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Home insemination with donor sperm

If you’re thinking about using donor sperm at home, there’s a lot to consider. It may seem cheaper and easier than having treatment at a clinic, but there are some important issues to consider. Find out more about home insemination, the risks and how to protect you and your family.

Is it safe to home inseminate with donor sperm?

It’s always safer to have treatment with donor sperm at a licensed clinic. Clinics in the UK are required by law to ensure that donors, patients and any future children are protected by carrying out rigorous health tests and offering everyone involved counselling.

If you’re a single woman or in a same sex couple and you’re not married or in a civil partnership, the donor will be considered the legal parent of any children you might have. This will give him rights over, and responsibilities for, your child.

Find out more about becoming the legal parents of your child

Having treatment at a licensed clinic will ensure that the donor is not a legal parent to your child and that your partner (if you have one) is recognised as the second legal parent.  

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Semen analysis can help to establish whether sperm is of sufficiently high quality to use in artificial insemination

Semen analysis can help to establish whether sperm is of sufficiently high quality to use in artificial insemination

How can I ensure sperm safety and quality?

It’s vital that the sperm you intend to use has been tested for quality and safety, no matter where you're getting it from.

A semen analysis tests for sperm count, motility (ability to swim) and morphology (the size and shape of sperm). Health screening for medical conditions involves testing the donor for infectious diseases (such as HIV and Hepatitis) and taking their family medical history to identify any serious heritable diseases. Donors should also agree to their GP being contacted.

Some communicable diseases may not show up as positive on a test for a period after the donor has been infected. For this reason, sperm is normally frozen, quarantined for 180 days and the donor is retested after this period. However, if you are planning to use fresh sperm (which won’t have been frozen and quarantined) you might consider testing the donor with an advanced method called Nucleic Acid Amplification Testing (NAAT).

What’s the law around paying sperm donors?

It’s illegal to pay a sperm donor anything other than their reasonable expenses. If a man’s donating at a clinic he’ll be able to claim no more than £35 per clinic visit. 

Where can I find a sperm donor?

If you’ve decided not to have treatment at a licensed clinic in the UK, you have three options for finding a sperm donor:

  • use someone you already know
  • use someone you find through a donor introduction website
  • find a donor through an overseas sperm bank.

Find out more about using donated sperm in treatment at a licensed clinic

Using a known donor

If you go down this route, make sure you’re both clear about your expectations and how much involvement the donor will have with your child if you're successful. For example, are you are planning a co-parenting arrangement with the donor? Or an ‘uncle’ type relationship (with contact but no parental responsibility) with your child? Or no involvement at all?

Whatever your intentions, think carefully about how it would work in practice. It might be helpful to draw up an agreement beforehand, even though it won’t be legally binding if you get into a dispute in the future. This kind of arrangement relies, ultimately, largely on mutual trust.

Some examples of legal cases involving disputes over parental rights and responsibilities can be found on the Natalie Gamble Associates website.

Finding someone through a donor introduction website

Introduction websites put women in touch with donors. You then make the arrangements with the donor. Some are reputable, others are not, so do take care. Here are some tips:

  • Always meet someone you are matched with in a public place and take a friend along with you.
  • Never agree to natural insemination (ie, sex), even if the donor says that it has a higher success rate.
  • Never accept a donor who is not prepared to have health screening (for infectious and inherited diseases) and make sure you have written evidence of the results.
  • Don’t agree to pay a donor (only expenses are acceptable).

As with using a known donor, it’s very important that you’re both clear about your expectations and how much involvement the donor will have with your child. You should also be very careful if the donor has donated to a lot of families as there’s a risk your child could unknowingly enter into a relationship with a donor-conceived sibling.

Some examples of legal cases involving disputes over parental rights and responsibilities can be found on the Natalie Gamble Associates website.

Here are some questions to put to your prospective donor:

  • What are your motivations?
  • Have you donated before? If so how many children have been born?
  • Have you told your partner, wife or family about your plans? Are you willing to be contacted by the child?
  • Do you have proof of identification, such as passport or driving licence?
  • Are you willing to sign a legal sperm donor or co-parenting agreement?

Using an overseas sperm bank

You can buy sperm directly from an overseas sperm banks. The sample will be shipped to a UK licensed fertility clinic where you can have treatment. The sperm should not be shipped directly to you for use in home insemination, as you can’t guarantee the origin of the sample and whether it is undamaged.

If you decide to use sperm from an overseas, contact a UK clinic in advance to arrange the process with them.

Choose a fertility clinic

Fertility treatment abroad

Where can I get support?

All licensed UK clinics are required to offer you the opportunity to receive counselling to help you think through both the short and long term implications of having donor treatment. It’s natural to be focused on getting pregnant, but counselling will help you consider longer term issues, like telling your child about their donor origins.

If you’re not having treatment at a clinic you may want to find a counsellor privately. The British Infertility Counselling Association has counsellors who are experienced at supporting people through donor insemination, or you can find a qualified therapist near you at It's Good to Talk


Talking to people who’ve been through donor treatment can also be really helpful. Donor Conception Network can give advice and support or Fertility Network is a charity that supports everyone struggling to conceive. 

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Review date: 9 November 2020

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