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.
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 CoParents.co.uk, 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.