Donor sperm may be used to produce a pregnancy when it is inadvisable or not possible to use the sperm of the male partner. This method has been practised for many years and thousands of couples have been able to have a family as a result.
Who are the donors?
Sperm donors may come from all walks of life and are all asked to provide a full medical history so that only healthy donors are accepted. They are screened for infections that can be passed on in semen, including tests for the AIDS virus. For this reason only frozen semen can be used. No guarantee of freedom from the AIDS virus can be given. The risk of a positive donor being undetected and the virus being passed on through donor semen is considered to be very small.
How are donors selected?
The sperm bank provides details of the donor’s physical characteristics. This includes, skin colour, eye colour, hair colour, height, weight and blood group. These are used to match as closely as possible the male partner or if that is not possible, the female partner. If a good match is not available we will discuss this with you before treatment.
Who is the father of the child?
The male partner is considered by law to be the father of the child as he has consented to treatment. He therefore has all the rights and obligations of parenthood, as any father does. The donor has no paternal rights or obligations at all. The child is therefore registered with the male partner named as father.
Who will know about the treatment?
Many couples are concerned that their treatment remains confidential. No-one, including your GP, will be told about your treatment without your written consent. Before being accepted for treatment using donor sperm, we will spend some time discussing the many questions you will have. This will include the decisions whether to tell your child of its origin or not. There is no legal obligation to tell your child.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), licences centres to provide treatment with donor sperm. They keep records about donors and recipients. This includes the name, some background information and sometimes the interests and hobbies of each donor.
From April 2005 all newly registered donors must agree to allow the release of identifying information by the HFEA to any individual born as a result of treatment using their gametes. Upon reaching the age of 18 (16 if they are planning to get married) anyone has the right to check whether there is information about them on the register. They have the right to request information regarding the donor involved, and also whether they themselves have a genetic relationship with the person they wish to marry or choose as a partner.
How is the sperm used?
If the woman is ovulating regularly and has normal fallopian tubes, donor sperm can be used by putting it directly into the neck of the womb (like having a smear test). It only takes a few minutes although we recommend that you rest for about half an hour afterwards. We will monitor your cycle to determine when you are about to ovulate to find the best time to carry out the procedure.
If this is not successful, after three treatments we usually recommend having injections to stimulate the ovaries combined with insertion of the prepared sperm directly into the womb for the next three treatments. If this is still not successful, we usually suggest you consider IVF treatment. We will discuss your choice of treatments with you in the clinic as your treatment progresses.