what's the role of a donor agency?
Donor agencies and some clinics will match potential donors and recipients.
You might be looking for an egg donor, sperm donor – or both.
If it’s important to you that your child shares similar physical characteristics to you or your partner, the agency or clinic will try to find a donor who resembles you as closely as possible, looks-wise, usually noting basic traits such as colouring, eye and hair colour and body type. Some overseas agencies and clinics will also share photos of the donor with you. (Do be aware though that even the closest physical match between recipient and donor cannot guarantee the outcome – think of how many children conceived naturally end up looking very different from their parents!). You might also be asked your preferences regarding your donor’s level of education and general disposition (e.g. extrovert/introvert etc). Be as honest and open as possible about your wishes but do also bear in mind that you may need to compromise somewhere so agree with your partner what’s really important to you. While your chosen agency or clinic will do their best to find the closest match, it’s not an exact science so it’s unlikely you’ll get a tick in every one of your boxes and you want to avoid rejecting a donor who could actually turn out to be great!
The agency or clinic may have a list of donors on their books to select from but if numbers are low or they’re unable to make a good match with existing donors, you might be put on a waiting list until they find a donor who fits the bill more closely.
Your agency or clinic will carefully screen all potential donors to check that they have no inherited conditions or illnesses which could negatively impact the quality of your donor’s sperm or eggs. They will also conduct thorough personal background checks on all donors, including whether your donor has had any previous children and if so, how many.
If you’re using an egg donor, you might be asked by the clinic whether you’re willing to do an ‘egg share’ cycle. This is where your donor keeps a proportion – usually half – of the eggs collected during the stimulation phase of an IVF cycle. The remaining eggs will be given to you for use in your own IVF cycle. Couples might opt for this approach if they want to keep costs down or if there’s a good existing donor match on a clinic or agency’s books but for a medical reason (usually male fertility issues but could also be something else that won’t affect the actual quality of their eggs) your egg donor needs to use IVF to get pregnant.
Once you’ve decided to embark on a donor treatment, your clinic or agency will usually offer you some counselling to allow you to explore any questions or concerns you might have about any aspect of the process.
who can donate?
In the UK, sperm donors must be 18-35 and pass various health checks which can take up to six months.
Egg donors in the UK must be 18-35 and pass various health checks which are determined by each clinic.
People are motivated to donate for different reasons. Some sperm and egg donors – often referred to as ‘altruistic’ donors – simply want to help others who are struggling to get pregnant naturally. Others, such as egg donors offering an egg share might need help themselves covering the cost of their own treatment, as mentioned above.
Whatever the motivation though, your clinic or agency will thoroughly vet all potential donors to ensure they meet all required criteria before being offered as a possible match.
what else do I need to know?
In the UK sperm donation is no longer anonymous and any child born as a result of a donation has the right to contact the donor when they reach 18.
Donors have no legal rights or responsibilities for any child born as a result of their donation.
Donors may claim up to £35 per donation.
Each donor’s sperm may only be used to create a maximum of ten families.
Many sperm banks hold a stock of donor sperm and have no waiting times.
In the UK it’s illegal to pay for egg donation but donors can receive up to £750 compensation.
Sometimes people donate to a family member or someone they know but it can also be done altruistically.
Donors have no legal rights or responsibilities for any child born as a result of their donation. They do however have to consent to any child born having the right to contact them when they turn 18.
Both donors and recipients should be offered counselling as part of the process.
For more information on egg and sperm donation, check out our Fertility 101s.