Home' LOTL : April 2005 Contents 37
By Dr Ann
SENSIBLY SEEKING SPERM
QMy partner and I want to start preparing for pregnancy. We've
found our donor/dad but we are unsure about what questions to
ask him and what steps to take next. Can you give us any advice?
ALike I tell all my Girl Scouts, whether you're building a campfire or
getting knocked up, your motto should be the same: "Be Prepared".
Work out what you want to know about your donor/dad. What worries might
you have about the medical history of his family in terms of heritable illness?
Does he agree to being tested? These are some of the preliminary issues you
will need to discuss with each other and with your donor.
At this point you and your partner will need to discuss with your GP your
physical readiness for pregnancy, plus any particular concerns (like heritable
illnesses if there are any).
There are also some pre-pregnancy blood tests which include HIV, HTLV-1
and -2 (sexually transmissible viruses), Rubella, Syphilis, Hepatitis B and C,
Chicken Pox, a full blood count, blood group and antibodies. You can also do
a urine test to check for gonorrhea and chlamydia if you think you might have
been exposed to these. The same goes for your donor/dad, plus he can have
his sperm tested for sperm count (are there enough?), motility (can they swim
well enough to get to your egg?) and morphology (are they the right shape?).
Some of the tests, such as HIV, will be repeated after a 3 month window
period as a positive first test does not mean it is safe to proceed with
Once you have the results of the tests it will be time to GET CRACKING! Self-
insemination? Clinic insemination? Actual sexual intercourse? Different people
prefer different methods, but whatever you choose make sure you
understand all the risks involved so that you can make an informed decision.
Part of this informed decision is understanding the legal differences in
the status of the donor depending on the method you choose. These are
best explained by your GP, women's health services or IVF clinics which
do donor inseminations. At a clinic the sperm will be frozen and held for 6
months due to the requirements of the Human Tissue Act, during which time
it will be tested.
The chances of conceiving from one attempt at insemination are about 10-
15% with sperm that has been frozen. If fresh sperm is used this only rises to
20-25% but there are risks with this method. If you are thinking of any method
that uses fresh sperm, including sexual intercourse, there is a risk you may be
exposed to viruses like HIV. It's important to realise that even if your donor
says he has not had unprotected sex (or engaged in other risk behaviours like
sharing needles), accidents do happen and there have been cases where one
of the parties has been too nervous to disclose this information, putting the
other party at risk.
One thing about preparation: you may stumble across obstacles in the
process but this should not put you off your goal of getting pregnant. Instead,
think of it as giving you the information you need to achieve your ultimate aim:
to have a healthy baby and healthy mother(s)! Your doctor is essential in this
process and the relationship you develop will not only help you to achieve a
healthy pregnancy, it will hold you in good stead for the ongoing health care
of your child.
Dr Ann is a doctor at a Sydney metropolitan area hospital. The opinions
expressed in this column are those of the author and are not intended as a
substitute for medical advice. If you have concerns about your health please
consult your health practitioner.
"The chances of conceiving from one
attempt at insemination are about 10-15%
with sperm that has been frozen."
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