Common questions about donor sperm

This latest blog is a brief A-Z for all those patients who require donor sperm and will hopefully answer the most common questions asked by patients - Why is there a lack of donor sperm in the UK? What does the law say about donor sperm? Why are donor sperm samples so expensive? What questions should I be asking the donor bank when ordering donor sperm?

Who requires donor sperm?

Men who suffer from having no sperm (azoospermia) or are carriers of a serious genetic condition, single women and women in a same-sex relationship are amongst those who require donor sperm for their fertility treatment.

How has the law changed in relation to treatment with donor sperm?

Changes to the law in April 2005 now mean that children born from donor sperm, at the age of 18, can be given certain information regarding their donor and may in the future be able to trace their biological father, a process similar to that of adopted children.

This change to the law means that sperm donors can no longer be anonymous and must be willing to let certain identifiable details be released to any offspring born, if requested, after 18 years (or 16 years if the offspring wishes to marry). Furthermore the laws relating to the legal parenthood of children born following sperm donation can be complicated and depend on the relationship status of the woman or couple seeking treatment.

We always recommend you seek legal advice if you have any concern about the legal parenthood of children conceived through sperm donation.

My clinic is recommending I import donor sperm from abroad, why is this?

From 2005 there was a drop in the number of men willing to donate however this has now started to rise again, although the numbers of donations are on the increase choice there is still limited. For this reason, CARE Fertility London has been providing patients with the choice to import donor sperm from a number of larger donor sperm banks within Europe and North America.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) - the regulators of fertility treatment in the UK, have now acknowledged the decline of donor sperm available in the UK for fertility treatment. As a result since 1 April 2012, accepted donors may receive a fixed sum of £35 for each donation up to a maximum of £750. As such sperm donors can now receive reasonable expenses and reimbursements for loss of earning - this change in policy from the HFEA has arisen to help increase the number of men willing to donate their sperm for assisted conception purposes.

I've heard donor sperm can be expensive, why is this?

As mentioned above fertility clinics are now required to provide reimbursements to sperm donors for attending a clinic to provide multiple samples for donation. Furthermore clinics are also required to screen donors for a series of blood-borne diseases, sexually transmitted infections and chromosomal conditions to protect the recipient of any donor sperm, either, i) contracting an infection or ii) conceiving a pregnancy with an abnormal genetic condition inherited from the sperm donor. These tests are essential but exceptionally expensive. It is for these reasons coupled with the fact that the number of samples which can be sold is capped to ensure each sperm donor can only be used to create a maximum of 10 families, that the costs of purchasing donor sperm has risen.

As such one sample of donor sperm may vary as much as between £250 - £500, based upon the quality of the frozen samples and the amount of processing each sample has had.

What should I consider when purchasing donor sperm from a clinic?

International donor banks such as Xytex in the US or Cryos in Denmark can have quite a large selection of donors. However, caution needs to be taken before selecting a donor - you will need to make sure that the donor is compliant for use in the UK, i.e he has not requested that his identification is kept anonymous. Secondly, you need to make sure you select a donor based on your CMV status - if you are CMV Negative you may only select a CMV Negative donor, however if you are CMV Positive you may select either a CMV Positive or Negative donor. It is essential you check this with your clinic before purchasing any donor samples. There are obviously many other characteristics a donor may be selected upon, i.e. Height, Weight, Build, Eye/Hair Colour, complexion, intelligence etc, the list goes on and on, however none are as important as the first two points. Without getting this right you may not be able to have treatment with the donor at a UK fertility clinic.

Are there any tips to keep the cost of purchasing the donor sperm samples down?

Yes, there are some very simple tips to keep the costs of buying donor sperm to a minimum. Firstly, donor banks often vary the costs of the donor samples based on the quality of the frozen sperm. Notably, the better the survival of the sperm post-thawing the more the donor banks charge. Speak to your embryologist at the fertility clinic and ask what sort of quality sperm will be needed for the specific treatment you are having, i.e IUI, IVF or ICSI. The embryologist will be able to advise on a quality suitable for your treatment and hopefully stop you spending too much money unnecessarily! Finally, some of the donor banks offer different donor sperm samples based on whether they are 'washed' or 'unwashed' - please note all IVF clinics will 'wash'/prepare the sperm before any treatment so there is no need to incur extra costs purchasing 'washed' samples.