Sperm Donation and Rhesus Incompatibility

Some of those who are looking at sperm donation as a way to facilitate conception or IVF (in vitro fertilization) may be wondering about how rhesus incompatibility should be considered. The medical community has responded to the risks surrounding this blood-related condition to make pregnancies safer in the modern world.

What Is Rhesus Incompatibility?

Rhesus incompatibility is a condition where the difference in a mother’s blood type and the blood type of the fetus can cause some natural body responses that pose a threat to the newborn. Basically, each person’s blood type is either rhesus positive or rhesus negative. A rhesus negative match is not at risk for rhesus incompatibility. The only situation that causes concern is when the mother is rhesus negative and the father or sperm donor is not. In that case, problems can arise where the mother’s body tries to fight any invasion by rhesus positive blood. Doctors often prefer to treat any rhesus negative mother as “at risk,” since 85% of all people carry rhesus positive blood.

What Happens in Rhesus Incompatibility?

For rhesus incompatibility to occur, the mother’s blood and the fetal blood must mix. This happens in a range of situations including health screenings, miscarriages or other causal events.

Treatments for Rhesus Incompatibility

One treatment for rhesus incompatibility is to provide an injection of what’s called “anti-D” to help keep the mother’s blood from fighting the rhesus positive blood. Infants are also sometimes treated with blood transfusions or other treatments for jaundice and conditions that arise from rhesus incompatibility. In terms of observation, both ultrasounds and amniocentesis can be used to monitor the status for signs of rhesus incompatibility.

Rhesus Incompatibility and Sperm Donation

Sperm banks and agencies can routinely screen sperm samples for their rhesus factor in order to provide the safest options for women who need to use donated sperm. Rhesus negative sperm donors are in higher demand, since this type of sperm makes rhesus incompatibility a non-issue. Lots of families getting sperm donations from sperm banks and centers also choose sperm that has a “universal donor” blood type in case transfusions are necessary.

Many of the screening practices done in sperm banks and agencies help to make the average pregnancy more safe, and make it easier to ensure a successful birth. Screening and labeling of sperm and eggs for IVF can greatly influence the pregnancy and cut down on many types of risks that relate to blood typing and other genetic factors. Some couples also get “biological counseling” prior to conception to see what kinds of risks their combined sperm and egg would carry.

Knowing about risks such as rhesus incompatibility helps families to make good decisions about their efforts at pregnancy. Sperm donors can also benefit from being well-informed when they visit a sperm bank or facility. It turns out that differences in blood types are one of the many factors that are considered within the sperm industry, and may be valued differently for different donors.

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