Perhaps you have decided to have a baby, only to realize that there is one very important ingredient missing…sperm! Women who find themselves in this situation may include single women who have chosen to start a family on their own, lesbian couples, or heterosexual couples where there is a severe sperm abnormality. If you fit into one of these categories, don’t fret! Sperm is easier to find than you might think.
That being said, there are a number of steps involved. First, it is important to understand the laws surrounding sperm donation in Canada. It is a criminal offence to pay someone in Canada for their sperm. Imagine explaining that jail sentence to your family….. So, because it is illegal, there are very few sperm donors in Canada, and to my knowledge, only one sperm bank in Canada, located in Toronto. Luckily, there are ways around this. It is not illegal to purchase sperm abroad and use it in Canada. So most women will order it from a sperm bank in the US or Europe, and have it shipped to the Canadian fertility centre where they are being treated.
Once you have decided to proceed with sperm donation, have your family doctor (or walk-in clinic) refer you to a fertility centre. A complete history and physical examination will be done, as well as a basic work-up to confirm that there are no fertility issues for the woman planning to use this sperm. This is an important step before purchasing sperm, as it cannot be returned. As part of the work-up, the woman will be screened for a number of infectious diseases. This is to document any baseline infections that exist prior to insemination with donor sperm. If a diagnosis of an infectious disease is made after use of the sperm, it will be clear if this was a pre-existing condition, or something that was contracted from the donor. As you can imagine, sperm banks want to know about any infections caused by donors so as to protect other patients from exposure.
I am sure you are wondering what exactly the donor is screened for, and how safe it is to use donor sperm. Of the one thousand potential donors, only nine will be chosen! Let me assure you that it is MUCH safer than on-line dating. Follow this link to read about the screening that is done:
The sperm is then frozen, held in quarantine for six months, and the donor must return to have the infectious diseases repeated as well as the medical questionnaire, in case anything developed at the time of sperm freezing that was not detected on initial testing.
Once you have had your work-up complete and your physician has given you the green light you will be instructed to meet with a psychologist. This is a requirement set out by Health Canada and must be completed before you can proceed. The purpose of the visit is to learn about issues surrounding the use of donor sperm, help to choose an anonymous or open identity donor, and to discuss the long term impacts on your child, such as if and how to disclose to them that they were conceived through a donor. The purpose of this visit is not to determine whether or not you are fit to parent, it is simply to arm you with information and help you to make import decisions.
Now it is time to go shopping! Sperm banks post information about their donors online, and by paying extra fees you can have access to a great deal of interesting facts about the donor, including pictures and essays they have written. The clinic you are working with will give you instructions on how to access this information, how many vials to order, and how to have it shipped. Sperm banks are usually very good at helping coordinate this. Costs will vary depending on where the sperm is purchased. The actual insemination is covered by OHIP. Most patients using donor sperm will not require any fertility medications. It simply involves testing at home with a urine ovulation kit, calling in when it turns positive, and having the sperm thawed and an insemination done the following day.
An insemination is much like a pap test. It involves a speculum, a small syringe inserted through the cervix into the uterus, and the sperm injected. Most people don’t feel a thing. Cramping can sometimes happen but doesn’t take long to go away. Patients are asked to stay lying down for fifteen minutes, and then can go about their day. Just like that!
Chances of pregnancy are based on a number of factors, with age being the most important. In general, pregnancy rates approach the same success rates we see with conceiving the old fashioned way. Imagine those little guys frozen for months or years, coming to life, and working so well. It is rather impressive.
If you are considering conceiving with donor sperm, speak to your doctor. Many patients come to the Ottawa Fertility Centre just for information, so you do not have to commit to anything. We won’t track you down and inseminate in your sleep. Knowledge is power, so come on in and ask your questions.