About donor sperm
For some people, sperm donation is the only way to conceive and have a baby. There are a few different ways to acquire donor sperm. The safest option is to use a donor sample for treatment at a licensed UK fertility clinic. 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. For any patients using donor sperm in treatment, counselling is always necessary to ensure they are fully aware of the UK’s legislation on the identity of sperm donors and appropriate consents will need to be completed. Since 2005 donors in the UK are no longer anonymous. Children conceived using donated sperm will be allowed to ask the HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority) 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.
How donors are approved
Donor sperm banks have high requirements for sperm quality and not all applicants are accepted. Some donor sperm banks report that up to 80% 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 process. The screening process includes a semen analysis with an evaluation to ensure that a high quality sample would be available for treatment, family medical history is checked including genetic screening tests, infection screening is performed, a personality test is conducted and counselling must be completed. 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.
Where do you find donor sperm?
- 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 that you can utilise. 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. You need to make sure that your clinic 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 UK. This is to ensure that there are processes in place to maintain the safety of samples in storage and minimise any risk to you. There should also be a detailed protocol for the shipment of the samples in cryogenic tanks.
Use 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 ie 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.
Donor sperm for home insemination
Home inseminations with donor sperm are not easily accessible in the U.K. There are a few reasons for this; donor banks in the UK do not sell samples for home use, leaving the option to purchase samples from overseas donor banks. This is discouraged by the HFEA as you may not be able to guarantee the origin of the sample, know how long it may have been in transit or know if the samples have been damaged. In regards to shipment, samples can only be sent in cryogenic tanks, where they are at a stable temperature for a few days. Freezers at home are not suitable to store the samples as they are not cold enough (liquid nitrogen tanks run at a temperature of -196°C while home freezers are at around -18°C). This would mean that the timing of the shipment would have to be concise and coincide with ovulation. That’s why the recommendation is to have the sample shipped to a UK licensed fertility clinic where you can have treatment. Unfortunately we don’t currently know of any overseas donor banks that would ship to a UK home address.
There are websites that connect women with sperm donors and enable them to communicate on their platform. Donors and recipients may then meet and arrange insemination privately, without attending a clinic. If you are considering using these services it is important to bear in mind the very real risks and consequences of obtaining sperm in this way. We would advise speaking with a fertility solicitor and a fertility counsellor to ensure all of the possible medical and legal implications are clear if you do decide to go that route.
Some other resources that may be useful:
- HFEA https://www.hfea.gov.uk/donation/donor-conceived-people-and-their-parents/get-support-advice/
- Donor conception network https://www.dcnetwork.org/
- Sperm, egg and embryo donation https://seedtrust.org.uk/