Who are the donors?
Sperm donors come from many groups within the community. Sometimes men have known someone who has required fertility treatment. Sperm Donors Mostly have their own families and acknowledge the joy of children.
Donors may come to the clinic in two different ways. "clinic recruited donors" may have seen articles or advertising for donors and offer to donate to people on the clinic list. Sometimes couples bring their own donors to the clinic. This may be a relative or friend who is willing to donate to them. Under New Zealand's legal situation, donors must be available for the donor children, or their families, to seek information. The Human Assisted Reproductive Technology Act (HART Act) 2004 created a central register for offspring and their donors. At 18 years of age ( or younger in special circumstances) the offspring can access details of their donor if they wish, and should be able to locate them. Parents of donor offspring can access the donor's name once the child has been born, until the child reaches 18 years of age. Clinics suggest some counselling support for the offspring and their donors to help make the meeting successful.
Donation in New Zealand is done altruistically. However, most clinics offer a compensation package to donors (around $50.00 per visit for sperm donors) to help reimburse expenses such as travel.
Using donor sperm
Recipients come to the clinic and work with the doctor, counsellor and nurse to understand the process and consider all the implications of receiving donor sperm. To do this treatment they need to have an understanding of the menstrual cycle, the hormones involved and the process of insemination. They learn about the HART Act, the selection of donors, the implications of a child having the genetic relationship to only one parent and discuss many other issues such as bonding with the child.
Having completed this, they then are placed on a waiting list. Following selection of a donor, the recipients are generally able to begin to use their treatment with the next menstrual cycle. If they achieve a pregnancy, enough sperm is often able to be reserved for a second child.
The HART Act and fertility clinics highlight that children within donor families will need to know their genetic origin or information at some stage. Most experts suggest that the earlier a child knows, the better. It is important that the recipients have thought through all aspects so they can feel confident about their decision and enjoy their children.
Families with donor offspring can approach the clinic for donor linking if they require health or other information. Counselling support can help ensure that both donor families and donors are comfortable with any contact.
Some men do not have sperm at all. These me will require donor sperm if the couple are to achieve a pregnancy. Other situations may involve infection or injury to the testicles, a vasectomy or a genetic disorder that may be passed onto a child. Men who have had treatment such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy, may also need donor sperm.
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Being a donor
Men who wish to become a donor make contact with the clinic to talk about the process of being a donor. Before they begin their donations they will need to complete blood tests, a semen analysis, a medical appointment and counselling about the implications of being a donor. this ensures the man is suitable and that he (and his partner, if applicable) understands the implications of donating for the immediate and long term future. With this knowledge the man (and any partner) will be able to decide whether they wish to proceed. If all goes ahead the man will begin his donations, and the number of donations will depend on the quality of the semen sample. These donations are frozen and stored. Once these have been deposited there is a period of quarantine, before the sperm is released for use.
The donor is informed once a year about the success of his donations. He is told the gender and the year of birth of any child born. He is not entitled to seek contact with the recipients or their children, but may approach the clinic to see if the recipient or offspring want contact. On the other hand, parents can request the donor’s identity from their clinic once the child is born, and the offspring is entitled to this information directly once he or she reaches the age of 18. Donors can nominate the number of families they are prepared to donate to. NZ regulations allow up to 10 families, but most NZ clinics use a max of 4-5 families because having genetic half siblings in more than 4-5 families may be complex.
Sperm donation has been available for years and there are many families created as a result of this generous gift, who are enjoying their lives together. Donating sperm is an act of kindness and generosity which brings great happiness to the recipient family.