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Less than four in 100 men accepted to be sperm donors, new research finds

The HFEA responds to new research, led by the University of Sheffield, which maps the outcome of over 11,700 men who applied to be sperm donors.

A European team of researchers led by the University of Sheffield, worked with the world’s largest sperm banks, Cryos International, to map the outcome of over 11,700 men who applied to be sperm donors.

The findings, published in the journal Human Reproduction, show that over half of the men (54.91 per cent) who applied to be donors at Cryos in Denmark and the US withdrew from the programme before having samples released for use. Nearly a fifth of applicants (17.41 per cent) were rejected because of a health issue or because they were a carrier for a genetic disease or had an infectious disease which could not be treated. The data also showed just over one in 10 of the applicants (11.71 per cent) failed a screening questionnaire about their lifestyle and another one in 10 (11.20 per cent) were rejected because their sperm quality was not good enough.

Recent figures from the HFEA’s Trends in Egg, Sperm & Embryo Donation report have shown that more than half of the new sperm donors registered in the UK were from imported sperm, mostly from sperm banks like Cryos in the US and Denmark.

In response to the study, Clare Ettinghausen, HFEA Director of Strategy & Corporate Affairs, said: “HFEA data shows that since 1991, donor conception has led to the birth of over 70,000 children and although the number of people choosing to donate sperm in the UK has remained consistent in recent years, the number of sperm imported into, and used for donation in the UK has increased. It’s possible this is in response to a lack of ethnically diverse donors available in the UK.

“The law changed in 2005 which allows people conceived from donations made after 31 March 2005 – after they turn 18 - to request identifying information about their donor such as their full name, date of birth and their last known address. Studies have shown that not having this information can have significant impact on donor conceived individuals and so it is encouraging that this research shows donors who initially wanted to be anonymous, agreed to become identifiable as the screening and donation process continued.

“UK donors who donated before the law changed in 2005 can contact the HFEA to re-register to become identifiable. You can find out more at”


Review date: 9 January 2025