Donor eggs and designer sperms are out for sale. Possibly sperms may not be on our shopping list but sure for many it may be the most important deal ever. Worth its weight in gold, sperm is becoming a big business. The need and necessity of a sperm bank is fast catching on us.
Who goes to Sperm Banks?
In pursuit of career, fathering a child or even marriage takes a back seat for Rohit. By the time he prepares himself for the family, it may be too late. He banks on the idea of storing his healthy sperms for future use.
Mohit is suffering from cancer and is about to step in for chemotherapy which may impair his sperm production or quality. Mohit decides to store some sperm before the treatment commences.
John is out there in Iraq fighting the US war. War is not simply about life and death. It also includes the risk of becoming infertile and impotent after handling those toxic weapons or being isolated to sub human conditions . John and his colleagues, before leaving for Iraq, opt for semen storage.
Mr. X and Mrs Y are childless couple. Diagnosis reveals that Mr.X is suffering from severely impaired semen parameters (impotent, low sperm count, poor sperm mobility) which can’t be improved. The couple decides to buy some sperm. Miss G has decided to remain single after sharing the shock of her sister Mrs.K fighting the marital battle for five years and finally the divorce.
Miss G is keen to pursue motherhood minus the marriage. She heeds for the sperm bank.
The biological clock
Men believe that sperm is made every day and age has no impact on fertility. This aspect hasn’t been perceived as a major issue but recent studies appearing in Human Reproductive Update indicate the mounting risk. The German study reported that men age, so do their sperms. The volume, motality and structure of the sperm declines with age. It contributes immensely to genetic abnormalities of the child. Add to this the lifestyle habits that hastens the decline of male fertility.
Another study established that it takes up to five times as long for a man over 45 to get a woman pregnant than if he was under 25. Experts believe by the age of 30, sperm starts taking its toll and there is sharp decline in male fertility by 45.
Many of us continue to harbour wrong notions that it is normal to put off fatherhood, extend pregnancy well into the late thirties or early forties. With their biological clocks ticking, a safe option is freezing the sperms for future use.
The Medical alternative
Patients with Cancer prefer to have their semen stored prior to starting treatment. It is not just the disease that can ruin the chances of the patient’s sperm production but even the treatment – chemotherapy or radiation, has the potential to permanently ruin the sperm quality.
Various treatments and surgeries like that of the spinal cord, prostate or the testis may impact and impair the patient’s sperm production.
Sperm storing is also a safe option for those undergoing diagnostic testicular biopsy or surgery to reconstruct an obstructed vas deferns or the ejaculatory duct.
On the War front
In America, one sperm bank was offering a hefty discount to military personnel leaving for Iraq. Many on the war path, considered it a wise option to relocate their sperms. The issue has gained momentum in Israel, where one survey discovered that 85 % of Israelis supported the creation of an official sperm bank for soldiers in combat units.
In India, a legislation to this effect is in the offing but defence personnel have already started freezing their sperms. Dr. Iqbal Mehdi of Cyro-Geni, the oldest sperm bank in Delhi, says he has seen their numbers rising in the past three years. He confirms over 150 samples with him that are from people with defence backgrounds.
Dr. Aniruddha Malpani at Mumbai’s Malpani Infertility Clinic, has seen the number growing among those from naval backgrounds. ” There isn’t a sizable army base here, but yes, the number of people from navy, especially those who sail for longer periods , has grown, ” he confirms.
Sperm Banks – the risks and ethics
Largely unregulated and intensely private, sperm banks prefer anonymity which gives them a clean chit to escape accountability.
Can anyone ascertain if the claimed sperm is from an intellectual or a high school drop out ? Is he a chain smoker or drowned in drinks ? Or how many off-springs a donor might have ? Sperm bank’s secrecy sparks countless health hazards. A number of cases have been reported about sperm donors passing on deadly genetic disorders, like the Michigan case . The sperm banks usually screen for about a dozen common diseases but what about others.
Most donors are anonymous and their details are strictly guarded. There is no law to keep a tab on the health of such children nor there is any limit to the number of offspring per donor ( Netherland allows no more than 10). There is a possibility of hundreds of children from the same donor and they may one day be indulging in unknown and unwitting incest and or enter into matrimonial alliances with shaky consequences ?
A child born from an anonymous sperm procured from the sperm bank may one day like to know his biological father. Will it not be an abuse of civil rights to keep him ignorant ?
The Indian Gene pool
Unlike the US bubbling with over 500 semen banks or Denmark emanating as the world’s largest sperm bank, India is home to about a dozen such banks. Three of them in Delhi. Couples from neighboring countries flock to Indian sperm banks to achieve their dreams. Besides the low medical costs, the added advantage is similarity in physical features. Even Indians settled in Europe or West Indies, come to India in search of similar racial attributes.
Designer sperms are yet to catch up with Indian sperm banks. Until then couples need to console themselves with sperm that’s available. However, couples in India, besides ascertaining the religion and caste, want to make sure that the donor sperm comes from a fair complexioned person.
Indian semen banks are helping clinics and hospitals in other Asian countries. Cyro-Gene has set up a semen bank in Sri Lanka and is in the process of establishing one in Bangladesh.