Sperm donors are taking to Facebook group to donate their samples

Desperate couples turn to Facebook to find sperm donors as low stocks at fertility clinics amid pandemic fuel an online ‘black market’ – and some men are charging up to £200 a sample and demanding sex to donate ‘naturally’

  • More men are offering to be sperm donors for couples online due to Covid-19
  • Private donor groups on Facebook have seen a surge in activity during pandemic
  • Donors handed samples to couples through their car window at nearby hotels 

Desperate couples are turning to Facebook to find sperm donors after the Covid-19 pandemic left fertility clinic stocks depleted and delayed IVF treatment. 

One British donor claims he’s received dozens requests in the past year – and while he donates his samples for free, he says other men are charging fees of up to £200, which is illegal. 

Others request to donate their sperm ‘naturally’ – via sexual intercourse. 

International shortages of sperm donations due to lockdowns across the world is fuelling the online black market, which the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) warns is unregulated and carries significant risks such as sexually transmitted infections or genetically inherited disorders, reports The Sunday Times. 

HFEA said a fifth of NHS fertility services have had to stop collecting samples from donors due to the pandemic, and private clinics are recording a fall in the number of donors. 

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in the UK has warned desperate couples against using sperm donors sourced on social media as it’s not regulated (stock picture)

Some sperm donors are asking for a fee – which is illegal – for their samples and others request to donate their sperm ‘naturally’, meaning by having sex 

Donors have reported a surge in requests since the start of the pandemic, with some revealing they’ve donated as much as 10 samples since March 2020.  

Bradley White, 36, a father-of-six from Northampton, said he received up to 40 requests for his sperm in the last 12 months and has given his samples for free and provided STI checks, but claimed other men were charging hundreds of pounds for their samples.

‘The cost at donor banks is astronomical and with the pandemic a lot of it has stopped,’ he said, explaining couples and women were turning to Facebook to find other ways. 

White admitted travelling to Ipswich to donate two samples to a couple who put him up in a Premier Inn, and said he provided them with a recent STI check for their ‘peace of mind.’ 

‘It seems really shady or dodgy but what comes of it can be great,’ White said, adding that he was inspired to donate after hearing of a friend’s fertility troubles.  

 Pictured: several sperm donation groups that can be found on social media. Some request artificial insemination, while other say they are open to ‘natural only’

He said couples never asked for ID, but some wanted to know his height and see pictures of his children.  

Another donor who operates under the pseudonym Abdul said he registered with a London fertility clinic but decided to do it on social media because there was a lot of ‘red tape’ surrounding official donation proceedings.  

Oxford Fertility, a private clinic, said its number of available donors had fallen by 66 per cent since last March.

Its medical director, Tim Child, said the clinic is still treating patients using sperm donations, but there has been a slowdown in recruitment.   

Several charities have warned against these groups, with some saying donors could try to coerce women to have sex with them 

These delays have caused several same-sex couples or couples who are struggling to conceive to be placed on growing waiting lists, thus driving the surge on social media. 

Several groups have popped up online, including Get Pregnant For Free, Sperm Donor UK or matching website Co-parent Match. 

Some of the men are looking to donate ‘naturally’, meaning by having sex, in a belief that natural insemination is more effective than insemination via syringe – a claim which is not scientifically proven. 

Joyce Harper, professor of reproductive science at the Institute for Women’s Health, University College London, compared the sperm groups to dating sites and said they could have benefits for people who want to get to know their donors, rather than go through an anonymous process like in a sperm bank. 

However, she worries women using these site are putting themselves in a dangerous situation whereby men could try to coerce them into having sex upon meeting.   

Bodies also warned that sperm donation via Facebook is not regulated, meaning there are no routine STIs checks or checks for genetically inherited disorders, and that the donors could be pursued for child maintenance  

‘They have got to the place where they were going to exchange the sperm and the guy has turned around and said, “I haven’t done it yet. I think it would be better for you if we had sex”,’ she said as an example. 

WHAT ARE THE UK’S SPERM DONATION RULES?

Sperm donation is commonplace in the UK and used to help people start families when they can’t have children of their own naturally – if, for example, a male partner is infertile, if both parents are women, or if the mother is single.

Clinics in the UK are not allowed to pay men to donate sperm, except up to £35 to cover expenses such as travel. More may be offered if accommodation is necessary.

A law change in 2005 means men can no longer donate anonymously and must agree for any children born from their sperm to be able to find out who they are after they turn 18. 

However, a donor father will never be required to parent the child or pay child support. 

Sperm donors are usually aged between 18 and 41, although older donors may be allowed in some cases.

A donor will visit a fertility clinic once a week for between three and six months to make a complete donation – at each visit the donor will ejaculate into a cup and their sperm be frozen.

Donated sperm cannot be used to create any more than 10 families per donor, and the donor is allowed to withdraw his consent at any time until the sperm has been used.

Source: Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority 

Because the groups are not regulated by the HFEA, there is also no way of knowing whether the donor has been checked for STIs or genetically inherited disorders which could be passed onto a child.

There is also a risk that donors could still be seen as the child’s father in the eyes of the law and be pursued for child maintenance – something which the official channels guard against.

Matt Tomlinson, service director for Nottingham Sperm Bank, said the service had managed to keep active during the pandemic because they were a small structure, but admitted it has not been without its challenges. 

‘Covid has been a kick in the teeth. We quarantine samples to make sure they’re free from viruses and STIs, so you don’t get to use them until six months after they have been donated,’ he said, warning there’s likely to be a knock-on effect later this year. 

Yadava Jeve — a trustee of the Seed (Sperm, Egg and Embryo Donation) Trust and fertility consultant at Birmingham hospitals, said she has had patients who were ready to be inseminated wait since last March to get a donor. 

Meanwhile, Gwenda Burns, chief executive of The Fertility Network, a charity offering support to sperm donors and patients, said the delays were causing ’emotional distress,’ and that the charity has seen a 300 per cent surge in request for support after people were told they would have to wait two years to be inseminated. 

Burns called for the Facebook groups to be banned, arguing they are taking advantage of people in distressing situations that really wanted a family but saw no other options than to revert to social media.

She added that delays in fertility treatment for women of a certain age could have disastrous effects on their ability to birth a child.

Since 2005, children conceived through sperm donation can contact their biological fathers if they wish to do so from age 18. A donor is only allowed to donate 10 times. 

Donors cannot legally be paid, bar expenses, which usually amounts to £35. 

Imported sperm from overseas can cost from £600 per 0.5ml for completely anonymous donations, and can reach £1,300 for families to know more about the donor. 

More than 7,000 samples are imported from overseas each year and Brexit has created small delays in delivery. 

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