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“We are really in a terrible position in the U.K. with regard to the provision of sperm donor assisted conception,” says Allan Pacey. “Latest figures show that in 2007 the lowest number of patients ever (1,779) received treatment with donor sperm. Whilst this can in part be attributed to patients seeking other options, it is almost certainly as a consequence of a serious shortfall in the number of sperm donors available in U.K. clinics.”

U. SHEFFIELD (UK)—Sperm donation levels in the U.K. are so low that women are resorting to DIY insemination kits and sourcing sperm from abroad in order to have a baby.

According to a study led by Allan Pacey from the Department of Human Metabolism at the University of Sheffield, the decline is due in part to a change in the law in 2006 which removed donor’s anonymity. Individuals conceived through donor insemination now have the right to know who their genetic father is when they reach 18 years of age.

The findings, published in the Obstetrician and Gynaecologist Journal, also found that 85 percent of applicants who offer to donate are rejected because of the quality of their sperm.

Data from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) show a steady decline in the number of patients in Britain receiving treatment with donor sperm, falling from almost 9,000 in 1992 to just over 2,000 in 2007.

Pacey believes the fall is partly due to patients opting for other treatments such as intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection, which involves injecting a single sperm directly into an egg, but largely a consequence of a shortage in sperm donation.

“We are really in a terrible position in the U.K. with regard to the provision of sperm donor assisted conception,” he says. “Latest figures show that in 2007 the lowest number of patients ever (1,779) received treatment with donor sperm. Whilst this can in part be attributed to patients seeking other options, it is almost certainly as a consequence of a serious shortfall in the number of sperm donors available in U.K. clinics.

“Anecdotal evidence has shown that women patients are travelling to clinics overseas to seek treatment. There have also been reports of women purchasing fresh sperm online for DIY insemination.”

Jason Waugh, editor-in-chief of Obstetrician and Gynaecologist Journal, says: “Regulation is important to ensure that standards are met so that mothers can give birth to healthy babies. However, there is also the issue of laws which are prohibitive. It is important for fertility services to operate in an open and transparent manner but it is equally important to address this crisis in donations otherwise women who are desperate to have a child will be driven to seek sperm from sources that may be unregulated and questionable.”

University of Sheffield news: www.shef.ac.uk/mediacentre/