Do You Qualify as a Sperm Donor?
Couples spend a lot of time and energy choosing the perfect egg donor. Most men don’t give much thought to the quality of their sperm. But a third of infertility can be traced back to the man’s sperm or with the tubes the sperm move through.
Remember, it takes about three months for men to make new sperm. So it’s really important to be as healthy as possible in the three months leading up to the sperm donation. Anyone providing sperm will need a physical exam, STD screening and semen analysis. Intended Fathers should have their sperm quality checked early, and start a healthy lifestyle to improve their overall fertility long before their IVF cycle.
What medical tests are required for the sperm donor?
Before any sperm donation, the surrogacy clinic will need both a standard blood test and semen analysis for the genetic father. All reputable clinics will require these tests, although the specifics of the test may vary.
If you will have your surrogacy program in the United States, the blood tests for the sperm donor should be done at an FDA accredited lab within the United States. They may be done at the IVF clinic at the time of the donation — but we strongly urge Intend Fathers to get tested at home, before they invest in a lengthy trip to an international IVF clinic.
The blood test should include a scan for infectious diseases, including Hepatitis B and C, HIV, Gonorrhea, Syphilis and other STDs. The semen analysis is standard, and should include normal/abnormal morphology rates and normal/rapid motility rates. Men with a poor semen analysis may be able to improve their results with some simple over-the-counter supplements and lifestyle changes. The Surrogacy Guide has an excellent article about improving your sperm quality..
If your blood test shows positive for Hepatitis or HIV, the clinic may suggest a process of sperm washing to enable you to donate. Sperm washing effectively removes any infectious material from the sperm before the sample is frozen and used for IVF.
How to know if you have a defect in sperm quality?
Intended Fathers who suspect they have have poor sperm quality can have a sperm fragmentation test. This test flags possible problems with the sperm’s chromosomes before the IVF procedure.
For couples with a long history of failed embryo transfers and early-term miscarriages, there is often a defect with the embryos that originated with one of the donors. Your IVF doctor will likely recommend an egg donor, but parents should also consider the possibility that the sperm donor has a fertility issue. In these cases Intended Fathers can run a full fragmentation (and/or karyotype) analysis of a sperm sample to determine if there is a possible problem there as well.
Sperm fragmentation vs Karyotype analysis
Karyotype and Fragmentation analyses are similar in that they both check for a complete and healthy set of chromosomes in the donor. Fragmentation is specific to the sperm cells, while a Karyotype checks for the overall chromosomal issues of the individual. Most sperm chromosome anomalies arise when sperm cells are created, and so they cannot be detected by general analysis. These anomalies can only be found by looking at the sperm directly.
Although a sperm sample may appear normal under standard semen analysis, a fragmentation analysis is more profound and will detect issues that are hidden from standard tests. There are 46 chromosomes, and a fragmentation analysis will show if the shape or size of one or more chromosomes is abnormal, broken, repeated or missing. These bad chromosomes would be passed onto the embryos. Several studies show that misshaped or incomplete chromosomes in the embryos are responsible for up to 75% of all failed pregnancies or miscarriages.
An alternative would be to run a chromosomal analysis (PGD/PGS) of the embryos after the IVF program is complete. The decision to perform PGD/PGS is a bit complicated, and you can learn more in this article in the Guide.
Who Will be the Sperm Donor?
Surrogacy overseas usually requires that the legal father is also genetically related to the baby. The surrogate mother will be considered the legal mother, so the genetic father has the responsibility to apply for the child’s citizenship and passport. Citizenship is only possible if the sperm donor is both the legal father and a citizen of the country where the baby will eventually live.
If you are a same-sex couple (and you are both citizens), it can be difficult to decide who will provide the sperm for your IVF. Before making a decision, couples should have a complete semen analysis to determine which partner will have the best chance of pregnancy. If both partners are equally fertile, they may choose to divide the eggs and have half fertilized by each partner. In this case, one embryo from each partner would be implanted into one of two surrogates.
It is no longer possible for one surrogate to be implanted with embryos from two different sperm donors. This was briefly an option for gay male parents in the United States some years ago, but now clinics have been strongly advised against multiple embryo transfers by the ASRM because of high risks of premature birth and complication with twins pregnancies. To have embryos from each father implanted, the couple will need to hire two different surrogates. (Fortunately in overseas clinics two surrogates is still a more affordable solution than hiring just one surrogate the United States, and the likelihood of successfully having “twins” is higher.)
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