Becoming a donor

As someone who’s interested in becoming a sperm donor, here’s what you can expect to happen following your first contact with a fertility clinic (although there might be some slight variations between clinics).

  • Find and then contact your fertility clinic of choice online or by phone to express your interest in becoming a sperm donor.
  • Have an initial conversation with the fertility clinic, receive a named clinic contact and complete the clinic’s sperm donor application form. We can help and support you with completing your form.
  • Following your initial contact, you’ll be invited to the clinic to produce a semen sample. You will usually need to abstain from any form of sexual activity for between three and five days beforehand. At this appointment you will also be given an informal opportunity to talk through various elements of donation and its implications. At your first appointment it’s a good idea to check your clinic’s compensation payment policy. Your semen sample will be analysed in a laboratory and if it meets the donation criteria, your clinic will ask you to come back.
  • At your next clinic appointment you’ll be asked to give a blood sample for analysis. This will be:
    – tested to determine your blood group
    – screened for common genetic diseases
    – checked for sexually transmitted infections.
  • At this appointment a doctor might also examine you. Swabs could be taken and you might be asked to provide a urine sample. You’ll also be asked to sign a form giving the clinic permission to contact your GP and to ask for their medical opinion and information as to your medical suitability to be a donor. Your clinic will contact you once your screening results come back. Whatever the outcome of your results clinic staff will support, guide and advise you. In many clinics you will begin to receive compensation of £35 per visit for your time and expenses from this appointment onwards.
  • A member of the clinic’s counselling team will meet with you to discuss the donation process and talk through the legal aspects surrounding it. This is your opportunity to ask about your rights and the rights of those receiving your sperm and of any child born as a result of any fertility treatment. If you have a partner then they can come along too – you’ll both benefit from talking things through.
  • You can now begin donating. It’s likely that you’ll be donating weekly for about six months. You’ll be regularly screened to ensure you’re free from infection. Your sperm will be quarantined for six months.
  • Once the six-month quarantine period is over, you’ll be asked to provide some information about yourself which will be registered with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and stored confidentially. You’ll also be asked to write something about yourself for your recipients and any children born as a result of your donation to read. You will probably be asked to start thinking about doing this before the six months is up so that you have plenty of time and space to think about what you want to say and share.
  • Once the quarantine time is up, you’ll be rescreened for infections via a blood test. Provided the results are clear, your donated sperm will become available to be used by those who need a sperm donor to build their families.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has set up a group called Lifecycle which brings together donation experts. They have put together some ‘best practice’ leaflets about donation and what you might expect from your clinic – although practice is likely to vary from clinic to clinic. Click here to download the leaflet »

If you’re considering donating your sperm to a friend, family member or someone else known to you then there are a few things you need to be aware of:

  • We would encourage you to donate in a treatment centre licensed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to protect your emotional and physical health, and also to ensure that your legal parenthood status is clear. Donating outside a clinic environment means that what you’re doing is unregulated and could have a range of unintended consequences.
  • Discussing the implications of donating in this way with a clinic counsellor both individually and as a group will help you to identify and consider the benefits and challenges to you, your recipients, and your current and future families.
  • The donor criteria and process of donating are the same for you as a sperm donor donating to a clinic sperm bank although, in some circumstances, the HFEA might waive some of the key traits such as the donor age limit. Also, some clinics do offer NAAT testing which can reduce the sperm quarantine period from six months to two months.
Donating your sperm outside an HFEA-licensed treatment centre

Sperm donation in the UK is regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) in accordance with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act. The rules around who can be a sperm donor in the UK are very strict to protect you as the donor, the recipient and the donor-conceived child. Clinics are also subject to rigorous testing and reporting.

In a clinic environment, sperm donors must:

  • be between the ages of 18 and 41
  • be willing to be screened for medical conditions
  • have no known serious medical disability or family history of hereditary disorders
  • know (or be able to find out) their immediate family medical history – children, siblings, parents and grandparents
  • agree to be registered with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) as a donor and be willing to be known to any child born following their donation
  • not put themselves at risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • not knowingly leave out any relevant information which could affect the health of any children born as a result of their donation
  • receive implications counselling
  • NOT receive payment for donating other than compensation for expenses (up to £35 per clinic visit).

Additionally, sperm donors in the UK can only donate to up to 10 families.

Recipients of donated sperm in an HFEA-licensed clinic are the legal parents of any child born following treatment.

The reasons for such controls are to provide a safe donation environment for all the parties involved so that everyone’s physical and emotional health is protected, and also to offer a clear legal framework around parenthood.

Unregulated sperm donors

For a variety of reasons you might be considering donating outside of a clinic setting. Whilst it might be tempting, we would urge you to remember that the regulatory body exists to protect you, the recipients and any donor-conceived children.

If you are considering donating outside a clinic setting it’s important you’re aware that:

  • Legal parenthood could become very complicated. You could unwittingly become the legal father of the child. This would result in you having all sorts of unwanted rights, responsibilities and obligations towards a child.
  • You could become financially responsible for any child born.
  • There is a very real risk that you could become infected with a sexually transmitted infection or other disease.
  • Your personal safety could be in danger.
  • A lack of independent implications counselling for both you and your recipients could mean that things arise that you’d not had the opportunity to explore and discuss.