For some people, sperm donation is the only way to have a baby. There are a few different routes you can take when using donor sperm, from known donors to sperm banks. Here we’ll explore who may need donor sperm, how donors are approved and where to find donor sperm.
Who may need donor sperm?
Donor sperm can be a necessary component in creating a family for many people. It’s needed for single women who wish to become parents, for same sex female couples and some heterosexual couples if the male partner does not have viable sperm to use.
How are donors approved?
Donor sperm banks have a screening process for applicants that includes a semen analysis, medical history, genetic screening and infectious screening tests. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority requires that all donors complete a counselling session prior to approval. Once the donor is approved, he is called to donate and all samples are placed in quarantine until the donation period has ended. The infection screening is performed again and then the samples may be released from quarantine and can be sold for treatment. Some donor sperm banks report that up to 80% of donor applicants are rejected due to insufficient sperm quality, 10% are rejected for medical reasons and a further 5% are rejected due to other issues identified during the application process3.
Where can you find donor sperm?
The safest option is to use a donor sample for treatment at a licensed UK fertility clinic1. This will ensure that all of the necessary health and quality checks have been performed prior to use. This includes genetic screening, infection screening and semen analysis. When selecting a donor, you can:
- Choose from a donor list within your clinic
- Import donor samples from overseas
- Use a known donor
Donor sperm from your clinic
Some clinics have their own donor banks where you can select your donor. You may have an appointment with a donation coordinator that can help you match your characteristics to a donor or choose from a list. It’s important to note that some clinics have long waiting lists, so this can be important to check before being matched with a donor.
Import a donor sample from overseas
It is also possible to purchase donor sperm from accredited donor banks abroad. They often have a wide selection of donors with detailed online donor profiles and characteristics. Your clinic should confirm if they can receive samples from the donor bank of your choice. Donor banks need to be licensed or accredited by a relevant authority and they need to meet similar requirements set out by our regulator in the UK2. This is to ensure that there are processes in place to maintain the safety of samples in storage and shipment and minimise any risk to you.
Using a known donor
You may have a friend that you would like to use as a donor. This person would be subject to the same screening and tests as other donors i.e. counselling, infection and genetic screening and a semen analysis to determine sperm suitability. Talk to the experts at your clinic if you wish to proceed with a known donation.
Patients using donor sperm in treatment must attend counselling and will be informed of the UK’s legislation on the identity of sperm donors and will need to complete the appropriate consents. Since 2005 donors in the UK are no longer anonymous. Children conceived using donated sperm will be allowed to ask the HFEA for information about the donor when they reach the age of 18. That will enable them to find out who the donor is and get in touch with them if they choose. The donor will have no financial or legal obligation to any child born from donation.
- HFEA Get support and advice | HFEA
- Donor conception network Donor Conception Network
- Sperm, egg and embryo donation The Seed Trust