‘The success of fertility treatments rely on sperm quality’

30 June 2014

New evidence suggests the success of fertility treatments is not based on the age of the sperm donor, but is in fact linked to the age of the female partner and quality of the sperm, according to research from the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.

These conclusions were made after the research team analysed all UK treatment cycles with sperm donations registered by the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority between 1991 and 2012. 

Based on the assumption that a woman’s fertility declines with age, scientists split female participants into two groups: those treated with donor sperm between the ages of 18 and 34 and those who underwent the therapy after the age of 37. The female participants were then separated according to the treatment they received, either donor insemination or IVF.

Sperm donors fell into one of six categories based on their age: under 20, 21 to 25, 26 to 30, 31 to 35, 36 to 40 and 41- 45.

The results showed a difference according to the age of the woman and this was seen both in the IVF and donor insemination treatments. The live birth rate (LBR) with donated sperm was around 29 per cent in the 18 to 34 age group, compared to just 14 per cent in those aged over 37.

According to the research team, those aged between 18 and 34 were at the peak of their reproductive potential, whereas those aged over 37 were less likely to conceive. 

Some trends were identified, such as sperm donors under the age of 20 were associated with a less successful outcome compared to older donors. In the older IVF patients LBR was 11 per cent with a donor under the age of 20, 17 per cent with donor aged between 26 and 30, and 16.6 per cent with a donor aged between 41 and 45. 

Dr Meenakshi Choudhary, from the Newcastle Fertility Centre at Life and lead author of the study, said: "Despite these trends it's important to note that the impact of sperm donor age on live birth failed to reach statistical significance in any of the age groups we studied. 

“Indeed, this trend of less likelihood of live birth with younger sperm donor age might simply be explained by the fact that younger men who donate sperm are less likely to have proven fertility themselves than older sperm donors with proven fertility."

Furthermore, she is confident that the age of the sperm donor was of little significance in couples using a donor during fertility treatment, as she believes it is the quality that matters.   

Currently, the regulatory requirements set the maximum age for sperm donors at between 40 and 45 years. According to Dr Choudhary, these thresholds reflect a decline in sperm quality with age and the greater risk of DNA mutations, which could lead to genetic abnormalities in the babies conceived.

She continued: "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. This confirms the view that a man's age doesn't matter in achieving a live birth provided his sperm quality is good."

Posted by Jeanette Royston


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