The UK’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), responsible for inspecting and licensing UK fertility clinics and regulating research in this area, reports that an increasing number of websites are offering online services matching women with private sperm donors. These sites put donors and recipients in contact with each other to make their own arrangements for insemination without the need to visit a regulated fertility clinic.
The HFEA advises that, if you decide to use these online services,
“It is important to bear in mind the very real risks and consequences of obtaining sperm in this way.”
Using sperm that hasn’t been screened by a fertility clinic carries a number of health risks for you and your baby. For example:
- Sperm may not come from the person whose picture or details you saw on the website
- The donor may not have been properly screened for sexually transmitted diseases before donating and sperm may not have been quarantined. This means there’s a risk that you and your child may be affected by sexually transmitted infections including HIV, Hepatitis B and C, syphilis and gonorrhoea, and that serious inherited medical conditions may be passed on to the child
It’s also important to know that children who are born following unlicensed donation won’t have an official way of finding out their genetic origins as the HFEA will not hold information about the sperm donor on its Register. The sperm donor may also be classified as the child’s legal father with both legal and financial responsibility for that child – this is not the case if you obtain sperm through a fertility clinic.
There is also no limit to the number of families an unregistered donor can create. In the UK, men who donate through a fertility clinic can help to create up to ten families excluding their own. This still means you can have more than one child from the same ‘official’ donor, provided that the sperm is available and the donor consents.
Carole Gilling-Smith, Director of the Agora Clinic, explains:
“The reasons for using a clinic to conceive a child using donor sperm treatment, rather than using other means to obtain donor sperm and then doing home self-insemination, are clearly set out in the HFEA guidance to patients wishing to use donor sperm.
The key take home message from this is that it’s much safer to use a clinic so that all the legal and health requirements to protect you, the donor, and your future child are met.”