Interview: Fertility treatment with donor sperm in the UK
Are the Cryos sperm donors predominantly from the Nordic countries? How can I use a sperm donor from Cryos at my clinic? Is there a waiting list on the donor sperm? Where can you get advice on donor sperm? These are some of the questions that Natalie Silverman from the Ultimate Fertility Guide asks in this interview about the use of donor sperm for fertility treatment in the UK.
Watch the interview and hear the answers by National Business Manager for UK & Ireland at Cryos, Dorian Ransome:
For you who prefer to read the interview, we have gathered some of the key questions and answers here:
“How does Cryos work?
Cryos is the largest sperm bank in the world. We are based in Denmark. We deliver donor sperm to over 100 countries worldwide. In UK there is a major shortage of sperm from British donors, so this requires overseas donors.
Who are the sperm donors – are they predominantly from the Nordic countries?
The donors are predominately from Denmark but of course within Denmark you may have different races, or you may have people from other countries, so it is whoever is residents in Denmark.
We also have a sperm bank in the United States, so clients can wish to choose donors from the United States as well as from the Danish website. The donor sperm will then be transferred to Denmark and then into the UK.
We have a wide variety of phenotypes. The best way to explain it is that we have a lot of different looks, a lot of different colours and a lot of different specifications. As a client you have got a very broad choice when you are looking for a sperm donor and you want the donor to look pretty similar to you or your family.
Because we are the largest donor bank, we have the largest selection of donors, so you can then choose the closest current characteristics to yourself or what you require for your child.
How do you choose a donor?
If you need fertility treatment with donor sperm in the UK, whether you are in a heterosexual relationship, a single woman or a lesbian couple, there might be a waiting list and it might take a lot of time, because there is a lack of donor sperm in the UK. You can then look at a donor bank like Cryos.
So, you go to the website and you go to the Donor Search and you go through a process of selecting your donor. The most important thing in the United Kingdom is that you need to select somebody who is compatible with the regulations in the UK. In the UK the donors have to meet certain criteria to be able to be used in the UK. In the Donor Search you click on UK and UK Standard and then you have a selection of about 160 donors you can choose from, that you know meet the UK regulations.
You can also choose based on eye colour, height, weight and more. We have two kinds of profiles: Basic Profile and Extended Profile. In the Extended Profile you for example get childhood photos of the donor, a message from the donor, we do psychometric testing and so on. So, there is a lot more information in the Extended Profile, but there is also an associated cost with that as well, so it is a bit more expensive.
Can you order donor sperm online?
I think what is really nice is that you can log in to the website free of charge and get access to the donor bank and then you can filter the donors down to maybe six or seven donors. Then you can go through them in detail when you got time in the comfort of your own home or wherever you want to do it. Then you can go back to your clinic and say: “This is the sperm donor I would like”.
What is great about the UK is that the clinics will help you and they will tell you depending on what type of treatment you may need a different motility. It sounds a bit complicated, but in the Donor Search it would say MOT and all that means is that if you for example choose MOT20 you will have 20 million motile sperm cells per millilitre. The clinic will help you as to what motility you need (MOT5, MOT10, MOT20), but you can choose the donor you would like.
Should I always choose the best quality sperm?
It depends on the treatment. If you are having something called ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) which is where they inject one sperm into the egg, you do not need the best quality sperm (the highest MOT). The clinic will select the right motility for the treatment, so if you are having ICSI, a MOT5 is wonderful and it is a lot less expensive. If you are having IVF, you should use MOT20.
Why use donor sperm for ICSI?
This is a historical thing because the donor sperm in the UK was of so poor quality that they had to use ICSI and because they kept doing it, they continue to do it. Some of the clinics have fantastic results with ICSI, so if you need donor sperm and they are getting great results with ICSI, they are going to use ICSI.
Where can you get advice on donor sperm?
At Cryos we have a Facebook page, a Facebook Group, a blog and a website. For me, the best is that we have a group of people in the head office in Denmark dealing with the UK, so for me, what I would do is, I would e-mail Cryos in Denmark or call them on the phone because the Customer Service there is just fantastic. They do orders every day and they know exactly how it works and they can really help.
How do I know that my clinic is working with Cryos or how can I use a sperm donor from Cryos at my clinic?
There are two ways of doing this…
You can actually go to the clinic and they may suggest a sperm bank, but they may suggest a sperm bank that they are connected to, or they may even say that they have sperm if you are okay waiting 2 or 3 months. However, there is absolutely no issue with you going and researching donors online and going back to your clinic with the donor that you have selected online, if the donor meets the UK standards.
On the other hand, you can phone Cryos and ask which clinics we are working with. We work with 90-95% of the clinics in the UK.
If you have not found a clinic yet, we can also suggest a clinic for you that uses Cryos if you have found a donor you really like.
How do I know that the donor is healthy?
All the donors will be tested for diseases and the donors will also be tested for the most frequent genetic conditions as well. What is great about using a Danish bank like Cryos is that we will test the donors for 42 of the most common genetic conditions.
All humans have got some type of recessive condition, however there are 42 of them which have the most effect on your development and your life, and the donors that have been tested positive will not be donors at Cryos.
We also do psychometric testing and emotional intelligence testing so we make sure that the sperm providers have high scores. If we go past that and talk more about being healthy, we do not have donors that smokes a lot or have a high alcohol intake. Of course, these things are based on trust to a certain extent, but we try to get the best donors for the donor base.
What else can I get access to about the donors?
We are going to have adult pictures of the donors. We already have baby pictures of the donors, but we are extending that to adult pictures because a baby looks like a baby, but it does not really reflect how you are going to look when you get older.
In the personal message from the donor you also get a feel of the donor, so we try to give you the fullest picture we can give you of the donor. We are adding to that all the time.
Is there a waiting list on the donor sperm?
No. As long as you are in communication with the clinic the donor sperm can be there within four or five days. There are no issues on delivery, there are no issues on waiting lists.
Can you use the same donor more than once?
Yes, you can. It is called a reservation. If you find a donor that matches the criteria you want and you get pregnant, maybe two, three or maybe five or ten years later you may want a sibling so what we do is we give you an opportunity to reserve the sperm, but in the UK you are not only reserving the sperm you are also reserving a pregnancy.
Why do I have to reserve a pregnancy?
Say for example, we have a donor in Denmark and that donor has 3 pregnancies with women in the UK… The donor can only have a maximum of 10 families, not 10 children, but 10 families within the UK. That is what the regulation is in the UK. So, what we do is, as soon as you order the donor sperm, we count that as a pregnancy. So even though you are not pregnant at that time you have a pregnancy slot, and we can only have 10 pregnancy slots per donor in the UK. You can reserve maybe 2 or 3 of those slots if you wish, which means that they cannot be taken from you. That can give you some peace of mind so you know that if you want a sibling, the sperm is there.”