Nowadays, many couples have to turn to gamete donation in order to make their dream of becoming parents come true. In cases such as these, the couple tends to have common and understandable doubts about reproduction treatment clinics’ processes for accepting gamete donors onto their banks.
Let us use this forum to explain the semen donor selection process at Instituto Bernabeu whilst keeping in mind that, in our country, gamete donations are anonymous and altruistic.
1. Psychological analysis: carried out by a psychologist who is an expert in dealing with assisted reproduction patients.
The assessment includes a personal interview and use of our EMAE psychological assessment questionnaire. The aim of the questionnaire is to get to know each individual and describe different sides of their personality (emotional, social, etc.) in order to anticipate any behaviour traits. For example, emotional stability, assertiveness, how responsible they are, common sense, interpersonal relationships, altruism, confidentiality, absence of depression, self-confidence, ability to withstand moments of anxiety, etc.
2. Semen analysis: once the psychological assessment has been completed, we analyse the donor’s semen.
It needs to have been ejaculated in our facilities following an abstinence from sexual intercourse of between 3 and 5 days. We determine the quantity of sperm in the sample and their mobility. In order to be labelled as a valid sample, it must easily exceed the World Health Organization (WHO) sperm reference criteria.
3. Freezing and defrosting test: all semen samples are frozen and stored in our semen bank for use later on in various assisted reproduction techniques.
Not all semen responds in the same way to freezing and defrosting processes and, whilst the technique has been perfected, there are always some spermatozoa that do not survive or that have a diminished degree of mobility because of this process. In order to be able to estimate the results we will obtain after defrosting the semen samples, we need to perform semen freezing and defrosting tests.
Once the semen analysis has been satisfactorily completed, a number of blood tests are taken.
- Blood group and Rh factor.
- Hepatitis B, Hepatitis B core, Hepatitis C, HIV and syphilis.
- Sexually transmitted diseases: Chlamydia rachomatis, Herpes simplex type I and II, Treponema pallidum, Neisseria gonorrhoea, Trichomonas vaginalis, Mycoplasma hominis, Mycoplasma genitalium, Haemophilus ducreyi and Ureaplasma urealyticum.
5. Genetic and chromosomal analyses in order to rule out a presence of the most common hereditary diseases that could be passed on to offspring.
- Karyotype: this rules out chromosomal abnormalities and polymorphisms that could be transmitted to and affect offspring, leading to pregnancy loss or congenital abnormalities.
- Screening for cystic fibrosis gene mutations: this is the most common autosomal recessive disease in the general population. Our method provides a 98% level of detection amongst the European population. This complies with the recommendations issued by the American College of Medical Genetics (ACGM) and the European Cystic Fibrosis Network (Eurogentest).
- Alpha thalassaemia genetic test: around 5% of the population worldwide is currently a carrier of a potentially pathologic haemoglobin gene that leads to a serious form of anaemia.
- Spinal muscular atrophy genetic test: spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a group of neuromuscular diseases that cause weakness and muscular atrophy.
6. Genetic compatibility test (GCT): we can use this test to analyse if there are any recessive disorders in 552 genes that could be passed on to offspring.
Once the analysis has been completed, if all the test results are negative, the donor is accepted onto our semen bank programme.
In 2017, only around 30% of the total number of candidates that were interested in becoming sperm donors were actually suitable for participation in our sperm bank.
This is a clear indication that, at Instituto Bernabeu, we select our sperm donors very carefully in order to have access to high-quality gametes for use in our assisted reproduction techniques.