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Should I use a private sperm donor?

Should I Use A Private Sperm Donor

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Are you considering using a private sperm donor? More and more couples and single women are creating families using donor sperm. Whether you’re in a same-sex couple, are facing infertility or are simply a woman who wants to embark on motherhood without a partner, donor sperm can definitely help you. But is using a private sperm donor the right route for you? We’ve laid out all the info that we could think of here so you can decide and consider for yourself.

Should I use a private sperm donor?


One of the big benefits of using a private – or known donor, is that you know their identity! This is perfect for anyone who wants the donor to be involved in their child’s life. Another benefit of private sperm donation is that you can sometimes speed the process up. In some countries, there is a real shortage of donor sperm at the moment, which means the waitlist can be long – especially if you are looking for particular genetic markers or phenotypes.


When you get donor sperm from a clinic, it comes with a lot of guarantees. It would have been checked for quality, tested for STIs and there’s also a limit on how many children each donor can conceive and for some it is a positive thing to have limited information about the donor.

With private sperm donors, it’s kind of the Wild West of the fertility space – there is no one regulating the samples or the behaviour of the donor. A donor can pull out at the last minute or mislead you about their background or health status. It can also lead to conflict once the child is born. You may have agreed to a certain set-up or level of involvement, but the donor could change their mind about this once the baby is born. You can draw up and sign an agreement beforehand, but this is rarely legally binding so a huge amount of trust between you and the donor is required. 

How to find a private sperm donor 

Many people choosing to go down the private sperm donor route will already have someone in mind. It’s often a friend or family member who they love and respect (and whose DNA they would love to borrow!) This is the most common reason for going down the private donor route, and it opens doors for a beautiful blended family down the line. 

Whilst you may have someone in mind, it’s important to remember that they could say no – so have a list of backups in case this happens. It’s probably worth sensing out where the person stands on the general idea before you make your big proposal. Try having conversations with them about your desire to start a family and your interest in using a sperm donor you know – they might even offer before you get a chance to ask! Another option is to find a private sperm donor through an introductory website such as, PollenTree or Sperm Donor Hub. These websites are great for connecting intended parents with generous people who are keen to help. Some couples have had success at finding private sperm donors over social media, so this could be worth considering. However, we would always recommend working with a third party who can act as a mediator. 

How to conceive with privately donated sperm 

Once you have secured a sperm donor, you have two options of how to conceive (or at least try to) once you’ve got your hands on the sample – clinic, or at home. 

Using a private donor at a fertility clinic

The HFEA strongly recommends having your treatment at a fertility clinic, rather than going down the route of private arrangement and there are a few reasons for this. Firstly, every UK clinic is regulated by HFEA, so you know you are in safe hands. They will test the sperm for infections like HIV and going down this route also protects you legally. If you conceive through a clinic the donor will have no legal rights over your child and if you have a partner they will automatically be the legal parent (if you’re married) or can easily become one as long as you sign papers beforehand. 

It’s best to discuss your plan with your fertility clinic ahead of time – rather than just turning up at their office with a cup full of semen! But once you’ve engaged a clinic they will be able to help you decide what the best route of conception – if you conceive at home you will have to have artificial insemination (ICI) but at a clinic, you could have IVF, ICSI or IUI – which could improve your chances of conceiving.  

Using a private donor at home 

Of course, there is always the option of insemination at home – this is ICI. This can be a tempting route for many would-be parents – it’s cheap, comfortable and (if you’re going through this process with a friend or family member) can be a real bonding moment. 

But – there are some things to consider. Firstly there is your health and safety. If you are embarking on this journey with a friend or family member, you should (hopefully) be able to trust them to take the necessary tests to protect you and your partner and treat you with respect during the process. However, if you are meeting with a stranger off the internet, there are obvious risks involved. Some couples have met men who tried to convince them that ‘natural insemination’ aka having sex, would work better than IUI – others have had STIs and faked test results. 

And then there’s the legal side of things. If you conceive through a private arrangement – and not at a clinic – the donor will technically be seen as the legal parent to any children you have – alongside the woman who gave birth. You will then have to go through the process to change the legal father/co-parent to your partner (if you have one) or remove the donor’s legal rights and responsibilities after the baby is born. As you can see  – it can get pretty complicated! The HFEA has some great advice on this – but it is a lot simpler if you go through a clinic. You also have a high chance of success going through a clinic – home insemination is 50% less likely to result in pregnancy! 

As with every fertility journey, only you can make the right decision for yourself and your family. There are benefits and challenges of using a private donor over an anonymous donor, but hopefully, you feel a bit more empowered with the information you need to make the choice that suits you.  

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Wearing tight pants and underwear

Studies show that men who wear looser underwear have higher sperm concentration and total sperm count compared to men who wear tighter underwear. So, lose the tight clothes and wear something loose to give your testicles some air.

CONCLUSION: learn more about how heat can affect sperm quality here.


Besides higher mortality rate and various diseases, stress is associated with low sperm quality. Stress is known to be associated with lower testosterone levels and oxidative stress with both playing an essential role in producing and maintaining healthy sperm cells.

CONCLUSION: If you feel stressed, we recommend you get some help so you can have a balanced mental health. For a stress management guide, download the ExSeed app for free and start your personalized action plan today.

Physical activity

Scientific studies show that men who are physically active have better semen parameters than men who are inactive. Fertility specialists also state that regular physical activity has beneficial impact on sperm fertility parameters and such a lifestyle can enhance the fertility status of men.

Prioritizing exercise can help improve your overall health and result in healthy, fast swimming sperm cells that have good chances of fertilizing an egg.

CONCLUSION: Try incorporating exercise in your weekly schedule to you ensure exercising at least twice weekly. We recommend a combination of cardio training and strength exercise. Read more about exercise and male fertility on our blog.


Fast Food
Processed foods damage the health of sperm-producing cells and cause oxidative stress, which lead to poorer sperm quality. Heavy consumption of junk food (every week) can increase the likelihood of infertility since men who consume vast amounts of unhealthy food are at risk of having poor sperm quality. Besides harming your fertility, junk food enlarges your waistline, harms your cardiovascular system, kidneys, and more.

Eating more fruit and vegetables can increase your sperm concentration and motility. It’s important that you consume a healthy diet filled with antioxidants and that you eat vegetables every day. Foods such as apricots and red bell peppers are high in vitamin A, which improves male fertility by nurturing healthier sperm. Men who are deficient in this vitamin tend to have slow and sluggish sperm.

Sugary snacks/beverages: several times a week Excessive consumption of high sugar items can lead to oxidative stress, which negatively impacts testosterone levels and sperm motility. Sugary snacks and beverages are also highly associated with obesity and low fertility.
CONCLUSION: To boost sperm quality, stay away from fast food, processed food, and sugary snacks or beverages. You need to implement a healthy prudent diet filled with necessary superfoods needed for good sperm production. Check out our guide to Male Fertility Superfoods. For personalized guidance and support on how you can start improving your sperm health, check out the Bootcamp.


Direct heat can inhibit optimal sperm production and cause Sperm DNA damage. Sperm cells like environments that are a couple of degrees lower than body temperature. Avoid overheating from warm blankets, seat warmers, heat from your laptop, hot showers, and saunas.

Cigarette smoking

The exposure to tobacco smoke has significant negative effects on semen quality. The damage of cigarettes and nicotine of course depends on how many cigarettes you smoke per day and for how long, but even low usage (up to 10 cigarettes / day) can inhibit healthy sperm production.  

CONCLUSION: Stay as far away from cigarette smoking as possible if you care about your general health and your fertility. Read more here.

Cell phone

When you have your cell phone in your front pocket, your testicles are exposed to electromagnetic radiation, which studies have shown to damage the sperm cells. Put your phone in the back pocket of your pants or in your jacket pocket.


There is a clear association between obesity and reduced sperm quality. At least part of the reason for this is that obese men may have abnormal reproductive hormonal profiles, which can impair sperm production and lead to infertility. 

A BMI higher than 30 can lead to several processes in the body (overheating, increase in oxidative stress in the testes, sperm DNA damage, erectile dysfunction) that can have a negative impact on male fertility. This can result in problems when trying to conceive.  

CONCLUSION: BMI is one of the risk factors that influence semen quality and, for example, sperm motility.  


A beer or glass of wine now and then do not really harm sperm quality. But excess alcohol drinking (more than 20 units per week) can reduce the production of normally formed sperm needed for a successful pregnancy.

CONCLUSION: If you want to stay safe, stay under 14 units of alcohol per week. For more information on how alcohol can affect male fertility, take a look at our blog: “Alcohol and Sperm Quality”.


Studies show that women younger than 35 and men younger than 40 have a better chance of getting pregnant. Men can produce sperm cells almost through their entire life, but the sperm cell DNA is more fragile and prone to damage after the age of 40.

As men age, their testes tend to get smaller and softer resulting in a decline in sperm quality and production. These changes are partly because of an age-related decrease in testosterone level, which plays a very important role in sperm

production. Higher male age (>40 years) is not only associated with a decline in sperm production but also with increased sperm DNA fragmentation and worsened morphology (shape) and motility (movement). These negative effects make the sperm cells less qualified for egg fertilization.

CONCLUSION: with an age under 40, you shouldn’t have to worry much about age as a factor in itself. However, studies have shown a slow decline after the age of 30-35 years

and if you are above 40 years of age, your sperm quality can be affected due to increased sperm DNA damage resulting in a decrease of sperm motility and concentration. Remember that you cannot evaluate the quality of a sperm sample by just looking at it – this requires a sperm analysis.