No anonymity means fewer UK sperm donors

Xavier Symons
5 Sep 2015
Reproduced with Permission

The UK's new national sperm bank - established after the country changed its laws on donor anonymity - has been struggling to find volunteers, with just 9 men registered as donors after one year.

The sperm bank, based in Birmingham and funded by a one off £77,000 award from the Department of Health, was set up in 2014 by the National Gamete Donation Trust and Birmingham Women's hospital to help counter a serious shortage of sperm donors in the UK.

The chief executive of the sperm bank, Laura Witjens, says the shortage is the result of two factors: the difficulty of finding suitable donors, and the need for a nationwide advertising campaign.

"If 100 guys enquire, 10 will come through for screenings and maybe one becomes a donor. It takes hundreds of guys," Witjens said.

Other sperm bank executives see the removal of anonymity from the legislation as the chief cause of the decrease in donation. "[the changes] have decimated our sperm donation programme…It had a devastating impact", said Prof Charles Kingsland , founder of the Hewitt Fertility Centre in Liverpool Women's Hospital. Kingsland's sperm bank needs another 200 donors to keep up with demand.

Witjens says she is planning a massive 'recruitment' campaign, drawing upon the successful sperm donor advertising campaigns in Demark.

"If I advertised saying 'Men, prove your worth, show me how good you are', then I would get hundreds of donors," she told The Guaridan. "That's the way the Danish do it. They proudly say, this is the Viking invasion, exports from Denmark are beer, lego and sperm. It's a source of pride."

She is reluctant, however, to overemphasise male vanity, as this may upset future donor conceived children: "Does that make it more complicated? Hell yes."

A November advertisement for the sperm bank is planned, which asks men to consider giving an "alternative Christmas gift".