Egg, Sperm and Embryo Donation

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Egg Donation Programme

Some women require donated eggs for their fertility treatment due to early menopause or premature ovarian failure. Unfortunately there is a general shortage of egg donors in the UK. We usually advise this group of women to consider using donated eggs from a close family member or a close friend who is willing to donate their eggs.  Where this is not possible, an altruistic donor can be sourced by the patient for their own fertility treatment.

In 2005 the law preventing identification of egg or sperm donors was changed by the UK Government, and donor conceived children now have the legal right to obtain identifying information about the donor when they are 18 years old.  This change in law has subsequently discouraged some potential egg or sperm donors from becoming donors.

For this reason we strongly recommend that all patients considering the use of donated embryos, sperm or eggs book an appointment to see any of our counsellors to discuss the ethical and social implications of using donated eggs or sperm.

Sperm Donation Programme

Forty per cent of women of infertile couples are unable to conceive because of an abnormality or absence of sperm in their partner’s ejaculate.  Artificial insemination using donor semen is the only method of treatment available to these couples who wish to have a family.  In many centres, the limiting factor is the availability of suitable donors and therefore most clinics are grateful for offers from men wishing to be semen donor.

All potential semen donors who intend to begin the process of donation must first meet certain eligibility criteria as described in the UK guidelines for the medical and laboratory screening of sperm, egg and embryo donors (2008) and the HFEA code of practice.

Some of the criteria are that the donor must:

  • Be aged between 18 and 41.
  • Be proven to be negative for infectious diseases including (but limited to) HIV, Hepatitis B and C and syphilis.
  • Have no known inheritable disorder or serious medical problems.

At your first appointment blood samples are taken for preliminary screening tests and a semen analysis is performed on a semen sample passed on the premises. A test freeze and thaw of the semen sample is performed to ensure it would be suitable for use in treatment.

Potential donors must be aware that after examination, a proportion of semen samples will fail to fulfil all the required criteria, but in the majority of cases this has no bearing on your potential fertility.

Since April 2012 the HFEA have allowed sperm donors to be compensated by £35 per clinic visit. For more information on sperm donation click here.

Embryo Donation Programme

The same principles guiding egg and sperm donation also apply to embryo donation and so the donation of embryos is not anonymous.

Any couple with embryos in storage can opt to allow the embryos to be used in a number of ways including:

  • Using them for their own treatment (frozen embryo replacement).
  • Donating them to another infertile couple.  There is a shortage of egg/embryo donors in the UK so we encourage any couple with embryos frozen who have completed their treatment and/or do not wish to proceed to the replacement of their frozen embryos, to consider donating them to another couple.  If you do choose to donate your embryos to another couple, we will arrange for you to see a counsellor in the first instance in order to discuss the legal, ethical and moral aspects of embryo donation.  If you still wish to proceed after counselling, we would need to undertake blood and screening tests on both partners to ensure there is no risk of transmitting any infection to the recipient/offspring.
  • Donate to training which allows the embryologist to learn to thaw, identify and move embryos.  These embryos are then allowed to perish.
  • Donating them for research.
  • Allowing the embryos to perish.

HFEA therefore advise that any man intending to donate embryos to a single woman should seek legal advice before doing so. In particular, they state that you should be satisfied about any potential to be recognised in law as the father of any child born, if the embryo is donated to a single woman who does not have a husband or civil partner, or has not entered into a parenthood agreement (a person who agrees to accept legal parenthood but with whom they are not in an intimate relationship) with another person.

HFEA suggest in this link that one way of avoiding this potential uncertainty, is for a couple donating embryos (or a man donating embryos created during treatment with his partner) to consider placing a condition on the use of the donated embryo. The couple could, for example, state that the embryo should only go to a woman who is in a legally recognised relationship that gives legal parenthood to her husband or civil partner or who has consented to another person being the second parent to her children.

You can find more information about counselling and embryo donation in the leaflets located within the sidebar of this page.