India's first sperm bank has completed eight years. And during this time, 500 children have been born by what is known as Therapeutic Insemination by Donor (TID). Some of the couple have come back for their second baby. This shows that the initial inhibitions about TID have vanished.

TID has emerged as a sure shot remedy for male infertility and is a boon for childless couples where the husband is infertile for various reasons.

When this sperm bank was established at Malpani Infertility Clinic in Colaba, it was the first time that cryopreserved semen was used. Till than doctors were using fresh semen for donor insemination. However, with the advent of AIDS and the knowledge that the HIV virus can be transmitted in the semen, they realised that it was becoming increasingly dangerous to use fresh semen because it was still not possible to test for HIV.

After liquefaction, the semen sample is mixed with an equal quantity of the cryoprotectant medium, a chemical which prevents the sperm form being damaged even at very low temperatures, and is loaded into plastic straws. These are uniquely coded and sealed and then placed in steel containers of liquid nitrogen where they are frozen to -196 degree Celsius. The next day one straw is removed and thawed to see how the sperms survived the cold (cryosurvival). Only samples which contain at least 25 to 40 million sperm are accepted.

Talking to MANAS TIMES, Dr. Anirudh Malpani said: "The sperm are then kept in cold storage for 3 to 6 month, which is how long it take for the HIV virus, which causes AIDS, to become detectable in a person's blood after infection. This is called the quarantine period, during which the samples are not touched. The donor's blood is then re-tested for HIV, hepatitis and STDs' and only those samples which come from negative donors are used for treating infertile couples."

The donors are healthy men between 20 and 40 years of age, form a sound background and usually graduates. Semen samples are taken form those who are healthy, with no family history of illness. The donor's identity is kept strictly confidential, Dr. Malpani informed.

Success statistics mimic nature. They are 10% in a 25-year-old woman in one cycle; so that over six treatment cycle the chance of pregnancy is about 60% in a 25-year old. The chances of success are higher if the female partner is young and has no fertility problems. Once a women gets pregnant, the pregnancy is like a normal pregnancy, with the same risks of miscarriage and birth defects as any other.

Authored by : Dr Aniruddha Malpani, MD and reviewed by Dr Anjali Malpani.

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