Wanted: Sperm donors

BANGALORE: It is amazing that an upcoming Bollywood movie Vicky Donor talks about an unconventional theme — Sperm donation. It is a topic that is less talked about in our country with its deep

Published: 01st April 2012 11:16 PM  |   Last Updated: 16th May 2012 07:15 PM   |  A+A-

BANGALORE: It is amazing that an upcoming Bollywood movie Vicky Donor talks about an unconventional theme — Sperm donation. It is a topic that is less talked about in our country with its deep-seated social inhibitions . This topic is often considered a taboo to be discussed openly in the public as it is associated with a certain level of perversion. In fact, lack of awareness among the public, especially the youth, makes the matter only worse.

With rising infertility rates and cases of artificial insemination, City Express finds more about this serious and peculiar problem that continues to haunt Bangalore — A severe shortage of sperm donors. This is not a new trend and despite the explosion of media and better access to information, the situation has not changed for the better.

Dr Venkatesh, Chief of Academics, Gunasheela Institute of Reproduction, says, “Even today, the situation remains the same. We need more sperm donors. With male infertility on the rise around the world, the need for serious intervention in this matter has

become inevitable.”

According to the city-based Cryobank, presently, the country faces a shortage of 50,000 vials annually (1 vial=0.5ml) while Bangalore alone faces a shortage of 4,000 vials per month. There are a couple of mandatory tests which needs to be conducted before the donation process. But, many donors back off at this stage considering it too ‘tedious’. A large number of donors are also rejected on account of low sperm count (a minimum of 20 million motile sperms per ml is a requirement) and genetic disorders attributed to poor lifestyle habits like smoking or drinking.

Chief operating officer of The Cryo Bank, Ambar Rao says, “We exercise a very stringent criteria while accepting donors. The donor needs to have a minimum college-level education and also provide his identity proof. A genetic screening test is conducted with which we try to get a overview of his background, any family history of ailments etc. Another necessary examination is conducted by an urologist to check the male for any infectious diseases.”

He added, “We need donors to be committed to the semen donation programme since we need to collect his semen samples after a period of six months to check for any IDs (Infectious Diseases). Only then can the sample be released for use. The donors also need to sign a donor waiver form/agreement to avoid any claims over the samples in the future. One donor can donate up to twice in a week and needs to be in the age group of 19 to 36 years.” He feels that attitudes have undergone a paradigm shift when it comes to sperm donation but there is still a need for more awareness.

Not only sperm donors, the city doesn’t have enough sperm banks either. Dr Kamini, an infertility specialist and Medical Director of BACC (Bangalore Assisted Conception Centre) says, “Other than the lack of donors, there are not enough sperm banks in the city. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) regulations, sperm banks should be independent of the infertility clinics to avoid any kind of nexus. They are expected to maintain certain data about the donor such as their education, colour of their eyes, hair, skin, build etc.”

They must store the quarantined semen sample for a minimum period of six months. It’s not an easy process.  She adds, “Lack of donors can be attributed to less or zero awareness levels. The donors need to be reassured that their identity will not be revealed. Donors need to realise they are gifting life to somebody.”

There is a misconception that it is only the infertile couples who benefit from sperm donations. According to experts, many couples are referred to sperm banks for preservation of husband’s sperms when the husband is subject to some medical treatment which could potentially render him infertile, temporarily, or permanently, such as cancer related therapies. So, there is an increasing need to talk about this cause and educate people on the need to address the problem of shortage of sperm donors, even if it is through mainstream movies.

One of the sperm donors who didn’t want to be identified, said, “Blood donation saves life, but sperm donation creates life.”

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