An increasing number of women are engaging with unknown men on unofficial sperm donation websites and forums, a TV programme tonight (Monday) reveals.
An investigation by BBC Inside Out (North East & Cumbria) has found that for some women who want children but can’t afford regulated treatments, their only option is an online world where donors offer services for free.
The programme is shown tonight on BBC One in Yorkshire at 7.30pm, and is also available on BBC iPlayer.
Women are engaging with unknown men who may use pseudonyms, and are offering AI, artificial insemination, or NI, natural insemination. Some would-be donors tell women NI is a better way to get pregnant.
One woman – identified in the programme as ‘Sarah’ – who has turned to these unregulated sites explains why: “I’m single and not really wanting to find a man and go through the traditional route.”
But when she met a potential sperm donor online, he wasn’t what he seemed. She explains: “We met in July, for about two and a bit months it was going on… Ultimately it turned out he was married. And he’s actually had a vasectomy, so was no way viable at all.
“It made me feel like I couldn’t trust people on the site. I felt like it actually should be policed by a proper organisation not just some random person out there.”
‘Sarah’ says the donor was reported to the site’s administrator and he’s since been removed.
Inside Out met one sperm donor in the North East who says he has had six successes from his donations and another child on the way, all through artificial insemination. He says his motives are entirely altruistic.
“In the beginning it was a bit selfish. I didn’t have kids of my own, kind of like, leaving my legacy. But when I started to see children born, I got the first few photos, I realised how happy I was making people.”
Unlike these unregulated website, registered clinics have a strict screening process for sperm donors and they only recruit men with a higher than average sperm count.
Alison Lamont from Newcastle Fertility Centre said: “We check for STIs, we check for infectious diseases, and we also check the complete medical history. It is pretty hard finding donors. We do get a lot of people enquire but maybe only five per cent of them actually have the right amount of sperm in their sample. We are having to import from Europe and sometimes further afield just to keep up with the demand here.”
Fertility expert Doctor Larisa Corda has told Inside Out that the growing trend in unregulated sperm donation websites is alarming.
“I think women are putting themselves in an incredibly vulnerable position – medically speaking – and secondly the potential for abuse.
“In the ideal world I’d love to see them shut down, because I think women’s safety and welfare has to be paramount here.”