Rule changes mean men who donate sperm can no longer hide their identities and are not paid. This has “decimated” the number of willing volunteers, according to Prof Charles Kingsland, founder of the Hewitt Fertility Centre in Liverpool Women’s Hospital.
Prof Kingsland said there is a growing need for sperm donors, but around another 200 men need to sign up in Liverpool for fertility experts to keep pace with demand. Prof Kingsland said: “The law changed so that a child has a right to know their genetic parent and donors cannot be paid for their service.
“Unsurprisingly, that decimated our sperm donation programme. It had a devastating impact. “Who is going to donate if you do not get paid and you are not allowed to remain anonymous?”
The law changed in 2006 to allow children fathered by sperm donors to track down their biological dad once they turn 18. The number of donors coming forward has fallen steadily ever since.
Prof Kingsland, a professor of reproductive medicine and a consultant gynaecologist, said: “The whole process has become much more difficult, but the demand has not gone away.
“We are now seeing more people importing sperm from overseas. The sperm donation capital is Denmark. “They have a whole industry over there because the laws covering anonymity are different and donors can be paid more money.”
The Hewitt Fertility Centre is now appealing for more donors to come forward. Prof Kingsland said: “We need healthy Liverpudlian males who may wish to consider this to help people who are in a position where they need sperm donation.
“We have the Hewitt Fertility Centre here in our city, a huge internationally renowned service, but we just can’t get the number of donors.”
He continued: “Liverpudlians are legendarily generous and if anywhere should suffer from a shortage of donors, it shouldn’t be here.”
The shortage of donors places massive mental strain on the families desperate to start a family. Prof Kingsland said: “Not being able to find a donor takes a big psychological toll. “The rules now mean waiting times are inevitably protracted and demand far outstrips supply.”
The primary recipients of donor sperm are heterosexual couples suffering from male infertility, lesbian couples and single women.
When straight couples opt to use a sperm donor, rigorous testing is carried out to find a donor with similar physical characteristics to the male partner.
Donors must also be rigorously screened for diseases, genetic defects and other health problems to ensure the children are born as healthy as possible.