Our Advice for Donor Semen
If you’re using donor sperm through a private arrangement that doesn’t take place in a fertility clinic*, there can be implications on legal parenthood and other donor conceived siblings. This guide will help you make a plan with your donor to minimise risks to yourself, your future children and your donor.
If you are a married couple or civil partners at the time you conceive, then you will normally both be treated as your child’s legal parents and can both be named on the birth certificate as parents. However, if you are single, unmarried or in a non-civil partnered relationship and you conceive through home insemination using donor sperm, then your sperm donor will be your child’s legal father. They will be named on the birth certificate and it will give him rights over, and responsibilities for your child. The donor will have to relinquish their rights in order for a partner or other parent to become a legal parent through adoption. You will need to go through a court process to acquire legal parenthood and while it’s not legally binding - having a donor agreement in place before any treatment can help prepare and manage expectations.
Donor family limit
If you enter a private arrangement with a sperm donor, there is no limit on the number of families the donor can create. Some unregulated donors have reported conceiving several hundred children and it’s important to think about the possible implications this could have for your child. Be sure to discuss with your donor if they have any children of their own, if they have any children conceived through private arrangements and if he plans on donating again.
To ensure your safety and the safety of your future child, it’s important that your donor is screened for infectious diseases and screened for cystic fibrosis and other possible genetic conditions that could be passed on to future children. You should also consider having the sperm tested to confirm that the sample will be a suitable quality for insemination. The semen analysis results should have normal parameters to be considered suitable for use.
The Béa Donor Checklist
1. Find a donor
You might have someone in mind to use as a known donor. Alternatively you can order donor sperm from a sperm bank or use a donor introduction website. Most donor sperm banks don’t ship to home addresses and will only have sperm samples sent to licensed UK fertility clinics. Some clinics will release samples for home insemination, however it’s not standard practice. You can check if a fertility clinic will release samples to you and explore online banks like Xytex, Cryos or European Sperm Bank or find a donor through a connection platform like Pride Angel.
2. Get legal support
It’s important to seek independent legal advice before drawing up a donor agreement. This will be a good opportunity to discuss legal parenthood, who’s recorded on the birth certificate, who will have financial responsibility for your child and, if there is a problem, how the family court will deal with it.
3. Create a donor agreement
A donor agreement may help manage the legal issues associated with sperm donation. While a donor agreement is not legally binding, the process of putting an agreement in place can be helpful in managing everyone’s expectations and may be of evidential benefit to a court dealing with any future disputes.
4. Will there be compensation for the donation?
You and your donor may want to discuss if they want compensation for the donation and how much that might be. Donors at UK regulated clinics can receive £35 in compensation per clinic visit, as set out by the HFEA.
5. Have a semen analysis performed
It’s important to ensure that your potential donor has a sperm sample that’s suitable for donation. You could have this performed at any private fertility clinic, alternatively an at-home sperm test kit. Check out Exseed Health and their kit.
6. Get screened for infectious diseases
Sexually transmitted infections are extremely common but most are easily treatable. All donors should be screened for sexually transmitted infections with a blood test for HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and syphilis and a urine test for chlamydia. You should have a check up yourself too, as STIs can affect your chances of getting pregnant or can be passed on to your baby. Visit your GP if you have any symptoms or are worried you may have an STI, alternatively you can explore the self-sampling kits from Sexual Health London.
7. Get tested for genetic conditions
A chromosome analysis (karyotype) and a test for cystic fibrosis is recommended for all donors. The karyotype is a basic genetic test which checks that the chromosomes in your cells are structurally normal. Other tests that might be considered are genetic tests which determine whether or not they are a carrier of the genetic disease(s) most common in people who share their ethnic background (this could include sickle-cell disease and thalassemia). It’s unlikely you’ll be able to access these tests on the NHS, however you can check with your GP. Alternatively, these can be performed at a cost at a private fertility clinic.
8. Consider counselling
It’s natural to focus on getting pregnant, but counselling can help you work through the long term considerations, like the emotional aspect of treatment or how to tell your child about their donor. Licensed BICA counsellors can support you with emotional and legal implications around your treatment and can assist you when you move forward with your plans.
* If you use a donor through a HFEA-licensed UK fertility clinic there are very few risks and all parties are protected. The donor will have no legal rights or responsibilities to any children born with their sperm, and they are limited to donate to up to 10 families.