Donor Sperm Pathway

This information leaflet is designed to give you an overview of the treatment pathway for patients using donor sperm.  There are many aspects to consider when deciding to use donor sperm; please take some time to read through the different sections of this leaflet carefully.  Please feel free to contact the unit if you have any questions or queries, using the contact details at the end of this leaflet.


Donor sperm can be used to allow fertility treatment in a number of different situations;

  • Couples with severe male factor infertility
  • Couples where there is a high chance of the male partner passing on a severe inherited disease or condition
  • Those in a same sex relationship
  • Women without a partner who wish to become a Solo Parent

Sometimes deciding to use donor sperm can be a difficult decision to make and come to terms with, especially for couples where the male partner’s sperm sample is not suitable for use in treatment. It can take time to grieve before considering the use of donor sperm.

The use of donor sperm in fertility clinics is heavily regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). This ensures that treatment is as safe and effective as possible, and that patients and donors are fully aware and informed about the various medical and legal aspects of sperm donation.

Appointments and Investigations

Several appointments are required before treatment can begin; these are compulsory.

These appointments are:

  • Appointment with a Fertility Nurse to gain an overview of treatment using donor sperm and whether it might be the right path for you
  • Appointment for screening tests
  • Appointment with a Consultant to discuss test results and treatment type
  • At least 1 appointment with the Counsellor
  • A consent form signing appointment when treatment is ready to commence

The fertility treatments available using donor sperm are IUI (Intra Uterine Insemination), also called DI (Donor Insemination), and IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation). You may also wish to consider a form of reciprocal IVF called Shared Motherhood (SM). This is an option for female same sex couples, where one partner provides the eggs for the IVF treatment and the other partner plans to carry the pregnancy. The choice of treatment is dependent on investigations and results for the patient who will be receiving treatment.

A Hysterosalpingogram (HSG) may be required. This is a test to check the fallopian tubes are patent which is necessary to be able to perform IUI. It is performed in the Radiology department of the hospital.

You will also need to undergo certain blood tests e.g. to check your ovarian reserve, and we will check your Body Mass Index (BMI) to ensure that you are a healthy wait before starting treatment.

Test requirements and treatment options will be discussed with you by a member of the team and you will be given relevant information leaflets about the investigations.

If further investigations are needed, then you may require more appointments than those stated above.

Once all tests have been completed, you will be given an appointment with a Consultant, who will explain the test results and their significance. They will also discuss different treatment options with you (see below).


Donor Insemination is less expensive than IVF, less invasive but less successful. The national success rate (births per treatment cycle) for DI treatments performed in 2018 was 14% for all ages. Appointments can be quite unpredictable as they are determined by what is seen on ultrasound scan.

IVF is a lengthier and more invasive treatment than DI and is more structured (you will know weeks in advance when you will need to attend). It is also much more expensive. However, the success rates are higher with IVF. The national success rates (births per embryo transferred) for IVF treatments performed in 2018 was 23% for all ages.

There are many individual factors that can affect a person’s chances of conceiving through fertility treatment, the most significant one being female age. As part of the consultation process, we will advise you of the likely success rates and suitability of the different treatment options according to your own personal circumstances. The success rates you are quoted may be higher or lower than those outlined above.


Currently, treatment is not offered on the NHS to same sex couples or single women, unless the fallopian tubes are blocked. IVF will then be funded. The NHS will also fund IVF if a patient has had 6 unsuccessful cycles of DI in a HFEA licensed clinic (these cycles will have been self-funded).

Shared Motherhood is not currently funded by the NHS.

The purchasing of donor sperm is not currently funded by the NHS for patients at Gateshead Fertility. Therefore, even if you are receiving NHS-funded treatment, you will need to self-fund the purchase of the sperm.

Any NHS funding is also subject to you meeting the other NHS eligibility criteria for treatment.

If you have treatment at a licensed fertility clinic in the UK, your donor will have no legal rights or responsibilities to any children born with their sperm, eggs or embryos. This means:

  • They will have no legal obligation to any children conceived from their donation.
  • They won’t be named on the birth certificate. 
  • They won’t have any rights over how the child will be brought up.
  • They won’t be required to support the child financially. 

In the UK, the woman who gives birth to a child is automatically their legal mother. If you are married or in a civil partnership and have a child after treatment using donor sperm, then your spouse or civil partner will automatically be the second legal parent. If you are in a relationship, but are not married or in a civil partnership, your partner can be named as the second legal parent, providing you have both signed the relevant legal parenthood consent forms before treatment.

If you are seeking treatment either alone or with a new partner but are still married to or in a civil partnership with someone else, it is vital you inform a member of staff. This can have an impact on the legal parenthood of any child born as a result of treatment. You are strongly advised to seek legal advice prior to any treatment commencing. If needed, we can give you the contact details of specialist solicitors.

For more information on this matter, please read our separate ‘Legal Parenthood’ patient information leaflet.

The Law – Information about the donor

Since 2005, the law has required that anyone who donates their sperm, eggs or embryos must be identifiable. This allows children born from these donations to access information about their genetic background. The age of the child determines what information is available.

At age 16, a child conceived by sperm donation can find out the following: –

  • Physical description of donor (height, weight, eye, hair and skin colour)
  • Year and country of birth
  • Ethnic group
  • Number and sex of any genetic children the donor had when they registered
  • Donor’s parents’ ethnic group
  • Whether the donor was adopted or conceived through donation
  • Skills
  • Other information e.g. occupation, religion, interests
  • Marital status at time of registration
  • Medical history
  • Reason for donating
  • Goodwill message and pen portrait if supplied by donor.

At age 18, a child can find out further identifying information:

  • Full name at time of registration
  • Full date of birth
  • Town of birth
  • Last known postal address – although this may have been at the time of registering.
  • Identifying information of genetic donor conceived siblings (with mutual consent)

From the age of 16, anyone conceived by donation can find out information about the possibility of being genetically linked to the person they intend to marry, enter into a civil partnership with or have an intimate physical relationship with, although they will not find out any further information regarding the donor.

Patients who give birth to a child as a result of sperm donation, can access the following information:

  • All non-identifying information about the donor
  • Information about the number, sex and year of birth of their children’s genetically related donor-conceived siblings.

Anyone who donates their sperm is allowed to ask at any time about the following:

  • Number of children born as a result of their donation
  • Sex of the children
  • Year of birth of the children

Legally, no identifying information will be given. Any contact can only be initiated by the child.

However, it is possible for the donor and donor-conceived children to find out about each other in other ways. Websites such as Ancestry and 23 & Me, which offer DNA testing can put people in touch with potential relatives. As little as a 3% DNA match is enough to make a familial link. This means that donors and donor-conceived children, and/or their close genetic relatives may become identifiable to each other outside of the HFEA’s managed system of information provision. This could be through intentional searching using direct to consumer DNA testing and matching services, possibly in combination with social media sites, or inadvertently, when the donor or donor-conceived person is using these services or sites for another purpose, such as researching their family ancestry, ethnicity, or seeking genetic health information. Furthermore, neither the donor nor the donor-conceived person themselves necessarily need to be signed up to such a service for a genetic link, and possibly even their identity, to be inferred. If a donor or donor-conceived person’s close genetic family members have opted into genetic matching services, but not the donor or donor-conceived person themselves, then it is still possible (in combination with information from other sources) that other wider genetic relationships may be inferred, which could include the donor or a donor conceived person.

The Law – Number of families created

In the UK, a donor’s sperm may only be used to create a maximum of 10 families at UK HFEA licensed centres. This limit applies to the number of families, not the number of children. If you had a child using donor sperm, you would be able to try for additional children using the same donor, provided there was still sperm available. This would be called ‘sibling use’. In same sex couples, if both partners wish to have treatment with the same donor, this would be possible as any children born would be part of the same family unit.

Donors do also have the option of creating fewer families if they wish.

It is important to be aware that donor sperm, especially imported sperm from overseas donors, will have been used to create additional families in other countries, and the number of such families may not be strictly controlled. The donor may also have donated in the UK but outside of licensed centres. It is not possible for parents or donor-conceived people themselves to obtain information about donor conceived siblings born in either of these circumstances from the HFEA.

The donor may also have their own children or may have children of their own in the future, who will be genetic half siblings of any child born using the donor’s sperm.

The Law – Storage

In order to store donor sperm, or embryos created using donor sperm, the donor must give their consent in writing. Historically, donors have usually consented to up to 10 years storage. However, laws relating to storage were updated in July 2022, meaning that donors consenting after this date can consent to up to 55 years storage. The advantage of this is that it allows recipients of donor sperm wider choice and greater flexibility for pursuing treatment.

However, there are potentially important consequences of these new storage times for both donors and children born from donation. A donor’s sperm will be available for use over a considerably longer period than under the previous rules. Donor-conceived people should therefore be aware that donors may be deceased by the time they want to make contact and they may have half-siblings in a wide range of generations.

Donors are counselled extensively as part of the donation process and though exceptionally rare, it is important to be aware that a donor may withdraw their consent to the use or storage of their sperm, or embryos created with their sperm, at any time up until the point of insemination or embryo transfer.


Following an appointment with the doctors, a counselling appointment will be made. This appointment is normally carried out via a video link.

Counselling is an important part of treatment and it is essential to use it appropriately. Counselling is confidential and is not a test. It is a chance to express any concerns or worries regarding treatment or parenting in the future. It will allow any concerns to be discussed and worked through. It is also a good opportunity to discuss methods of informing relatives, friends and any potential children about donor conception, and how feelings and needs might change over time.

Treatment would not be stopped because you have concerns but you may be advised to take some additional time depending upon the specific concern.

Donor Clinics

We do not have our own donors at Gateshead Fertility. We work with 4 different sperm banks, who will deliver sperm from your chosen donor, direct to our unit.

All potential donors must complete an extensive medical questionnaire regarding their own health and that of their blood relatives, a physical examination and counselling prior to being approved to donate their sperm. Several blood tests are taken to screen for potential infections, including:

  • Blood group
  • HIV
  • Hepatitis B and C
  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
  • Syphilis
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhoea
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Chromosomal analysis

Other genetic screening may be performed dependent upon the donor’s ethnic background.

At each subsequent donation further questions are asked regarding the donor’s lifestyle and screening bloods are required to be rechecked every 6 months as a minimum.

Once donated, sperm samples are quarantined for 180 days and the donor rescreened prior to the release of samples.

If is important to understand that although donors are rigorously screened, all screening tests have limitations, and there is still a possibility that screening may not detect an infection in the donor, or that the donor is a carrier of a genetic condition or infection that is not screened for.

What to look for in a Donor

The donor choice is yours regarding hair, eye, skin colour etc. Couples may, understandably, want to match these up to their own characteristics. However, the more specific you are, the harder it can be to find a donor.

You will also need to check that the donor’s CMV (Cytomegalovirus) and Rhesus status are compatible with yours. The partner undergoing the treatment will have bloods taken to check these at their first appointment. Once the results are available, you will be informed and can therefore choose a donor.

CMV is a common virus that affects many adults. Most people who carry the virus never experience any symptoms and may not even know they carry it. For those that do show symptoms, it is generally a mild illness. However, should a woman become exposed to CMV for the first time during pregnancy, there can be risks to the baby.

If your Rhesus status is not compatible with that of the sperm donor, then it can cause issues during the delivery of your baby.

  • If your CMV status is positive – your donor’s CMV status can be either positive or negative.
  • If your CMV status is negative – your donor’s CMV status should be negative.
  • If your Rhesus status is positive – your donor’s Rhesus status can be either positive or negative.
  • If your Rhesus status is negative – your donor’s Rhesus status should be negative.

It may be best to also select a second choice donor just in case your first choice is no longer available; it may save time later.

Ordering Donor Sperm

At Gateshead Fertility, we work with 4 different sperm banks:

  1. Xytex (Based in the USA)                     
  2. Cryos International (Based in Demark)
  3. Semovo (Based in Manchester)           
  4. London Sperm Bank (Based in London)

Apart from Semovo, these companies have “online catalogues” so you can choose your donor. We advise you familiarise yourself with these websites and consider making a short list prior to ordering as the websites can be overwhelming.

It is essential when selecting the donor that you are happy with your selection. This decision could be with you for the rest of your life. Please do not rush to make it, just to have treatment sooner.

The ‘Ordering Donor Sperm’ patient information leaflet contains more detailed information about the donor sperm banks and our recommendations for the type and quality of sperm samples you should purchase. Please refer to this leaflet when ordering sperm. We suggest waiting until all of your blood results are back and you have had your appointment with the counsellor before placing an order for donor sperm. This is because once the sperm has been paid for, it cannot be returned or sold on. However, if you wish to place an order before these other stages are complete, you may do so at your own risk.

Consenting appointment

Once counselling is completed, you will receive an appointment to sign consent forms. As well as paper forms that you will sign during a clinic appointment, you will be asked to sign some forms electronically. You will be sent an SMS message with a link to access ‘Fertility Consents’, an online consenting platform. As well as consent forms, this platform contains videos regarding several aspects of treatment which will help to reinforce the information that you will have been given at various points of your fertility journey. ‘Fertility Consents’ can be accessed at your convenience, either from home or on the go.

Following this appointment, everything should be in place to start treatment.

Contact Us

Contact us

If at any time you feel you have further questions or are unsure of the next step, please feel free to contact a member of staff at the unit.

Enquiries and queries regarding donor sperm treatment [email protected]
General enquiries or queries [email protected]


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