Unregulated sperm donors

images-2You may have seen this very alarming article about unregulated sperm donors and the risks of using them. Whilst it is absolutely true that there are some very real risks from using unregulated donors – both in terms of your personal safety and of your health and any future child’s health as well as the legal status of the donor – it is not the case that there are no donors available through licensed fertility clinics in the UK. Nor is it correct that it has been impossible to recruit UK donors since the laws about anonymity changed in 2005.

It really is worth ringing around a number of clinics if you need a donor to find one that has donor sperm available. You can find a list of all licensed fertility clinics on the HFEA website and you will be able to check clinics in your area which offer sperm donation.

There are huge risks in using a donor like those whose adverts appear in the article – it may seem a quick route to parenthood, but it may well be one that you end up regretting.

Donate and help a friend

images-2In an interesting move to increase the number of egg and sperm donors, one UK fertility clinic is offering anyone who donates the chance to nominate a friend or family member for a free cycle of IVF treatment. The clinic carried out a survey which found that the thing that motivated donors more than anything else was knowing someone who was having difficulty getting pregnant – so this scheme aims to capitalise on that by offering them the chance to help someone they know as well as someone they don’t!

The clinic, Bourn Hall, has set up a new website for anyone wanting to know more about becoming a donor and potential donors can visit any of the Bourn clinics near Cambridge and Norwich and in Colchester.

You can find out more about the project here 

Using an online sperm donor

DownloadedFile-17If you’ve ever thought about using an online sperm donor, this article may put you off…  It’s about a sperm donor called Simon Watson who advertises his services on Facebook and claims to have “about 800” genetic children, and says he wants to reach 1,000.

In the UK, donors who donate officially through clinics are limited to 10 families. Donors go through a fairly lengthy process which often involves counselling as well as screening for genetic diseases and sexually-transmitted infections. Their sperm is frozen for six months and the donor is re-tested before it is used to ensure that it is clear from potential infection. Any children conceived will be able to trace their donor once they reach the age of 18.

Of course, using an online donor like Simon Watson is cheaper but that’s hardly surprising as you aren’t getting the careful screening and checking process that happens in a licensed clinic. He apparently charges £50 for samples after meeting his customers at motorway service stations.

If you’re only thinking of using an unlicensed online donor because a clinic is expensive, I’d think again and perhaps try to cut back elsewhere. Is the choice of genetic parent of your future child really a place you want to be taking risks by saving money?

National Sperm Bank in the news

DownloadedFile-17It was interesting to see the news coverage today following an article in The Guardian yesterday headlined ‘UK sperm bank has just nine registered donors, boss reveals’.  Some of you may remember that a couple of months ago The Telegraph was “revealing” that the National Sperm Bank had just five donors. In fact, that story and the two articles in The Telegraph used quotes and figures from Banking on Birmingham a BBC Radio 4 documentary I’d made with producer Steve Urquhart which had been broadcast a few days earlier – where the fact that only five donors had been recruited was discussed and put into perspective.

Today’s story was very much focused on the “just” nine donors recruited by the National Sperm Bank but in fact that’s almost double the number of donors in June which would suggest that recruitment is on an upward trend. Recruiting donors is not easy – many men who initially express an interest are put off when they discover the commitment involved and many others who would like to donate are not suitable – on average, just one in every 20 men who applies to donate will be able to as the sperm has to be very high quality and they must also get through screening tests to ensure they do not risk passing on any genetically inherited diseases or sexually transmitted infections.

To learn just weeks after we thought the National Sperm Bank had five donors that it actually has nine can only be a positive step forward; let’s hope that the coverage today will encourage many more men in the Birmingham area to come forward. But do bear in mind that every time the National Sperm Bank is in the news, it doesn’t just lead to more donors in Birmingham but to more donors across the UK – so it’s good for other banks too.

You can find out more about the National Sperm Bank here and more about donating in general here 

Considering donor treatment?

If you’re considering using an egg or sperm donor, you should check out the National Gamete Donation Trust’s new website at www.ngdt.co.uk. The Trust does a lot of work to encourage more people to think about donating, so there’s lots of information there aimed at donors – but there’s also a wealth of information about egg, sperm and embryo donation for recipients. Ranging through practical, ethical and legal aspects of treatment, it’s well worth a look before you make any decisions.

What’s more, it’s a really easy-to-navigate and attractive website – well done to all at the National Gamete Donation Trust!

Media Request – sperm donor recipients

The patient support charity Infertility Network UK have a media request from ITV News – they are looking for someone who used a sperm donor to help create their family who would be willing totalk to the media about the ten families limit on sperm donation? If you are, please contact Infertility Network UK’s press officer Catherine Hill as soon as you can  on 07469-660845 or email her at catherinehill@infertilitynetworkuk.com

Could you be a charity trustee?

images-1The National Gamete Donation Trust, a charity which supports egg, sperm and embryo donation, is looking for trustees. The Trust works with donors, recipients and clinics and helps to raise awareness of the need for gamete donation. It also manages the voluntary contact register which helps donor-conceived people born before 1991 to get in touch with their donors and half-siblings, and is currently working to bring the first national sperm bank to the UK.

The Trust is looking for enthusiastic people to join the Board of Trustees, and would be particularly interested in anyone with skills in human resources, business development and/or performance management, communications particularly with knowledge of social media, writing and editing or developing grant applications and business cases

Trustees will attend at least two annual meetings in central London, and will be expected to contribute actively to the work of the charity.  If you’d like to know more, or might be interested in applying, you can find out more at the National Gamete Donation Trust website – http://www.ngdt.co.uk/

The national sperm bank

So, we finally have a national sperm bank in the UK… Based at Birmingham Women’s Hospital, this will be the world’s first independent sperm bank and it aims to address the shortage of donor sperm in the UK.

Although there have been increases in the number of sperm donors in recent years, the demand has been outstripping the supply – and we’re importing more and more donated sperm from overseas, mainly Denmark and the USA.

The sperm bank is a collaboration between the National Gamete Donation Trust (NGDT) and Birmingham Women’s Hospital, and was set up with government funding. It is based within the NHS, and will eventually aim to deliver donor sperm to those who need it across the country.

Sue Avery, Director of Birmingham Women’s Fertility Centre, said: ‘There is currently a national shortage of sperm donors in the UK, especially in NHS clinics and particularly among some ethnic minorities. Patient numbers continue to rise and treating those who need donor sperm to build their families is a major problem. At present, some patients needing donor sperm are faced with few safe options and find themselves on waiting lists of up to five years or having to stop treatment altogether.’

Laura Witjens, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Gamete Donation Trust, says they want to change the way people think about sperm donation. ‘When people think of sperm donation they often only think about the physical act of producing sperm. Let’s face it that can be off-putting and detract from the real issues. We’re all set to change that outlook. Sperm donors are very special men who are doing something they and their families can be exceptionally proud of. These are men who are doing something life-changing for themselves and for others. It’s time to shout about how fantastic these guys are.’

If you are a man aged between 18 and 41 and you are interested in joining the ranks of these special men, you can text ‘Donor’ to 88802 for more information and visit www.veryspecialman.co.uk.

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New films about donor conception

If you know you may need to use a donor if you’re going to conceive, you are bound to consider the impact this might have on your future family – and particularly how any child you may have will feel about being donor-conceived.  It can feel a daunting prospect, and it is fears about this which sometimes make parents worry about whether to tell their children.

Now, two new films from the Donor Conception Network give a really interesting insight into how it feels to be donor-conceived as they feature young people whose parents used donor gametes to have them talking about their thoughts and feelings. You can buy them on a DVD which has two films, one featuring young people who are growing up in families with heterosexual parents, and one featuring those who are growing up in lesbian families or with single mothers.

Having seen the films, I would highly recommend them to anyone who is considering donor conception. They are really moving, incredibly reassuring and show that what really matters to the young people is being in a loving family;  being donor-conceived is something that can be a totally normal and accepted part of life to young people who grow up knowing how they were conceived. You can find out more and buy the DVD at www.dcnetwork.org

Using a sperm donor in Spain

If you’re considering treatment in Spain and need to use donated sperm, you may assume that you need to use an anonymous donor as the rules are strict on donation in Spain itself being anonymous. I was interested to learn recently that apparently if you are an overseas patient using sperm from Denmark which you’ve ordered yourself from a sperm bank and are having sent to your clinic in Spain, it is OK to have chosen an open donor – someone whose details your child will be able to find out about when they reach 18. Worth knowing if you are going to Spain but would really prefer to use a known donor.