Updated: Dec 5, 2021
There are many reasons why a person or a couple may need to access a sperm donor in Ireland. You may be a single person who wishes to become pregnant. You may be in a heterosexual couple where one (or both) partners have fertility issues. Or you may be in an LGBTQ+ relationship and need the assistance of a donor to start your family. Whatever your reason for needing sperm donation, here is some helpful information before you start the process.
Laws have recently changed in Ireland when it comes to fertility options. It’s important to know the facts about sperm donation before you start, and how this new legislation may impact your fertility journey.
First of all, it’s good to know the language used to describe the three different types of donors. These are anonymous, known, or identifiable (also known as traceable).
Anonymous: An anonymous donor is one who has not consented to be identified in any way. There is no way to contact the donor, even if a donor-conceived child should wish to do so once they reach adulthood. In Ireland, and many other European countries, there was once a time when only anonymous donors were allowed. Most countries have now moved away from that and are only allowing identifiable donors.
Known: A known donor is a person who will donate sperm to you in order for you to become pregnant. This is usually a close friend or a family member of your other half. Currently, Irish clinics are not facilitating known donors. They believe the lack of legislation in this area is too risky. The only way to use a known donor at the moment is through at-home insemination.
Identifiable: An identifiable donor is a type of donor who is unknown to you. However, they have consented to the fertility clinic to hold their information on a donor registry. This information can then be accessed by the donor-conceived child once they reach the age of 18.
WHAT IS AT-HOME INSEMINATION?
There was once a time when it was possible to order sperm directly to your home through various sperm banks in Europe. You could then use these samples for home insemination. Home insemination is a simple process that involves placing sperm directly into the vagina using a home insemination kit, quite like a long needleless syringe. This is done to coincide with ovulation which will give a good chance of becoming pregnant.
It is obviously a much more cost-effective way to become pregnant. However, you should bear in mind that children conceived through this method may not be fully protected by the law when it comes to their right to have both of their parents legally connected to them.
This is especially relevant in the case of LGBTQ+ couples. Under new legislation introduced this year, sperm banks are no longer allowed to deliver to private residences. You can of course still choose to do at-home insemination with a known donor.
The main way to access donor sperm these days is to go through a licensed fertility clinic. You will undergo what is called an IUI or an IVF cycle.
IUI: INTRAUTERINE INSEMINATION
This is a method of conception where sperm is injected directly into the uterus around the time of ovulation. It can only be done in a clinical setting and is not the same as home insemination. You will usually take fertility drugs to increase your chances of getting pregnant. This method can be very successful for some, but the success rates are not as high as IVF.
IVF: IN VITRO FERTILISATION
Literally meaning fertilisation in glass, this is a method of conception where eggs are retrieved and then fertilised with sperm outside of the body. Embryos are then placed back into the womb. As someone who has gone through multiple rounds of IVF with my wife, I can attest to the fact that it is a tough process. However, if you are successful, the outcome far outweighs the difficulty; in our case, we have two beautiful daughters.
WHAT TO BE AWARE OF
It’s important to note that a donor is not the same as a parent. Yes, they may be biologically connected to a child, but they chose to donate genetic material with the view to helping a person start a family. They did not have the intention of becoming a parent themselves.
There are many reputable clinics in Ireland which offer donor assisted conception. I would suggest attending a clinic which is close to home, but also which feels like a safe place for you. Trust your gut when choosing a clinic. Fertility treatment is hard enough as it is; the process is made a lot easier when you are comfortable with your clinic and the health professionals assisting you on your journey.
***I wrote this post originally for the Irish parenting website Family Friendly HQ.