A Liverpool fertility clinic has been forced to import sperm from Manchester and London after a significant fall in local donations.
The Hewitt Fertility Centre is struggling to meet demand for sperm, meaning stocks are being bought in from other clinics.
'It's not just our stocks that are low, it is all stocks, because the law concerning donors changed some years ago. Now donors only get reasonable expenses as opposed to getting paid and they can no longer remain anonymous', said Professor Charles Kingsland, lead consultant at the Hewitt Fertility Centre.
'Liverpool used to have one of the biggest sperm banks. Since 2006, when the law changed, there was a quick decline. Now couples face a wait of over a year before a donor becomes available', Professor Kingsland added.
This problem stretches back to the founding of a sperm donor database by the British government in 2000, according to the Guardian, after which sperm donations began to decline. This was then intensified by further law changes in 2005, meaning that sperm and egg donors no longer received payment for their donation, but instead claimed travel expenses. Donors also no longer have the right to anonymity, meaning donor-conceived children can find out the identity of their biological parents.
On average, 4,000 people in the UK use donor insemination every
year, with 500 donors needed to enable this. However, in the year following the
removal of donor anonymity, the number of suitable sperm donors stood at 307 (reported in BioNews 515).
The longer wait for a sperm donor in recent years has led to some people using sperm from clinics abroad, such as in Denmark, where donors still have the right to anonymity. People receiving donor insemination in Britain are required to choose a non-anonymous donor, but if they travel abroad for the treatment, they can select sperm from an anonymous donor.
The Hewitt Fertility Clinic is keen to boost sperm donation and has started a campaign to encourage more men to donate. However, they stress that donors should be fully informed about the implications, including the possibility that any resulting children may wish to contact them in the future.
'We're looking for donors who have the maturity to understand the implications of donating - not only for the recipients of their sperm, but for the donor himself', Professor Kingsland told the Liverpool Echo.