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Hum Reprod. 2013 Mar;28(3):676-82. doi: 10.1093/humrep/des450. Epub 2013 Jan 12.

Sperm donor recruitment, attitudes and provider practices--5 years after the removal of donor anonymity.

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  • 1King's College Assisted Conception Unit, King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, 1st Floor, Mapother House, Denmark Hill, SE5 9RS London, UK.



Has the change in donor anonymity legislation in UK affected the recruitment of men wanting to be sperm donors and also affected the attitudes of the practitioners who provide donor sperm treatment?


We have performed fewer IUI and IVF treatments using donor sperm following the change in legislation in April 2005 than before. However, we have seen an overall increase in men wanting to donate their sperm, including a small increase in men from ethnic minorities.


Sweden, which removed donor anonymity in 1985, had an initial drop in men wanting to donate and then 10 years later started to have an increase. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and other studies in the UK have shown an overall downward trend, but have not been able to compare large time scales either side of the change in legislation.


This was a retrospective descriptive study that looked at all men who approached the clinic between the years 2000 and 2010, i.e. 5 years either side of the change in legislation (April 2005). Overall, we had 24 men wanting to be donors prior to the rule change and 65 men after the rule change. We also investigated the total number of all treatments with donor sperm, and this included a total of 1004 donor sperm treatments prior to the change in legislation and 403 donor sperm treatments after the change in legislation.


The study was set in an NHS IVF clinic in South East London. We compared the indicators of service provision, provider practices and donor attitudes, in the period between April 2000 and March 2005 (Group A) with those between April 2005 and March 2010 (Group B), i.e. 5 years either side of the change in legislation.


There were 875 IUI treatments and 129 IVF or ICSI treatments in Group A and 325 IUI and 78 IVF/ICSI treatments in Group B with the use of donor sperm, of which, 11.9% (119 out of 1004) in Group A and 39.5% (159 out of 403) in Group B were with donor sperm recruited by our unit. The clinical pregnancy rate per cycle of treatment in Group A was (86 out of 875) 9.8% for IUI and (27 out of 129) 20.9% for IVF/ICSI and in Group B (32/325) 9.8% and (28 out of 78) 35.9%, respectively. There was a sharp yearly fall in donor sperm treatments from 2004. Twenty-four men were screened in Group A, of which 18 (75.0%) were recruited for long-term storage and 12 (50%) were registered as donors with the HFEA when the sperm was used, whereas in Group B, 65 men were screened, 53 (82.0%) were recruited and 24 (36.92%) were registered as donors. Six (24.0%) men in Group A failed in screening because of poor semen analysis when compared with 9 (13.8%) men in Group B. The majority of post-recruitment dropouts were because of loss of follow-up or withdrawal of consent. More donors in Group A were white (92.0 versus 77.0%) and born in UK (92.0 versus 68.0%) when compared with those in Group B. Donors in Group B were more likely to be single (46.0 versus 4.0%) and to have informed their relevant partner of donation (71.0 versus 54.0%) when compared with those in Group A. 83.0% of donors in Group A were heterosexual when compared with 69.0% in Group B. The primary reason for donating in both groups of potential donors was 'wanting to help' (46.0% 'altruistic donors' in Group A versus 72.0% in Group B). Fewer donors in Group B (37%) had specific restrictions about the use of their sperm when compared with 46.0% in Group A.


As this was a retrospective study, there is a chance for the introduction of bias.


We have shown that despite no active in-house recruitment procedures, we are managing to recruit more potential sperm donors after the change in UK legislation, and we are able to meet the demand for treatments with in-house recruited donor sperm that is a reassuring finding for donor sperm treatment services in the wider UK.


No external funds were sought for this work. None of the authors have any competing interests to declare.

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