Press releases and statements

HFEA publishes egg and sperm donation statistics report

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has today published its latest figures on egg and sperm donation.

The report, “Egg and sperm donation in the UK 2012-2013”, which also includes figures on egg sharing, is the first time the HFEA Register’s donation data has been published in this form, and offers insights such as:

  • One in 10 fresh IVF cycles used donated gametes or embryos.
  • The majority of donors identify themselves as ethnically white British or white other, with only low numbers of UK ethnic minority donors registering each year. 
  • A third of all patients using donated gametes were single or had registered with a female partner [1]; a minority of treatments using donated gametes are paid for by the NHS, with funding weighted towards heterosexual couples [2].

Published to coincide with National Fertility Awareness Week [3] and the launch of the National Sperm Bank at Birmingham Women’s Hospital this Thursday [4], the report also folds in clinics’ responses to a donation survey conducted by the HFEA late last year [5]. The result is a more rounded overview of this vibrant sector than ever before. 

SPERM DONATION

While the number of men registering as a sperm donor has increased gradually since 2005, 2013 saw a slight dip in new registrations. In 2011, 541 new sperm donors were registered, and this rose to 631 in 2012, when the HFEA introduced new donations policies [6]. However, last year 586 donors registered.

The proportion of donor sperm coming from abroad, primarily from the US and Denmark, is increasing year-on-year. In part, say clinics, this is because the time and resources needed to recruit UK donors can sometimes make importation more viable [7].

The data shows that there has been an increase in the number of young people registering as sperm donors, with almost a quarter of newly registered donors in 2013 aged under 25 [8]. Most of that increase was accounted for by donors in the 22-25-year age bracket, with the proportion of the very youngest donors [9] remaining largely constant. The majority of sperm donors are 26 or older.

EGG DONATION

The number of women registering as non-patient egg donors [10] has risen every year since 2006, with registrations rising from 815 in 2011 to 1,103 in 2013 [11]. Clinics have also noticed an increase in both expressions of interest and actual donations since the 2012 policy changes [12]. As with sperm donors, around a quarter of newly registering egg donors were under 25 years of age, while half were over 30 [13]. Since 2012, the proportion of donors aged under 25 has risen from 12% to 24% since 2011 [14], although the youngest age bracket has remained relatively constant.

EGG SHARING

Egg sharers are women who donate eggs and also have treatment themselves, usually in return for a reduced cost of treatment. Having peaked in 2011, when 708 women registered to egg share, numbers have dropped each year since, with 533 women sharing in 2013 [15]. Over 80% of egg sharers were aged between 26 and 35 [16], reflecting the typical age of motherhood in the UK. Of the sharers who registered in 2013, a quarter had children already [17].

Sally Cheshire, Chair of the HFEA, welcomed the publication of the report as proof of the HFEA’s continuing commitment to ensuring high quality care for everyone affected by assisted reproduction:

“Being an egg or sperm donor is a generous and valued act. Donors make it possible for an increasingly wide range of couples and individuals to become parents. Our experience shows that, contrary to some reports, the UK has a vibrant donor conception sector, particularly in egg donation, giving recipients an opportunity to receive high quality treatment in the UK, rather than feeling that they have to travel overseas. The HFEA remains committed to offering donors, the donor-conceived and their families the highest possible quality of care.”  

Laura Witjens, Chief Executive of the National Gamete Donor Trust, who run the National Sperm Bank, said:

“When the rules on anonymity were changed it was widely anticipated there would be an enormous decline in the number of donors coming forward. To see an increase in excess of 100% for both egg and sperm donors in the ten years following shows that the right decision was made, and importantly, that clinics have positively improved their recruitment practices. The result is that not only are there more donors, but they are often younger, leading to better success rates for patients.

However, despite this growth, supply is not meeting demand, and we are overly reliant on imported sperm or egg-sharing. For many clinics this is the easiest way, but in the long run this isn’t in the best interests for patients and their offspring. We should therefore continue to work on improving donor care and recruitment so that all patients have equal access to UK donors.”

Susan Seenan, Chief Executive of the UK’s leading fertility interest group, Infertility Network UK, which organises National Fertility Awareness Week, said:

“Access to donor treatment in the UK has for many people been very difficult and whilst it is good to see from this report that the number of donor cycles is increasing, there is still much to do.  We hope that national fertility awareness week will help increase understanding of the issues facing those whose only chance of conceiving a child is by donor sperm, eggs or embryos.  In addition, we will continue to campaign for the right support and infrastructure to be put in place to encourage more donors to come forward, giving more people the opportunity to have the family they desire.”

ENDS

 

For further information or interview requests relating the donation report, please contact the HFEA press office at press.office@hfea.gov.uk, or phone 0207 291 8226. For out of hours media requests please call 07771981920.

For information regarding the launch of the National Sperm Bank please call Laura Witjens, Chief Executive of the National Gamete Donation Trust on 07785504647.

For information regarding National Fertility Awareness Week, please call Susan Seenan, Chief Executive of Infertility Network UK on 07762137786 or 01294230730.


Notes to editors:

[1] 15% single, 21% female partner, see page 8. 

[2] 40% is the figure for all IVF funding by the NHS; but for donor gamete IVF funded by the NHS it is 18% and for Donor Insemination (DI) it is 15%.

[3] National Fertility Awareness Week runs between 27 October – 2 November.

[4] 30 October 2014.

[5] “Evaluating our donation policies – your experience” - responses provided to the HFEA by clinics between December 2013 and January 2014.

[6] For more information on the 2011- 2012 donations policy review, see the HFEA website.

[7] See page 10.

[8] Another quarter were over 40 years of age, see page 10.

[9] aged 18-21 years.

[10] A non-patient egg donor is one who is not seeking her own treatment and therefore is altruistically donating rather than being an egg sharer.

[11] See page 13.

[12] See page 13.

[13] See page 15.

[14] See page 15.

[15] See page 17.

[16] See page 17.

[17] See page 17.



Page last updated: 29 October 2014