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Using donated sperm in your treatment

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Donated sperm for use in fertility treatmentHow is donated sperm used?

Donated sperm (sperm not from your partner), can be used in many types of fertility treatment. The donated sperm is used to fertilise an egg either inside the woman’s body (as in the case of intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in the laboratory, in the case of in vitro fertilisation (IVF). 

Is using donated sperm for me?

Using donated sperm is a major decision and you should take your time. You may want to discuss your feelings with friends, family or a professional counsellor before proceeding.

Using donated sperm in your treatment may be recommended if:

  • using your partner’s sperm would be unlikely to be successful because your partner:
    • produces little or no sperm
    • produces sperm that is unlikely to fertilise an egg
    • has a high risk of passing on an inherited disease
    • has had a vasectomy
  • you are a single woman
  • you are in a same sex relationship (lesbian).  

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How does using donated sperm work?

Donated sperm is used either for donor insemination with IUI or for IVF.

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What is my chance of having a baby using donated sperm?

As with all treatments using your own eggs, the younger you are the greater your chances of success.

For each treatment cycle, the success rate varies depending on the age of the woman. If the woman is:

  • under 35, the success rate is around 14% 
  • 35–39, the success rate is around 11% 
  • 40–42, the success rate is around 4–5%

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What are the risks of using donated sperm?

If you use donated sperm from a registered donor at an HFEA licensed clinic, the risks are minimal because:

  • donors who give sperm through a licensed clinic must answer a series of questions designed to ensure that they are suitable
  • licensed clinics check donors’ family histories for inherited diseases
  • all donors go through stringent screening checks to ensure they are not carrying infections, such as HIV, Hepatitis B and C, cytomegalovirus(CMV), syphilis and gonorrhoea. Donated sperm is quarantined for six months whilst the donor is being screened
  • there are limits on the numbers of families created by each donor where sperm are used to treat you at a licensed clinic.

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Legal considerations

Any child born from sperm donated through a clinic is the legal child of you and your partner, if you have one. The donor has no legal rights or responsibility for the child.

Since April 2005, identifying information about donors is held on the HFEA Register and may be given to any child born from a donation once they are 18 years old.

For more information on donation, and donating, see:

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Obtaining sperm via the web

There are an increasing number of websites which offer services which match women with sperm donors. Donors and recipients may then meet and arrange insemination privately, without attending a clinic. If you are considering using these services it is important to bear in mind the very real risks and consequences of obtaining sperm in this way.

The safest and most reliable way of obtaining sperm from a donor is via a clinic that is licensed, inspected and regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). The Authority is the UK’s independent regulator of treatment using eggs, sperm and embryos.

Licensed clinics must meet standards set by the Authority (outlined in the HFEA Code of Practice) and they must supply information about treatments, patients, donors, gametes (sperm and eggs) and children conceived which is kept on the HFEA’s Register.

If you obtain sperm from a web-based service, you may be putting yourself at serious risk. It’s worth bearing the following points in mind:

  • If you have treatment outside a licensed clinic the legal situation regarding who the second parent of the child will be is complicated. For example:

    - The donor may be the legal father of any child born. The law says a man donating sperm through an HFEA-licensed clinic is not the legal father of any child born through that donation (this includes cases where the donor is known to the recipient). However, when donation occurs outside a licensed clinic, this guarantee does not exist.

    - In cases where a female couple, who are not civil partners, have treatment outside a licensed clinic, the law does not recognise the female partner as the second parent
  • There is a risk that the sperm may not come from the person whose picture or details you saw on the website.
  • The donor may not have been properly screened before donating. This means that there is a risk that sexually transmitted infections, including HIV may be passed on to you, and that serious inherited medical conditions may be passed on to your child.
  • The children who are born following unlicensed donation will not have an official way of finding out their genetic origins, as the HFEA will not hold information about their donor on its Register.
  • If the donor receives payments above the amounts permitted by the Authority, then licensed clinics may not be able to provide treatment with sperm from that donor at a later date.

Our advice is simple. Only use a licensed clinic. That way, you can be assured that all the quality checks and legal requirements have been met.

Also see information on Donor introduction websites.

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Single parenthood

Clinics have different eligibility criteria so may consider you for donation insemination even if you are a single women. It is worth checking with your chosen clinic at the outset.

If you do not have a partner, they are likely to ask about your plans for caring for the child on your own.

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Your child’s siblings

Having more than one child from the same donor -  you should be able to use the same donor for more than one insemination, provided the sperm is available and the donor consents.

You should let your clinic know that you may want to use the same donor in the future.

Limits on the number of siblings - 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.

Withdrawing consent - the sperm donor can change his mind at any time about the use of his donated sperm. 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.


Telling your child about their origins

If your child, or children, were conceived as a result of assisted conception, telling them about their origins can be a sensitive topic to discuss. However, if done honestly and if discussed at the right time, the issue need not be a difficult one to broach.


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Page last updated: 14 July 2015

What are in-vitro derived gametes?

In-vitro derived gametes are sperm and eggs derived in the laboratory from alternative sources (embryonic stem cells for example).

Find out more about in-vitro derived gametes and see how their use is regulated by the HFEA.

...more about in-vitro derived gametes