While men may be willing to donate sperm, not all of them are suitable and it is becoming increasingly more difficult to obtain high-quality sperm donations. In this article, the doctors at Ginefiv fertility clinic in Spain discuss what is required to be accepted as a sperm donor.
Why donating sperm is becoming a problem
According to the fertility clinic Ginefiv, headquartered in Madrid, Spain, and with offices in London, finding suitable sperm donors is becoming increasingly difficult, with only 10% of applicants being eligible to be sperm donors.
Who can become a sperm donor?
Clinica Ginefiv has strict criteria for sperm donors. Men must:
- Be between 18 and 35 years of age
- Have no personal or family history of serious hereditary diseases
- Be free of sexual diseases
- Pass a psychological test.
- In addition, the donor must have:
- A sperm count of more than 50 million sperm per millilitre
- At least 50% of sperm with strong motility – the ability to ‘swim’ towards an egg
- An ejaculation volume of more than 2 millilitres
- A suitable sperm morphology or structure, which according to the criteria of the World Health Organization (WHO), means sperm should be symmetrical, smooth, oval, with straight tail, fixed core and transparent.
Based on these stringent requirements, Ginefiv estimates that only 10% of applicants are suitable sperm donors.
Why has sperm quality declined?
Sperm quality has declined in recent years mainly due to the hectic pace of life. Stress, long hours of work, environmental pollution, exposure to heat, food additives, alcohol, tobacco and even the use of tight underwear are just some of the factors that affect the quality of sperm.
Of the 800,000 infertile couples that exist in Spain, 40% of cases are caused by male infertility. Many of these infertile couples have to resort to donor sperm to have children.
What tests does a sperm donor undergo?
First and foremost, the sperm donor should be a healthy person with high-quality sperm. According to Dr Vincente Badajoz, Genefiv’s laboratory coordinator, "the first thing we do is to perform a semen analysis to check the quality of the semen. We then investigate the family history, perform blood tests to confirm that the donor has no diseases, and finally the donor undergoes a psychological test. If the prospective donor passes all these tests, he is allowed to donate for six months. If after this period the donor wishes to continue to donate, he must repeat the tests.”
Who donates sperm?
Until recently, the majority of sperm donors were economically motivated. However, "there is a clear trend in recent years of men donating sperm for altruistic reasons, such as having friends or relatives with infertility problems" said Dr.de la Casa.
However, prospective donors should be aware that they may not be eligible to donate. "In most cases, prospective donors are not surprised when told they are not suitable for donation, since they are warned about the rigorous selection process right from the start. Of course, not being suitable for donation does not imply infertility, only that the quality of their sperm may not be good enough to help an infertile couple. In any event, if the sample provided is of poor quality, the donors are always given the option to repeat the test to confirm the diagnosis, "said Dr Badajoz.
What can be done to improve sperm quality?
Although there are many factors that can influence sperm quality, including genetic and environmental factors, Dr de la Casa recommends a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet, regular exercise and the avoidance of harmful substances such as tobacco. "Smoking may reduce the sperm count, the mobility of sperm, or change their structure. It can contribute to the formation of sperm that are known to increase miscarriages, and even lead to erection problems. Other factors that can affect the quality of sperm are obesity and a decreased frequency of sexual intercourse. We estimate that men who are 10 kilos overweight increase their infertility problems by 10%" concludes Dr Badajoz.