Fertility treatment using donated sperm
The decision to use donor sperm is rarely an easy one. For some couples, using donor sperm may be their only option and the decision is whether or not to proceed with treatment. Other couples may be deciding whether to have treatment with their husband/partners sperm or to use donor sperm. Donor sperm may be inseminated into the uterus (IUI) or used to fertilise eggs in the laboratory (IVF or ICSI).
This page is designed to give you some information about using donor sperm and to help you decide whether this service is for you. The team of doctors, counsellor, nurses and embryologists are also available to help with this decision.
The use of donor sperm may be considered in the following circumstances
- When the male partner has no motile sperm.
- When there is a substantial risk of passing on a serious hereditary disorder.
- When there are indications that the male partner may be infertile, or relatively infertile, and a reasonable time has been allowed for a pregnancy to occur naturally.
- When the possibility of "ICSI" Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection is not an option.
- When there is no male partner
Risks of treatment using donor sperm
Using donated sperm from a registered donor and having treatment at a licensed clinic carries a minimal risk:
- All donors must be thoroughly screened for hereditary conditions and transmissible disease prior to their sperm being used for treatment.
- They are screened for: HIV, Hepatitis B surface antigen, Hepatitis B core antibody, and Hepatitis C. Gonorrhoea, Chlamydia, Syphilis, Cystic Fibrosis and Chromosome karyotype analysis. If relevant they are also screened for Sickle cell, Tay Sachs and Thallasaemia traits. The sperm is frozen and quarantined. After six months the donor is rescreened for HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. Only then are the samples available for treatment purposes.
- Donors must provide a detailed family history.
- Donors are aware that a donor-conceived person born with an abnormality could sue their donor for damages if it is proven that the donor had not told the clinic relevant facts about their or their families medical history when they donated.
Although it is not possible to screen for every possible condition and the donor may be unaware that they are a carrier of a hereditary condition, situations where serious conditions have been inherited by donor conceived children are extremely rare.
Treatment involving the use of donated sperm is licensed and registered by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).
The HFEA keeps a confidential register of information about donors, patients and treatments. This register was set up on 1st August 1991 and therefore contains information concerning patients, their treatment and children conceived from licensed treatments from that date onwards. The information also includes details of everyone whose donated sperm, eggs or embryos are used at licensed UK fertility clinics.
A sperm donor must be registered with the HFEA and give consent for his sperm to be used for the treatment of others.
The sperm donor can withdraw or change his consent at any time about the use of his donated sperm. In IUI this would apply up to the point of insemination. In IVF this would apply up to the point of embryo transfer. This also applies to any surplus embryos resulting from the sperm donation that you have had frozen for your future use. This very rarely happens
Any child born as a result of treatment with donor sperm at a clinic licensed by the HFEA is the legal child of you and your husband or civil partner.
If you and your partner are not married or in a civil partnership, you will both need to complete forms consenting to them being the legal parent.
If you are married but having treatment, either as a single woman or with someone who is not your husband, you will need to complete a form stating their lack of consent to your treatment and stating that you do not wish them to be the legal parent of any resulting child.
If you do not wish your spouse or civil partner to be the legal parent of any child born as a result of your treatment, you are strongly advised to seek your own legal advice.
The HFEA require all patients undergoing treatments using donor sperm or eggs to inform the clinic where you are receiving treatment of the outcome of any treatment and the outcome of any pregnancy.
Please ensure you inform a member of staff this information.
In the UK, a donor's sperm may be used to create up to ten families excluding their own. Your children may share a partial genetic link with children in up to ten other families. In other countries the same limit does not apply, so if you use donated sperm from abroad many more children may be genetically linked to your child.
Access to and disclosure of information
From 1 April 2005 the HFEA has collected this information from all sperm donors:
- Their physical description (height, weight, eye and hair colour) if provided by the donor
- The year and country of their birth
- Their ethnicity
- Whether they had any children, how many and their gender
- Their marital status
- Their medical history
- A goodwill message to any potential children, if provided by the donor
- Identifying information (the donor's name, date of birth and last known address).
Prior to treatment you can have access to:
- Relevant non-identifying information about donors whose gametes are available to them, including the goodwill message and the pen-portrait (if available),
- Relevant information about genetic inheritance and, in particular, the likelihood of inheriting physical characteristics from the donor.
If your treatment results in a live birth:
You may contact the HFEA for any further non identifying information they hold. Only information which could not, on its own or in conjunction with any other information, be used to trace or identify the donor will be given.
Different donors will have provided different amounts and types of information. Some donors may have only provided a small amount of information; others will have provided a more detailed description about themselves as a person.
You can also find out the number, if any; of donor-conceived siblings you have who were conceived by your same donor (this does not include the donor's legal/natural children).
Donor-conceived people conceived after 1 April 2005, when they reach 16 years old, may apply to the HFEA to receive the non-identifying information that their donor provided (all information given by the donor except for their name and last-known address).
Donor-conceived people conceived after 1 April 2005, when they reach 18 years old are able to apply to the HFEA to find the information their donor provided, including identifying information.
From the age of 16 donor-conceived people who intend to enter into an intimate physical relationship can submit a joint application to establish whether they are genetically related. Also, anyone who intends to marry or enter into a civil partnership may submit a joint application to establish whether they are genetically related.
Donor-conceived genetic siblings are those born from sperm, eggs or embryos donated by the same donor.
Donor-conceived people 16 years or older are entitled to anonymous information about any donor-conceived genetically related siblings they may have including the number, sex and year of birth.
On reaching the age of 18, if both sides consent, donor conceived people will be able to find out identifying information about any donor-conceived genetic siblings.
Choosing a donor
In 2005 the legislation relating to anonymity changed, meaning that sperm donors are now identifiable to donor conceived people once they reach the age of 18. This meant, unfortunately that less people were willing to donate.
Currently in the UK most clinics with a sperm donor bank will not allow other clinics to use their donors. We do not have a donor bank at the Victoria Wing.
It is possible to import donor sperm from clinics outside of the UK provided that they comply with the HFEA requirements. To do this you will need to choose and purchase the sperm yourself which will then be imported and stored here. We will be able to help you with this process.
For further information ask for the Patient Information - Importing of donor sperm sheet.
Undertaking treatment can be emotionally stressful for you as a couple and it can help to talk things over with someone else.
At the Victoria Wing our counsellor and nursing staff will give support, before, during and after treatment, providing information and implications counselling, and guidance to explore relevant issues.
Implications counselling with the nurse and the counsellor is mandatory, prior to having treatment with donor sperm.
It is important that your consent to treatment is informed and that you have fully considered the implications of your treatment.
This should include the implications for each other, any existing children and any children born as a result of your treatment. You also need to consider, if the treatment is successful, how you will tell your child about their origins. There is considerable information and support available to help you plan this.
If at any time during your treatment you are not happy with the standard of care received, please inform the ACS Manager or her deputy.
If you feel you wish to complain, please write to the complaints officer: Hospital Director Nuffield Health Woking Hospital, Shores Road, Woking, Surrey. GU21 4BY
We are constantly striving to achieve excellence within the department, however we appreciate that you may feel there are areas which do not come up to your expectations. We would like to know about this. We want your treatment to progress smoothly for you.