How to choose a sperm donor

How to choose a sperm donor? The safest option is to go through a fertility clinic. You will be carefully matched with someone who wants to be a donor for the right reasons, and both partners in a couple will be the baby’s legal parents.

There are many options for sourcing and choosing the donor and these are discussed in more detail in the free webinar ‘Safe & Successful – options for lesbians wanting a baby’ which is available to watch on demand.

Below are some of the choices that you have at Bourn Hall:

How to choose a sperm donor

As a patient at Bourn Hall you have the option to use our sperm bank, which is regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, or to use a known donor and we can perform all the necessary checks. This will ensure that you are protected from health issues and are the legal parent (s) of the baby.

Screening is really important. All donors are asked about their medical and family history and we perform a medical examination and blood tests. All sperm samples are rigorously screened and then frozen and quarantined for six months, after which the donor is invited back to repeat the tests.

Help is given for matching the donor with you to make this process enjoyable and exciting.

Non-identifying information about the donors is provided to enable a selection and the sperm donor writes a short goodwill message to share with the child, who is able to request identifying information once they are 18 years old.

Sometimes this personal message left by a potential donor can really help a couple’s decision.

Hannah and Jemma have two daughters after successful treatment with us they said. “The sperm donor we chose had written a really warm message and that was one of the reasons we shortlisted and ultimately picked him,” says Hannah.

Gemma and Katie 2021

Katy and Gemma came to Bourn Hall after unsuccessful treatment at a London clinic and found choosing the sperm donor at Bourn Hall more straightforward. “At our previous clinic we had been presented with a massive catalogue of potential sperm donors, which was quite overwhelming – but Bourn Hall’s method was less stressful,” says Katy. “We were given a form to fill out detailing the characteristics we were looking for and then Bourn Hall looked at their database of sperm donors and gave us a shortlist of five, which made it easier for us.

“They said that if we didn’t choose any of those they would give us another five, but we knew instantly which one we wanted and said ‘yes that’s the one!’”

The couple’s treatment worked first time and they now have a daughter.

Sourcing sperm from another sperm bank

We also collaborate with a network of high-quality sperm banks around the world, which can give access to a greater diversity of donors and we will again help to choose a sperm donor.

Melissa and Zoe had treatment with us using sperm from an approved sperm bank in the United States.

“The sperm donor profile you see is a bit like a Facebook profile,” says Melissa. “We chose our donor based on trying to match the physical characteristics with Zoe – height, hair colour, eye colour – so that we could potentially have some similarities.”

Once the couple had made their decision the sperm bank sent vials of frozen sperm to Bourn Hall and Melissa was prescribed the ovulation induction medication clomid to stimulate her egg production and start her treatment.

The couple now have two children, Logan and Harley, after successful treatment with us.

Help to choose a sperm donorMelissa and Zoe with Harley and Logan
Melissa and Zoe with Harley and Logan
Emily and Debbie with Maisie and Florence
Emily and Debbie with Maisie and Florence

Moving sperm from another clinic

If a couple has had treatment at another fertility clinic and wishes to move their treatment to us, we can treat them using frozen sperm they have stored with their previous clinic if they choose to.

Emily and Debbie came to Bourn Hall having already had fertility treatment at a clinic in London. “After doing online research we went to a clinic in London and had two rounds of fertility treatment there but it didn’t work, and we found the clinic very impersonal so I wasn’t keen to go back,” says Emily.

The couple had sourced their own sperm from a company in Denmark and still had one frozen vial left in storage with the London clinic. “The Danish company we bought the sperm from adheres to UK standards and laws but the big difference between getting sperm from Denmark and from a UK clinic was that we were allowed to see early childhood photographs and hear his voice so that we felt as though we got to know him more as a person a bit more. Being able to see baby pictures of potential donors really helped us to find someone with similar features to Debbie,” says Emily.

The frozen sperm was transferred from their previous clinic to Bourn Hall for storage in our sperm bank and the couple’s treatment was successful first time – they are now mums to Maisie and Florence.

Using a known donor

As well as receiving sperm from an anonymous donor there is also the option of using sperm from a known donor for treatment – we can provide advice on this.

The potential donor is assessed using the same criteria applied to all donors. If they pass the necessary checks, they will be able to proceed with sperm storage. The sperm can be released for use after a quarantine period and passing the health checks.

Implications counselling

Before embarking on donor conceived treatment with us the legal implications of using donor sperm are discussed and free implications counselling is also offered.

Before Katie and Ali embarked on treatment they were offered implications counselling, which Katie says they found incredibly useful.

“It was really nice to speak to someone with an external perspective who has spoken to many couples in our position. It also forced us to examine possible scenarios and what might happen in the future if any resulting child, when they reach 18 years of age, decided to find out the identity of their sperm donor.”

Using a clinic ensures legal parenthood

By using a licensed UK clinic you can be assured that you will have legal parenthood of resulting children.

Mel and Laura had initially gone down a route explored by many same-sex female couples: looking for a sperm donor on the internet. “We made contact with and met a man through a website advertising sperm donors,” says Melanie, “but in hindsight I wouldn’t recommend that option; it is quite risky and quite scary.

“I would strongly recommend to other lesbian couples the safety aspect of using a regulated clinic. The sperm donor has no legal rights over a child born through a UK fertility clinic. You have that security that no one is going to knock on your door and say ‘that child is mine and I am going to fight you for it.”

Mel and Laura having fun with their twins
Mel and Laura having fun with their twins

Hannah and Jemma avoided going down the unregulated route from the outset.

“The only route we were prepared to consider was going through a fertility clinic,” says Hannah. “We wanted everything above board and legal.

“We wanted both of our names on any birth certificates and to protect any children we had so that as they got older they could ask us any questions they wanted and we could give them an honest answer.”

More information

Help to choose a sperm donor is one of the topics discussed in the free webinar: ‘Safe & Successful – options for lesbian couples who want a baby’

IUI or IVF? – the benefits of using a regulated sperm bank

Read more about the above stories:

Find out more about using donated sperm at Bourn Hall

Related articles