Donor Conception

Sperm & egg donation – where’s the UK at in Pride 2023?

Jessie Day, in partnership with TFP Fertility UK  |   28 Jun 2023

It’s Pride month every month here at TRB. Because when you’re looking to make a baby, it makes no odds. Sperm and egg donation in the UK comes with a particular set of how-tos and regulations, and navigating them can be a little mind-blowing. 

Egg and sperm donor UK Q&A

TFP Fertility UK know sperm and egg donation regs and realities inside out. Earlier in 2023, our founder-CEO Eloise (and donor sperm mama of three) caught up with Cat Brown, Donor Programme Lead at TFP Fertility UK. Watch the full interview, or keep reading for a round-up of her insightful Q&A. From sperm and egg donation UK regulations to how to donate eggs, it’s all here. 

Ready to hit go with UK sperm or egg donation? Whether you’re looking to donate or try for a baby, connect with TFP Fertility UK for first steps and tailored support. 

Let’s get started. What are the UK’s top egg and sperm bank questions, in 2023, and how can banks, fertility clinics and us at team TRB support you?

Welcome Cat! Can you tell us about your role?

Of course! I’ve been with TFP Fertility UK for almost four years now, and recently moved into the position of Donor Programme Lead across our fertility clinic network (comprising eight flagship clinics), across the UK. My role involves coordination of processes and practices for donation, and our altruistic donors coming through the programme. 

donate sperm uk

Can I use a UK sperm bank, or do most people go abroad?

You can absolutely use a UK sperm bank. 

Our governing body in the UK – the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA) have quite strict rules and regulations as to criteria that donors must meet, and the screening that must be carried out. Shipping samples from clinic to clinic (and bank to bank) is relatively easy, providing all those screening tests have been carried out.

Here at TFP Fertility UK, each clinic has a sperm bank on site and we’re able to ship everything from clinic to clinic, using a central bank to give you as much choice as possible. So you can choose from any clinic’s donors that we have on file. 

People do opt to go overseas – it’s just a case of shipping from those banks. It does take a little bit longer, but is always a popular option with our patients as well. 

What is the sperm and egg donation process like, in the UK?

In the UK, you’re not allowed to donate anonymously. So all donors have to sign consent documents to say that in the future, any child that may result from their donation can potentially contact them. 

At the age of 16 children can have access to non-identifying information, such as a donor’s characteristics. And at age 18 they can obtain a donor’s last-known contact details – so their address or contact phone number – whatever the donor registered with the HFEA. 

In the UK, the law states that everybody has the right to know where they came from. So at the age of 18, should you wish to find out that information you can. In Europe, it’s different. Donation can be completely anonymous, so if you do choose to go overseas or use an international donor the donor has to have consented for their sperm or eggs to be used in the UK. 

What are the requirements in the UK, to become a sperm donor?

The only strict requirements are age limits. So this will be between the age of 18 and 46 for sperm donors and 18 and 36 for egg donors. TFP Fertility UK will also place some of our own restrictions, based on expertise and what we find works well. So we also look for a body mass index (BMI) of under 30 for both parties and non-smokers, or not on nicotine replacement for at least three months. 

They’ll need to be generally fit and well, and be able to provide us with a full medical and familial history as well. 

Do a lot of donors fail the screening process?

For sure. We do have a lot of applications that are non-starters, but we’re quite good at screening those straight off the bat. So in general we’re only dealing with valid applications, as such. A lot of people do fail the application process, for various reasons, often because they can’t provide a full medical history, or have a genetic condition that could potentially be passed on.

sperm donation fertility counselling

Do donors have psychological screening too? 

So counselling we would strongly encourage, for all of our donors. For sperm donors, it’s currently a mandatory part of the process. We ensure they see a counsellor and are fully aware of the implications, as well as psychologically fit and ready to be a donor.

We also want to ensure they are completely clued up as to any prospective child contacting them in the future, and things like that. A lot of people may not take that into consideration or think about the future implications. Should they have biological children of their own, these children might potentially have a half sibling out there somewhere.

So it’s important to make sure everyone’s fully aware of all of these things, before they start the process. 

How much does sperm and egg donation cost in the uk? 

Prices vary from clinic to clinic, and it depends whether you’re just purchasing a so-called ‘straw’ of semen on its own, a ‘pregnancy slot’ as well – where you’re potentially using the same donor for multiple children – and whether you’re purchasing that package price alongside your treatment.

Each donor is only able to create 10 families, in the uk. And this is essentially to avoid the children meeting at random in the future, or to have infinite numbers from one donor. So at any one time, only 10 families can purchase a single donor’s sperm. You purchase what’s called a ‘pregnancy slot’, which allocates that donor to you until you relinquish the slot, or until you have a successful birth. 

So the cost can vary from clinic to clinic, but starts at around, I would say, £1,000 per straw and pregnancy slot.

For eggs, clinics can either charge per egg, or for a package price for a set number of eggs. So for example, at TFP Fertility UK we aim to have six fresh eggs or eight frozen eggs as part of a standard package price by 2024.

Can you tell us a bit more about the 10 family limit in the UK? 

Each UK donor can only consent to creating 10 families, as a maximum, through donation. So it means at any time only 10 families can hold straws of each donor’s sperm, or their eggs.

Once treatment results in a birth, that ‘slot’ is used up and can’t be sold on to anybody else, if that makes sense. So let’s say a donor starts with 10 slots, and one family has a live birth, it means only nine more families can be created. This doesn’t, however, place any sort of limit on the number of biological siblings you can have.

You can continue to use the same donor for as many biological siblings as you want. There’s no cap on that at all. So you can, potentially, have 10 families with unlimited children in that family. 

What about BMI for egg donors? Is that important?

At TFP Fertility UK, we’ve set the upper body mass index (BMI) limit at 35, because we find that egg quality is slightly better with these patients. 

Read up on how BMI affects fertility for lots more information on this patient FAQ. 

having a baby with a sperm donor uk

Any tips on choosing a sperm or egg donor? 

This is quite an interesting one because people choose their donor for a lot of different reasons. Some people will pick a donor that matches their characteristics. For some people, it’s a financial implication that makes the decision for them – for example, if one bank has a donor that’s cheaper than another, they’ll go with that one. It also depends on the type of treatment you’re having. 

Where can I find my nearest clinic?

We currently have eight flagship clinics across the UK, all with their associated ‘satellite’ clinics. This means you can go for bits and pieces of treatment close to your flagship clinic, wherever works for you. Our primary locations are Belfast, Chelmsford, Glasgow, London, Maidenhead and Oxford.

What rights do people have as intended parents (IPs)?

As an intended parent (IP), your donor does not have any financial or legal rights over any child that results as a product of their donation. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are all under the same governing body too, so we all follow the same protocols, and the same standards. Thankfully, this makes it relatively simple when moving from place to place across the UK.

Can I work with a private egg or sperm donor whilst having treatment?

At TFP Fertility UK, we refer to this as a ‘known donor’. You can absolutely bring them through the process, and this tends to be a family member or close friend. Working with a  ‘known donor’ will mean you don’t have to be on a waiting list or wait as long for shipping, and you can opt for a frozen or fresh transfer. 

But obviously then there are associated costs – for example paying for your donor’s treatment at the same time as your own. 

Anything else we should know about IVF with donor sperm or eggs? 

It’s important to understand that a donor has the right to withdraw their consent at any stage. Patients will need to go into things with an open mind, knowing that things can change unexpectedly at the last minute – it’s not always a straightforward path.

Even if you’ve created embryos, if the donor withdraws the right for their samples to be used, any embryos created will also have to be relinquished, unfortunately.

Understandably, the knowledge of this can come as a shock. But coming at it prepared, with an open mind, will really help. And as a team we’ll be on hand to guide you, and give you as much support and counselling prior to going through the donation process as we possibly can.

If you’ve got a particular question or query, please do get in touch with us via our website, or call us at 0808 2234128. We are more than happy to answer any questions that patients have. And as I said, there’s always counselling available, should you feel that that’s appropriate for you as well. 

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