What is donor insemination (DI) and how does it work?

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What is DI?

Sperm after the donor insemination processDonor insemination (DI) uses sperm from a donor to help the woman become pregnant.

Sperm donors are screened for sexually transmitted diseases and some genetic disorders. In DI, sperm from the donor is placed into the neck of the womb (cervix) at the time when the woman ovulates.

DI - IUI uses intrauterine insemination with donor sperm.

Donor sperm can also be used for in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

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Is DI for me?

Your doctor or clinic may recommend this treatment if:

  • your partner is unable to produce sperm
  • your partner’s sperm count or quality is so poor that it is unlikely to result in the conception of a baby, unless intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is carried out
  • your partner has a high risk of passing on an inherited disease
  • you do not have a male partner.

 

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Counselling for DI patients and partners

Counselling is regarded as being essential before DI treatment is offered to you.  

Try to talk to those who already have donor-conceived children. Whatever your situation, it can help you to talk through your feelings.

For an online source of support and guidance, you may want to contact the self-help group, the Donor Conception Network.

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How does DI work?

For women:

Step 1. Before proceeding with donor insemination, a tubal patency test should be performed. 

Step 2. Screening tests for blood group, HIV, hepatitis B & C, syphilis and gonorrhoea will be carried out. In addition you will have screening to ensure that you are immune to Rubella (German Measles) and a full blood count will be performed. 

Your hormone profile will be assessed to determine any hormonal imbalance. 

Step 3. The selection of a suitable donor is now carried out.

Some assisted conception units run their own sperm banks and have a range of suitable donors available to you.

You are not obliged to accept the donor who is offered to you. If donor sperm are in short supply, you may have to wait for suitable sperm to become available.

Step 4. You and, if applicable, your partner, will both need to sign a consent form agreeing to insemination with donor sperm, as well as consent to the disclosure of information.

Step 5. You may be given fertility drugs to boost egg production.

Step 6. Your clinic will perform blood or urine tests to find out when you are at your most fertile. It is common to carry out ultrasound scanning to ensure that no more than two mature eggs are about to ovulate.

Step 7. The donated sperm are inserted into the womb using a procedure called intrauterine insemination (IUI). The procedure is normally painless, although a small proportion of women may experience temporary, menstrual-like cramping.

Step 8. A week after DI/IUI is performed, a blood sample may be taken to measure your progesterone hormone level to confirm that ovulation has occurred.
 

For men (sperm donors):

Step 1. If you have decided to become a sperm donor, contact a licensed clinic from the list held by the National Gamete Donation Trust who recruits sperm donors.

Step 2. At the clinic, you produce semen and blood samples for testing purposes.

You are tested to find out your blood group, karyotype (chromosome analysis), cystic fibrosis screening (as this is the most common inherited genetic disorder), HIV, Hepatitis B & C , syphilis, gonorrhoea and CMV (cytomegalovirus).

Step 3. You are examined by a genito-urinary physician to ensure that there are no obvious signs of genital infection.

Step 4. You are asked to sign a form allowing the clinic to contact your GP to ask whether they consider you suitable as a donor.

Step 5. A member of staff explains the donation process and the legal aspects. Make sure you understand your rights and those of the recipient(s) and of any child born as a result of the treatment.

For more on the legal position and other useful information, see:

Step 6. If you are accepted as a donor, you will need to sign forms consenting to the storage and use of your samples. They are kept in storage for up to ten years, but you may specify a shorter time.

Notes are kept about your physical appearance and may be used to match your characteristics with the requirements of the recipients of your donated sperm.

If you wish, you may also leave a short description of yourself and your achievements and a goodwill message for any child who is born as a result of your donation.

Step 7. Your details will be held on a register maintained by the HFEA. Note that a registered donor has no legal or financial responsibilities towards a child who is born as a result of his donation.

Step 8. You now produce sperm samples for storage and future donation. The clinic will have a private room where you can provide your samples - all samples for donation must be produced on the premises of the clinic.

The samples are quarantined until cleared by negative HIV and Hepatitis B & C testing six months after production of the samples.

Step 9. You can continue to be used as a sperm donor  for 10 separate families have resulted. Although you can specify a lower family limit if you wish. 

If a woman has had a baby as a result of your sperm donation, she can request that some vials of your sperm (if available) are set aside for her future use, so that her baby can have a genetic brother or sister at a later date.

Step 10. You can withdraw consent to the usage of your sperm at any time. This can include the use of any embryos in storage that resulted from the fertilisation of a recipient’s egg with your sperm.

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 April 2009

Donor identifying information

When considering donor insemination, bear in mind that children born from sperm donated after April 2005 will, when they are 18, be able to access the HFEA’s register to find identifying information about the donor.