Potential donors: information and advice

What is sperm, egg and embryo donation?

A young man considers donating spermThe term ‘donation’ applies to the gifting of your sperm, eggs or embryos for use in fertility treatment or, if you wish, 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.

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:

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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.

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Donating for research

EmbyroAs well as donating sperm, eggs and embryos for use in others’ fertility treatment, you can also donate for research purposes.

Research on donated gametes is usually done in order to:

  • promote advances in the treatment of infertility
  • increase knowledge of serious diseases.

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’.

See what research projects the HFEA are currently licensing:

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Donation for fertility treatment patients

Donating for research can also be done by those undergoing fertility treatment.

During a course of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) there can be surplus embryos that are unsuitable for transfer or freezing and are normally discarded. You may be asked if you are prepared to allow these discarded embryos to be used in research.

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Licence to research

The HFEA have only issued one clinic a licence to research on donated eggs to create embryos. This was granted to the Newcastle Fertility Centre at Life. If other clinics wish to offer this service, they will need to apply to the HFEA for a research licence.

Page last updated: 15 August 2012

Our approach to donation

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Look at our past reviews on issues around donation.

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