For many couples and individuals, using a sperm donor is the only way for them to conceive a child. This can be achieved through IUI (Intrauterine insemination) or IVF (in vitro fertilisation).

Why choose to use a sperm donor?

In the case of female same-sex couples and women without a partner, this is an obvious choice, if they want to have a baby that is biologically connected to them, rather than fostering or adopting.  

For heterosexual couples, the male partner may have known for many years that he has fertility issues, or they may have been trying for a baby for a long time, and failed to conceive and tests may have revealed male infertility as the cause. It may be that there is a genetic disorder in the male partner’s family and the couple prefer to use donor sperm, rather than risk passing it to their child or children. 

Why choose to use a sperm donor for IVF?
Using a sperm donor for IVF

Are IVF and IUI with donor sperm free on the NHS?

This is not a simple question, as many factors are taken into consideration when it comes to funding IVF and IUI treatments, with or without donor sperm. Although the National Institute of Care and Excellence (NICE) has guidelines around the funding of IUI and IVF, the answer to this question still varies considerably. Some of the factors include the age of the female partner, whether heterosexual or in a same sex relationship, how long you have been trying to conceive, whether you have previously self-funded, whether you or your partner already have children and the policy of your local NHS trust.  


Where can I find a sperm donor?

Sometimes people will decide to ask someone they know to be a sperm donor. If you choose to do this, it’s important to be aware of the legalities around parental responsibilities and rights, before going through the IUI or IVF process.

Most people, they will use donor sperm from a sperm bank, either directly through their fertility clinic or from another source. It is illegal in the UK for sperm donors to be anonymous and when the child is 18, they can ask for details of the donor and any donor siblings. 

What checks are done on sperm donors and donor sperm?

Choosing a licensed fertility clinic for your donor sperm means that the donor will have undergone rigorous checks. The medical tests include blood tests, urine tests, tests for sexually transmitted illnesses (STIs) and HIV and a physical examination. They will be questioned about their family medical history, to find out if there are any known, hereditary diseases present in the family. A full semen analysis will also be conducted to check sperm count, motility and morphology. 

What is donor insemination?

The woman’s menstrual cycle is monitored and the donor sperm is inserted into her vagina, as near to ovulation as possible. 

What is IVF with donor sperm?

With IVF, fertility drugs are given to the female partner to stimulate her ovaries to produce more eggs. The eggs are removed and the donor sperm is put with them for fertilisation to take place. If viable embryos are produced, then one or two of the embryos are placed directly into the woman’s vagina. 

The use of donor sperm with IUI and IVF has made it possible for many people to conceive a child, where previously, their only chance to have a family, would have been to foster or adopt.

Here at the IVF network, we understand that everyone’s situation is different.  Our aim is to provide you with information and support, to help you on your own fertility journey.  We provide this through our website, blog posts and expert talks on our dedicated channel.