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Donor Insemination

What is it and why is it used?

Donor insemination (AID) is the procedure whereby semen from an anonymous or known sperm donor is inserted into the cervix/uterus with the intention of her becoming pregnant. Donor insemination may be used when the male partner is azoospermic (produces no sperm at all), or very oligospermic (very few sperm produced), or to avoid the transmission of hereditary disorders. Donor insemination treatment is also available for women without male partners.

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

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 issues associated with becoming a donor. All potential donors are examined by the clinic's doctor. This examination involves blood tests for HIV, Hepatitis B and C and some other sexually transmitted diseases, and for Cystic Fibrosis and any other genetically transmitted 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 donor meets the clinic, and the blood screens are negative he is invited to make an appointment to produce a semen sample. These are produced by masturbation, frozen and kept for six months until the donor has another blood test for HIV and Hepatitis B and C. If this second test is clear, the sperm is released for use in the program.

Recipients are given non-identifying information about donors in our sperm bank. This information includes race, ethnic origin, height, build, hair and eye colour and blood group. Couples usually choose semen from a donor whose physical characteristics most closely resemble those of the partner, although other factors such as ethnic origin and blood group may influence their decision. We try to use the same donor for 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 will be required to discuss their plans with the Fertility North counsellor. The semen is then stored for a six-month quarantine period, as for an unknown donor, before treatment can take place.

All couples considering the donor insemination services should discuss their plans with their specialist doctor. There can be social and emotional hurdles to be overcome when receiving donor gametes. Therefore, it is a requirement that you attend a counselling session at the clinic. 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 the family, friends and the children about donor insemination will also be discussed.

The AID procedure and follow-up testing is the same as for AIH. Often fertility is prescribed to enhance the ovulation response.  What are the risks from donor semen? The donors are screened, as described above for common infectious diseases known to us, on two occasions prior to insemination. Women who have children by AID have exactly the same risk of complications of pregnancy and childbirth and 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 the counsellor.

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

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.  Who can access identifying information? Identifying information, that is, information that identifies or has the potential to identify a person, may be provided to other adults involved in the donation, only with the consent of all people 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​.