF and Fertility Medicine. BAFTA award-winning television presenter and Member of The House of Lords in the UK.
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Fertility in Men

Using donor insemination to conceive

Donor insemination (DI) may be appropriate if a man is not producing any viable sperm. It may also be suggested if the male partner carries a genetic disease. Lesbian couples and single women may also consider donor insemination. There are problems inherent in the procedure that need to be understood and considered.
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In Short
The freezing or thawing process involved in DI undoubtedly reduces the fertility of the sperm, and few clinics achieve better than around 12 per cent chance of a pregnancy each month.

Sperm donors are often young and not always of proven fertility. Also, there are not many approved sperm donors.

There is no way of establishing whether a particular donor is free of all genes for serious inherited diseases, although it is now possible to screen them for cystic fibrosis.

A history of the donor’s family does not guarantee freedom from a particular genetic trait.

Why is donor insemination (DI) used?

Donor insemination (DI) may be appropriate if a man is not producing any viable sperm. It may also be suggested if the man carries a genetic disease or for single women and lesbian couples. DI is not as successful as might be thought. Donated sperm has to be frozen for a quarantine period while tests are done to ensure the donor is free of serious illnesses. The freezing/thawing process undoubtedly reduces the fertility of the sperm, and few clinics achieve better than around 12 per cent chance of a pregnancy each month.

How are sperm donors selected for donor insemination?

Donors are matched as far as possible to the physical characteristics of the woman’s partner, including his blood group, as well as his ethnic group and religion if requested and if possible. Sperm donors are not always of proven fertility. Most have not had children, are unmarried and are probably not ready for a long-term relationship. Nor, of course, is there a way of establishing whether a particular donor is free of all genes for serious inherited diseases, although it is now possible to screen them for cystic fibrosis.

Unfortunately, a genetic history of the donor’s family does not guarantee freedom from a particular genetic trait. Donor programmes are likely to have an extremely limited number of good fertile donors and inevitably clinics may repeatedly use semen from a donor of proved fertility. The fear that siblings conceived by DI might marry, unaware of their relationship to each other, resulted in a ruling that no donor should have his semen used more than ten times.

The Genesis Research Trust

Despite countless breakthroughs in medical science, we still do not understand why some pregnancies will end in tragedy. For most of us, having a child of our own is the most fulfilling experience of our lives. All of us can imagine the desperation and sadness of parents who lose a baby, and the life-shattering impact that a disabled or seriously ill child has on a family.

Professor Robert Winston’s Genesis Research Trust raises money for the largest UK-based collection of scientists and clinicians who are researching the causes and cures for conditions that affect the health of women and babies.

Essential Parent is proud to support their wonderful work. You can learn more about them here.

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DISCLAIMER
This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Essential Parent has used all reasonable care in compiling the information from leading experts and institutions but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details click here.