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Using donated sperm, eggs or embryos in your treatment

What is donor conception?

Donor conception is using sperm, eggs or embryos donated by someone else in your fertility treatment.

Around 1,750 babies in the UK are born each year using donated sperm, eggs or embryos. The experience of people who have had donor-conceived children shows that this can be a very positive way to create a family. 


Is donor conception for me?

Using donated sperm, eggs or embryos is a major decision and you should take your time to think about whether it is right for you. You may want to discuss your feelings with friends, family or a professional counsellor before proceeding. A clinic is likely to recommend donor conception if:

  • you are not producing eggs or sperm of your own
  • your own sperm or eggs are unlikely to result in conception
  • you have a high risk of passing on an inherited disease
  • you are in a same sex relationship, or
  • you are single.

If you are considering using donated sperm, eggs or embryos, you will need to think about some complex issues before starting treatment. For this reason, you will be offered counselling; many clinics regard it as essential and will not offer donor conception treatment without it. Try to also talk to people who already have donor-conceived children.

You may want to contact the Donor Conception Network, a supportive network of families with donor-conceived children.

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Where do I start?

Once you have decided, in consultation with your clinician, that using donated sperm, eggs or embryos in your treatment is suitable for your circumstances, a donor who is acceptable to you must be found.

Some clinics recruit their own sperm and egg donors and have a range of suitable donors available. At other clinics you may be put on a waiting list – ask them about how long they would expect you to wait.

It is worth contacting a number of clinics at the start to establish availability so you can choose a clinic which best meets your needs.

If you are looking for a sperm donor, some clinics may give you the option of using imported sperm from overseas.

Clinics may offer you eggs or sperm which have been donated as part of a ‘sharing’ arrangement. This is where another man or woman who is undergoing fertility treatment donates some of their eggs or sperm to you in return for benefits from the clinic such as discounted treatment, reduced storage costs or decreased waiting times.

Alternatively, you may wish to ask someone you know, such as a friend or suitable relative, to donate sperm or eggs at your clinic for use in your treatment.

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How does donor conception work?

For information on how each type of donor conception works, see:

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Page last updated: 03 January 2014

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Risks of using an unregistered donor

If you don’t use a registered donor from an HFEA licensed clinic:

  • you could be putting your health and that of the unborn child at risk as the same checks and screening do not apply
  • the legal position is less clear and the donor could have a claim on or responsibility for the child
  • people born as a result will not have a statutory right to access information about their donor from the HFEA register.