What is sperm, egg and embryo donation?
The term ‘donation’ applies to the gifting of your sperm, eggs or embryos for use in fertility treatment or research.
Because of donation, those who are unable to conceive without the help of a third party are given the opportunity to have the family they want and research can take place to increase knowledge and potentially develop new fertility treatments, methods and techniques.
In the UK, donation takes place at HFEA licensed fertility clinics. More information on how to start the donation process:
Also, before beginning the process, you should be aware of all legal issues around your donation. See:
What donation means
Around 2,000 children are born every year in the UK using donated eggs, sperm or embryos.
Donation is an altruistic act which may represent the only hope for some infertile people to have children of their own. Donating can have a significant impact on the people who receive the donation, the donor-conceived child, the donor and their family. It is not a decision to be taken lightly. You should consider your decision carefully and discuss it with your family.
There are many reasons to become a donor. You might want to help others, or a particular friend or family member. If you have children of your own, you might want others to have the opportunity to be a parent.
The clinic where you donate will offer you counselling which can give you an opportunity to discuss what is involved and future implications.
As well as donating sperm, eggs and embryos for use in others’ fertility treatment, you can also donate for research purposes.
Research on donated embryos (or embryos created from donated sperm and eggs) is done for the purpose of:
- Increasing knowledge about serious disease or other serious conditions.
- Developing treatments for serious diseases or other serious medical conditions.
- Increasing knowledge about the causes of congenital diseases.
- Promoting the advances in the treatment of infertility.
- Increasing knowledge about the causes of miscarriages.
- Developing more efficient techniques of contraception.
- Developing methods for detecting gene, chromosome or mitochondrion abnormalities in embryos before implantation.
- Increasing knowledge about the development of embryos.
Research on embryos and the use of sperm and eggs to create embryos for research can only be carried out if a fertility clinic’s research project has been licensed. The projects must meet certain criteria and be deemed ‘necessary and desirable’.
Sperm and eggs can be used in research, without an HFEA licence, if embryos are not created.
See what research projects are current licensed. A lay summary of each research project can be viewed by clicking on the link to the research project in our 'choose a fertility clinic' tool.
Licensed centres must have safeguards in place to ensure that if a patient decides to donate sperm, eggs or embryos for use in research, this donation must not affect their treatment in any way. Centres must ensure that a designated individual who is not involved in the research project is available to discuss the implications of donation with the prospective donor.
Consent to Donation
Before donating sperm, eggs or embryos, the law requires you to give your written consent. If you are donating sperm, eggs or embryos for use in research projects using embryos to derive human embryolic stem cell lines, the clinic is also required to give you additional information so that you fully understand the implications of donating for this type of research.
Page last updated: 15 August 2012