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Sperm donationJul 5, 2024

How to choose a sperm donor

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According to the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HFEA), around 12,000 people undergo fertility treatment in the UK every year using donor eggs or sperm.  

For many, particularly those in the LGBTQ+ community, using donor sperm or eggs is the only option for getting pregnant.  

If you’re thinking about building your family with the help of a sperm donor, it’s only natural you’ll have some questions around how it works and what you should consider when choosing your donor.  

It's a deeply personal and life-changing decision and you deserve to be supported and informed every step of the way.  

Using a sperm donor in fertility treatment

Whether you’re considering donor sperm due to fertility challenges, as a solo parent, or as a same-sex female couple, co-parents, or poly family, there are multiple ways you can try to start a family using donor sperm.  

How does it work? 

Fertility treatments, such as IVF and IUI, work relatively the same whether you’re using sperm from a partner or co-parent or sperm from a donor. Once you’ve chosen a donor, the donated sample will be thawed and the healthiest and highest-quality sperm from that sample will be selected for your treatment.  

Your chosen fertility clinic will ensure your treatment is as seamless as possible. When starting your journey to parenthood with sperm donation, you’ll typically need to follow these steps: 

  • A fertility assessment for yourself and any other people involved – this helps identify which treatments are most likely to be effective and whether you need a sperm donor  

  • Careful medical screening of the sperm donor, including if it’s someone you know, or someone chosen through a licensed clinic or sperm bank 

  • Specialist counselling to make sure everyone has the same expectations, for now and the future, and is happy to proceed 

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What fertility treatments can donor sperm be used for?

There are a variety of treatments that can use donor sperm. The best choice for you often depends on your fertility.  

IUI is a common option when there are no known female fertility factors, such as for individuals or same-sex couples who need donated sperm to start their family.  

IVF or ICSI may be more suitable when there are additional challenges in getting pregnant, such as age or conditions like PCOS or endometriosis

  • Intrauterine insemination (IUI): This straightforward procedure involves placing the donor sperm directly into the womb (uterus) around the time of ovulation. 

  • In vitro fertilisation (IVF): Donor sperm is used to fertilise the eggs in a lab, and the resulting embryos are transferred to the uterus. 

In the UK, donor sperm can be used for any available fertility treatment. The only exception is when a surrogate is using donor eggs. When using a surrogate, either the sperm or eggs must come from the intended parents.

Who might benefit from using a sperm donor?

Using donor sperm helps a diverse range of people to create their families for a variety of personal or medical reasons.   

  • Solo parents: People who wish to start a family on their own can use donor sperm to become parents. 

  • Same-sex female parents: Lesbian or same-sex partners or co-parents can use donor sperm to conceive and carry a child. 

  • Male-factor infertility: Hopeful parents facing male infertility may turn to donor sperm to achieve pregnancy, though there are treatments such as surgical sperm removal and ICSI to consider too. 

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Finding a sperm donor

One way of finding a sperm donor is through a licensed fertility clinic or sperm bank. Not only will they match you with someone who wants to be a donor for the right reasons, they'll ensure all the important medical and legal processes are in place so that your treatment is safe and has the best possible chances of success. 

What information about potential donors will I have access to?

For many, ethnicity, hair and eye colour and even height and weight can be crucial factors when choosing a sperm donor that best reflects their own genetics.  

When purchasing sperm through a licensed sperm bank, you'll gain access to their database of donors. They will be able to help you filter through donors based on physical and personal characteristics, matching you with the right donor for you. 

It’s important to consider all of the information included in a donor’s profile.

This includes:

  • Physical characteristics: Information on the donor's height, weight, eye colour, hair colour, and skin colour. 

  • Medical history: Detailed medical and genetic history to make sure the donor is in good health. 

  • Education and occupation: Insights into the donor’s education, profession, and interests. 

  • Personal profile: Sometimes donors provide personal essays, photos, and audio interviews to give you a sense of their personality. 

There’s no right or wrong way to choose your donor, and for many people, it comes down to a ‘gut feeling’. Some people make a shortlist first by thinking about whether they want a donor who looks like them, their partner, or family members. 

Remember, a future child will only inherit 50% of the donor’s DNA. There’s no guarantee that they’ll inherit any particular characteristic.  

Physical characteristics like eye colour, skin colour, height, and hair colour are far more likely to be passed on than complex traits like personality or interests though these details can help you to decide whether you feel connected to a donor.

How to use a friend as a donor

Using a friend as a sperm donor can offer certain benefits, such as knowing the donor personally. However, this choice also requires careful consideration and legal safeguards. 

 It's essential to: 

  • Discuss expectations: Have open and honest conversations about roles, responsibilities, and expectations. 

  • Seek legal advice: We recommend seeking independent advice to make sure everyone understands their rights and obligations and shares expectations for the future. You might consider drafting a legal agreement to formalise the arrangement. 

If you’re interested in having a friend donate their sperm for your treatment with us, we’ll invite them for a fertility assessment and screening after your initial appointment and we can take the process forward from there.  

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Legal parenthood and donor sperm

In the UK, donors for fertility treatment are not recognised as legal parents if:  

  • The donation is anonymous and through a licensed UK clinic or 

  • The child has two legal parents  

This means the donor has no rights or responsibilities to any children born from their donation.  

Where these criteria aren’t met, a parental or adoption order might be needed for the intended parents to become the legal parents. 

The 10-family limit for sperm donors

In the UK, there is a limit to the number of families a sperm donor can assist. This is set at a maximum of 10 families but may include multiple children within a family.  

This is in place to reduce the risk of accidental consanguinity, which is when two people in a relationship are unknowingly related. 

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Find out more about donor sperm with TFP Fertility

TFP Fertility is here to support you through every step of your fertility journey. If you have questions or need more information about using donor sperm, our experienced team is available to provide guidance and care tailored to your unique needs.

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