Minuscule margin of men qualify to become sperm donors

The world’s largest sperm donor bank have been found to accept less than four in 100 men as sperm donors, a Sheffield University study has found.

An international team of researchers, lead by the University of Sheffield, examined the data of over 11,700 men who applied to be a sperm donor at Cryos international – the world’s largest sperm bank.  

row of four men sitting on mountain trail

Published in the online journal Human Reproduction, findings show over half of the men who applied (54.91%), withdrew from the programme before having samples released for use.

Additionally, experts found almost a fifth of applicants were rejected because of a health reasons including, being a carrier for a genetic disease or had an infectious disease which could not be treated.

Lead author of the study, Allan Pacey, Professor of Andrology and Head of the Department of Oncology and Metabolism at the University of Sheffield, said: ‘To our knowledge this is the largest study of sperm donor applicants outside China.

‘The UK relies so heavily on imported sperm from the USA and Denmark, [so] it is important for us to understand the recruitment process there and reassure ourselves that they are safe as well as see if there is anything we can do to improve them.’

Reported by the Human fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the number of donor-conceived children born in the UK has more than tripled. They now account for one in 170 of all births.

However, with few males being accepted into becoming a sperm donor, the study suggests the UK could face difficulties in receiving future supply.

The study lays emphasis on looking into identification issues sperm donors face. Since 2006 it has been illegal in the UK to use sperm donors who are unwilling to be identified to any people born from their donations.

Experts discovered more than four in 10 donor candidates initially agreed to be identified and it was more common for applicants in Denmark to waive their anonymity than in the US.

Surprisingly however, the team discovered that men who originally wanted to remain anonymous, agreed to become identifiable as the process continued. 

Professor Pacey said: ‘The study with Cryos highlights how hard it is to become a sperm donor. It’s not like blood donation where once it’s done you can have a cup of tea and go home.

‘Sperm donation is a regular commitment with lots of screening and regular testing as well as life-long implications for the donor if any children are born from their sample.

‘What’s particularly fascinating is that more donors, who initially wanted to remain anonymous, were willing to be identifiable as the screening and donation process continued.

‘This is particularly good news for patients in the UK undergoing fertility treatment, as it is a legal requirement for sperm donors to be identifiable to any children born from their donations.’

Photo by Matheus Ferrero


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