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Donor Insemination

What is it?

Donor insemination (AID) is a procedure whereby the prepared semen from a known or unknown sperm donor is introduced into the female patient’s cervix/uterus, close to the time of ovulation, with the intention of her becoming pregnant. Insemination is a simple, less invasive form of fertility treatment.

The insemination procedure is performed by one of the Fertility North nurses and involves a sample of prepared semen being gently inserted into the uterine cavity using a speculum and small catheter. The procedure is usually not painful, although you may experience some mild cramping and/or discomfort. You should be able to return to your normal activities straight away.

Who Donates?

At Fertility North we seek out sperm donors on a regular basis throughout the year. We look for healthy, responsible men aged between 18 and 45 years. Our recipients are often interested to know what kind of individuals become sperm donors. Studies indicate that the most common characteristic among sperm donors is a desire to help others and many report having friends or family who have had fertility problems.

How is it organised?

The donor and his partner (if he has one) are required to attend a counselling session to ensure complete understanding about what is involved, and the legal implications associated with becoming a donor. One of the Fertility North Clinicians examines all potential donors. This examination involves blood tests for HIV, Hepatitis B and C and other sexually transmitted diseases. We also screen for genetically transmitted disorders such as Cystic Fibrosis and any other genetic disorders that may be indicated. The donor is also required to provide a full personal and family medical history, and to sign a declaration that asks questions specifically about activities associated with an increased risk of HIV or Hepatitis infection.

If the potential donor meets the clinic requirements, and the blood test results are negative he will be invited to make an appointment to produce a semen sample. This initial sample is used to conduct a semen analysis. Provided the results of this analysis are within acceptable parameters, the donor is asked to make his donations. These samples are produced by masturbation, frozen and kept for six months until the donor has completed a repeat blood test for HIV, Hepatitis B and C and other sexually transmitted diseases. If this second test is clear, the sperm is released for use in the donor program.

Donor sperm recipients are given non-identifying information about the donors we have available in our program. This information includes race, ethnic origin, height, build, hair and eye colour and blood group. The majority of couples usually choose a donor whose physical characteristics most closely resemble those of the partner, although other factors such as ethnic origin may influence their decision. We try to ensure sufficient sperm is available from the donor to accommodate second and subsequent pregnancies, although this is not always possible.

Some couples decide that the use of a donor known to them is preferable. A known sperm donor and his partner (if he has one) will be required to discuss their plans with the Fertility North, or other ANZICA (Australia and New Zealand Infertility Counsellors Association) registered Counsellor. The same regimen of blood tests and semen analysis apply, as for unknown donors, to ensure the medical suitability of the chosen known donor. Once medical suitability is confirmed, donation may commence and the semen is then stored for a six-month quarantine period, before treatment takes place.

All couples considering donor insemination services should discuss their plans with their specialist doctor. There are social and emotional implications surrounding the use of donated gametes. Therefore, it is a requirement that you attend a counselling session with the Fertility North or other ANZICA registered Counsellor. This provides the opportunity to discuss the issues that might arise if a couple proceeds with donor insemination. The legal aspects and issues such as telling family, friends and any children born as a result of treatment, about donor insemination will also be discussed.

What are the risks from donor semen?

All the donors available at Fertility North are screened for common infectious diseases, on two occasions, prior to insemination. Women who have children by insemination have exactly the same risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth and risks of abnormality in their children as those who conceive naturally. There is no decrease or increase in the risk of congenital abnormality. The screening of sperm donors is as thorough as possible but cannot exclude every possible illness or disease. Couples intending to use donor sperm need to discuss this issue with their Specialist and Counsellor.

What are the legalities?

In Western Australia, the Artificial Conception Act 1985 and the Human Reproductive Technology Act 1991 (as recently amended) cover donor insemination. Under this legislation, the woman who gives birth after a donor procedure is the legal parent of the child and her partner (if any) is taken as the other legal parent provided they have consented to the procedure. The donor has no legal rights or responsibilities to any child born.

Since 1993, all parties undergoing assisted reproduction have their identifying information recorded in the Reproductive Technology (RT) Register held by the WA Department of Health. In 2004, the Human Reproductive Technology Act was amended in recognition of the rights of donor conceived children. This amendment gave them the right to access information regarding their genetic origins. Once a donor conceived child has reached the age of 16 years, they will be able to access identifying information about their donor.

The Voluntary Register, which was established in 2002, provides a means for donors, recipients and children born from donor artificial fertilisation procedures to share information on a voluntary basis.

The Voluntary Register attempts to match the records of a person who joins the Register with the records of another person involved in the donation. When people apply to join the Voluntary Register they will be asked to indicate if they are willing to share identifying information with the other parties to the donation. On turning 18 years of age, any person conceived using donor sperm may request access to this information.

It is important that you and your partner have discussed all the issues associated with genetic origins before embarking on this process.

Information can be obtained from the Clinic Counsellor, the RTC or Department of Health. For further information please refer to the RTC website at www.rtc.org.au.