He’s a 30-year-old software engineer, who is planning to start a family soon. But he often thinks about the children he has already helped bring into the world -- as a sperm donor.
"One of the main reasons I became a donor is that I believe I am a good person, and wanted to help create good people,” says the Mumbaiite, who donated ten samples as an engineering student. And even though he didn’t get to hear any Father’s Day greetings last week, he says, “I hope I have passed on my good values to the children, wherever they may be.”
The face of the sperm donor has changed dramatically in the last few years. “We had a hard time finding donors in the past, but we now get phone calls and emails from people wanting to donate,” says Dr Anjali Malpani, director of Mumbai’s Malpani Infertility Clinic.
Sperm banks are reporting an increasing incidence of “high IQ people” coming forward as donors. “We have a varied lot -- CEOs, MBAs, accountants, engineers, executives, paramedics and secretaries,” says Malpani.
Dr Iqbal Mehdi, director of semen bank Cryo Lab, has student donors from IIT, JNU, MAMC, DU and IGNOU. Not surprisingly, the IIT samples are in great demand.
Medical students are the staple of most sperm banks. Says infertility specialist Dr Anoop Gupta of Delhi IVF and Fertility Research Centre, “About fifty per cent of our donors are medical students. We take such donors because they understand exactly how their donation can make a difference to others, and aren’t commercially motivated.”
At Rs 300-600 per sample, money isn’t an attraction, says Kapil (name changed), also a software engineer, who has been a donor for the last three months. “I won’t waste six hours a week commuting from Noida to Delhi to get the money. I could earn much more in that much time if I start a computer coaching institute,” he says.
Fertility specialist Dr Shivani Sachdev-Gour of Phoenix Hospital was surprised to receive a request recently from a 22-year-old working with a leading audit, tax and consulting firm, to donate only on the condition that there’s no money involved.
“I will be doing very little to fundamentally change the lives of ten families (as per ICMR guidelines, semen of one donor cannot be used for more than ten successful pregnancies),” says the aspiring donor, who is also an organ and blood donor.
When he has his own children, will he tell them about the children born out of his donations? “Definitely. Among the values I would like to inculcate in my children would be to help fellow human beings. I would like to lead by example,” he says.
Counselling the donor is important to ensure they don’t get attached to the children. “We tell potential donors that one in six couples is now infertile, compared to one in ten earlier. In many cases, male infertility is the problem. Sperm donors feel happy to give such couples a chance to be parents,” says Dr Sohani Verma, in-charge of the IVF unit at Indraprastha Apollo hospital.
Donor anonymity is mandatory in India, though it has been done away with in some sperm banks abroad. Says Dr Gour, “No donor wants any liabilities. You don’t want ten children knocking on your door.”
As Ajay (name changed), a 32-year-old paramedic who is a frequent donor puts it, “Even if the law permitted me, I wouldn’t want to meet children born from my donation. I may be their genetic father, but the man they consider their father may feel bad on seeing me.”