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Age of sperm donors does not affect IVF success

30 June 2014
Appeared in BioNews 760

The age of sperm donors has no impact on the chances of having a baby via IVF and donor insemination, a study has found.

Looking at almost 40,000 sperm donations in the UK, researchers found that women were just as likely to have a baby using sperm from 40-year-old donors as that from younger men.

'It's sperm quality rather than male age that matters', said Dr Meenakshi Choudhary, from the Newcastle Fertility Centre at Life, who led the study.

The study found that for women under 34, the chance of having a baby stayed at around 30 percent for those using IVF, and around ten to 12 percent for those using donor insemination, regardless of the age of the sperm donor.

Previous studies have found that children with older fathers are more likely to have birth defects and develop conditions like autism and schizophrenia (see BioNews 318, 652, and 744). But this study focuses on sperm donors, who must pass rigorous health checks before they are allowed to donate.

'Our study shows that we are good at selecting the right sperm donors with the right sperm quality – and that's why we found no difference in live birth rate despite the increasing age of sperm donors', said Dr Choudhary.

Dr Choudhary's team began to study the effect of sperm donor age when they noticed that the average age of donors shot up from 26 to 35 once a law was passed meaning sperm donors could no longer remain anonymous in 2005.

In the UK, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority recommends that sperm donors should be under 41 years of age, while the upper limit in Australia is 45. The European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, at whose annual conference the results were reported, recommends that sperm donors are under 50 years old.

Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield, said that the maximum sperm donor age limit in the UK had been set because of worries to health of any resulting children, and that this was still an issue. 'I would be worried about raising the age limit for sperm donors to 45 because of the possible effects on the health of children', he said.

Dr Pacey estimated that only five out of every 100 men who applied to be a sperm donor would make it past the medical tests required. But he suggested that as the need for more sperm donors grows, clinics' standards may be dropping.

'We are selecting on the basis of sperm quality, and I hope people continue to do that. I get little whispers around the place, that as the pressure to recruit donors is increasing, because we've got so few, people are not adhering to the sperm quality [guidelines], and that is a worry', he said.

3 July 2017 - by Shaoni Bhattacharya 
The success of IVF in women under the age of 40 may be affected by the age of their male partners, suggests a US study...
24 October 2016 - by Lone Hørlyck 
Bearing a child at a higher age does not increase risk of birth defects when the woman has received IVF or ICSI treatment to become pregnant, a recent study suggests...
13 July 2015 - by Dr Sarah Martins da Silva 
Kevin Smith should be applauded for raising awareness of men's biological clocks, but his proposal to 'genetically improve' the human population through sperm banking seems preposterous...
23 February 2015 - by Kirsty Oswald 
Researchers have found that the rate of mutation in the sperm cells of teenagers is much higher than previously thought...
9 February 2015 - by Dr Katie Howe 
Researchers have identified a biological process that may cause the failure of embryos to attach to the uterus wall during IVF, raising the possibility of future treatments...
3 March 2014 - by Dr Barbara Kramarz 
Children born to fathers who are 45 years old or older are more likely to develop serious mental illness than children born to fathers in their early twenties, a large-scale study comparing siblings suggests...
25 March 2013 - by Matthew Thomas 
Men who father children later in life are more likely to have grandchildren with autism, according to research...
18 June 2012 - by Sarah Pritchard 
Children born to men who delay fatherhood may live longer, a US study has shown. The findings indicate that as men age, the telomeres in sperm appear to lengthen, offering a protective effect against the cell aging process - a benefit which could be passed on to future generations...
9 June 2008 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
A new study has shown that becoming a father after the age of 45 increases the likelihood that the resulting child will die before reaching adulthood. The researchers, based at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, who published their findings in the European Journal of Epidemiology...
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