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Rise of egg and sperm donation ends heartache for thousands, says UK regulator

A new report showing the fascinating growth of egg and sperm donation over the last 30 years has today been published by the UK’s fertility regulator.

The HFEA’s Trends in Egg, Sperm and Embryo Donation report reveals:

  • Babies born from donor sperm nearly triples since 2006
  • Over 70,000 donor conceived children born since 1991
  • Lack of ethnically diverse UK donors

A new report showing the fascinating growth of egg and sperm donation over the last 30 years has today been published by the UK’s fertility regulator.

The Trends in Egg, Sperm and Embryo Donation report from the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA), shows the dramatic increase in children born through egg, sperm and embryo donation over time. It also shines a light on the availability of donors, their changing characteristics and how family formations have evolved.

The report shows that the number of children born with the help of a donor has risen considerably since the 1990s with over 4,100 children born in 2019 compared to around 2,500 in 1993. Egg, sperm and embryo donation accounts for 1 in 170 of all births and for 1 in 6 births using IVF in the UK.

Julia Chain, Chair of the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA), said: “Donating eggs or sperm has helped overcome heartache for thousands of people who not be able to conceive a child. Over time, fertility preservation and treatment techniques have dramatically improved and this, along with changing social attitudes, has led to the birth of over 70,000 donor conceived children since 1991.

“Younger patients typically use donors for medical reasons such as infertility or to prevent passing down genetic diseases. Meanwhile for older patients, using a donor can increase their chance of having a baby; this is because a woman’s fertility declines with age, particularly from their mid-30s. A rise in same sex and single people accessing treatment has also led to more treatment involving donors.”

Using data collected from UK licensed fertility clinics by the HFEA, the Trends in Egg, Sperm and Embryo Donation report shows that:

  • Donor conception led to more than 4,100 births in 2019, accounting for 1 in 170 of all births and for 1 in 6 births using IVF in the UK.
  • The number of children born from donor sperm more than tripled over the last 15 years, from under 900 in 2006, to over 2,800 in 2019. This increase was driven by single patients and patients in female same-sex relationships.
  • Birth rates for patients aged 43-50 increased from 5% when using their own eggs to over 30% when using donor eggs from 2018-2019.
  • IVF treatments using donated sperm or eggs were less commonly funded through the NHS. Just 13% of donor treatments were funded by the NHS compared to around 40% of IVF treatments without donation from 2016-2020.
  • More than half of first-time sperm donors used in UK clinics in 2020 donated in another country, with 27% donating in the USA and 21% donating in Denmark.
  • Asian and Black donors were underrepresented compared to the UK population. Asian egg donors represented 5% of egg donors compared to 10% of an age-matched population and Black sperm donors were 2% of sperm donors compared to 4% of the population.
  • Egg and sperm donors in England from 2011-2020 lived in similar or more affluent socio-economic areas than the general population. This in combination with previous research suggests that UK sperm and egg donors largely donate for altruistic reasons.

Egg and sperm donation can involve complex decisions for donors and recipients. Choosing to donate eggs involves a medical procedure and is therefore not without some risk. Donors also must be comfortable that any children born as a result of their donation could make contact with them after they turn 18. This is why the HFEA advise anyone considering donation to get expert advice before making a decision.

The Trends in Egg, Sperm and Embryo Donation report also reveals that total sperm and egg donor registrations have more than doubled from under 1,000 a year in the early 1990s to more than 2,300 in 2019. However, while the number of newly registered sperm donors in the UK have remained consistent in recent years, the proportion of sperm imported into the UK for donation has increased; sperm from Mixed, Other and Black ethnicity donors were more likely to be imported than sperm from Asian and White donors.

Julia said: “We know from our Ethnic Diversity in Fertility Treatment report that there is variation around access to, and outcomes of, fertility treatment by ethnic group and this includes access to donors. Additionally, some patients, have told us that they had imported sperm for treatment due to difficulty finding an appropriate UK donor. I’m concerned that without appropriate access, there is a danger that people will turn to online donors which can be extremely risky.

“UK licensed clinics are legally required to ensure that donors, patients and any future children are protected. Clinics carry out rigorous health tests and take care of legal paperwork that ensures donors are not seen as the legal parent with all the rights and responsibilities that involves. They also must offer everyone involved counselling, so they are fully aware of the implications of their decision. This is why the HFEA encourage everyone who chooses donation to use a licensed clinic.”

The HFEA say that whilst the ability to pick an egg or sperm donor from overseas does provide greater choice, patients should be aware that rules such as the 10-family limit that apply in the UK, don’t apply when sperm is used in other countries. This means donations could be used to create additional families before or after the importation to the UK.

Health Minister Maria Caulfield said:

“We have made great strides in fertility treatment over the last 30 years, bringing new life into the world and great joy to thousands of new parents.

“Donors have changed lives, helping so many to overcome the heartache that comes with not being able to have a baby – this, along with impressive advances in research and technology, has made all the difference.”

You can view the Trends in Egg, Sperm and Embryo Donation report on the HFEA’s website.


For more information or for interviews with a HFEA spokesperson, please contact or call 020 7291 8226.

For out of hours requests, please call the duty press officer on 07771 981920.

Notes to editors

  • You can find out more about donation and the process involved on the HFEA’s website
  • Read the HFEA’s Ethnic diversity in fertility treatment report to find out more about ethnic disparities in the fertility sector.
  • The National Institute of Health & Care Excellence (NICE) are currently reviewing their guidelines on fertility treatment in England. The UK government’s Women’s Health Strategy made a number of commitments to try to improve access for female same sex couples.
  • Providing a donor doesn’t request a lower family limit, up to 10 families can use the same donor's sperm in the UK.
  • From late 2023 onwards, donor-conceived people, aged 18, will be able to apply to HFEA to access identifying information about their donor. Around 200 donor-conceived people who are turning 18 in 2023 will be eligible to apply for identifying information about their donor. We expect this figure will rise to almost 1,300 in 2024.
  • Fertility clinics are responsible for updating their egg and sperm donor waiting times which can be viewed on and its Fertility Clinic Search page.

About the HFEA

  • The HFEA is the UK’s independent regulator of fertility treatment and research using human embryos
  • Set up in 1990 by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, the HFEA is responsible for licensing, monitoring, and inspecting fertility clinics - and taking enforcement action where necessary - to ensure everyone accessing fertility treatment receives high quality care.
  • The HFEA is an ‘arm’s length body’ of the Department for Health and Social Care, working independently from Government providing free, clear, and impartial information about fertility treatment, clinics and egg, sperm and embryo donation
  • The HFEA collects and verifies data on all treatments that take place in UK licensed clinics which can support scientific developments and research and service planning and delivery.
  • Around 4,100 children in the UK are born each year through the help of a donor (2019). The HFEA holds records of all donors and children born since 1991.
  • The HFEA is funded by licence fees, IVF treatment fees and a grant from UK central government. For more information visit,

Review date: 30 November 2024