‘They would do it for money’ and ‘they would do it for love’, was the response to a study by Bourn Hall, the world’s first IVF clinic, about attitudes to sperm donation. The UK has a shortage of donated sperm and the research revealed that the biggest motivator for donating was knowing someone that was having a problem conceiving, so for the first time sperm donors will be able to nominate a friend or family member to receive free IVF treatment.
Dr Mike Macnamee, Chief Executive of Bourn Hall (pictured right), comments: “We were the first clinic to introduce sperm freezing and we have our own sperm bank but demand is rising and there is a national shortage.
“When a couple comes to the clinic for treatment and testing reveals that a man has ‘super sperm’ then we offer them free IVF treatment in return for sperm donation.
“The recent study has indicated that altruism is a powerful motivator so we have decided to extend this offer to allow donors not requiring help themselves to nominate someone they know for free IVF treatment. If this treatment requires donated sperm this will be provided from an anonymous donor.”
Sperm donation through clinics is strictly regulated in the UK to ensure potential donors are fully aware of the implications and only high quality sperm is accepted. Donors should be in good health and aged 18-40.
The study showed that the second biggest motivator was to be paid, so those not taking up free IVF treatment will receive £35 compensation for each sample.
The clinic has also introduced a dedicated phone number to make it easy for men to make appointments when it suits them. Bourn Hall has full service clinics in Bourn, near Cambridge, in Colchester and near Norwich, which are all easily accessible with ample free parking so it’s easy to make a contribution discreetly without going to main reception.
The attitudes study also revealed that men considered carefully the opinion of their partner and over a third thought their partner wouldn’t want them to donate. This was particularly high where the couple themselves had problems conceiving. However this influence could be positive too with 31% saying they would donate if their partner wanted them to.
Dr Macnamee comments: “Donors have no legal or moral obligation to children resulting from donation, however, we have found that men who are prepared to donate are often relaxed about the thought of a young man or woman that they have helped bring into the world, later getting in touch. They feel it is a way they can make a big difference to someone else’s life.
All the men who participated in the study were aware that their donation is anonymous until any offspring resulting from their donation are aged 18, when they can request details of the donor.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has confirmed that donors can express a preference on how they want to be contacted and it will inform them if a child had requested their details. It also encourages donor-conceived children to take up the offer of using an intermediary and provides support to donors.
Jackie Stewart is an independent fertility counsellor who supports Bourn Hall patients and she says the findings of the study have important implications for couples struggling with infertility.
“The majority of men have not even considered donating sperm and may think they are too old, however many would try and help if someone they knew was struggling to conceive.
“With this knowledge it is good to talk about your situation with close friends and family and also to explain how much a baby would mean to you. There may be someone in your wider circle of friends and family that is in a position to offer help and would find it rewarding to do so.
“Potential donors receive free implications counselling and can prepare a ‘pen picture’ of themselves and a note for the child to receive if they want to request it.”
She stresses that transparency is important: “All recipients of donated sperm also receive counselling and that includes a discussion on how to talk to their future children about the subject. This means that children are emotionally prepared and although they may be curious about the donor they accept that this person is not their parent.”
Jackie continues: “For many men sperm donation is something special they are doing and the joy it gives to the recipients is beyond words.”
If you are interested in donating please contact: 01954 717521 or visit: www.becomeadonor.co.uk