Making a bit extra by donating sperm or eggs sounds rather desperate, but both are perfectly legal in the UK and help otherwise childless couples start a longed-for family. Although there are some pitfalls, altruistic donations earn quick money – especially if you’re a man.
Discuss your options at the local fertility clinic or hospital and contact the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) for a list of local approved centres.
Sperm donors should be aged between 18 and 41, however due to less substantial evidence on age limits for sperm donors, centres can assess the possible effect of a donor’s age on a case-by-case basis.
Donors’ sexuality is not an issue, neither is their intelligence. The only necessities are that you should not have any history of sexually-transmitted infection, or a personal or family history of inheritable disorders. You must undergo medical screening, including an HIV test.
The process for men is pretty straightforward, although many are turned away because the quality of their sperm is not high enough.
Initially the donor will be asked by the clinic to produce a semen sample. This will be examined in the laboratory. Donors are advised to abstain from sexual activity for three to five days before this.
A blood sample will also be taken, so that the donor can be screened for common genetic disorders and sexually-transmitted infections.
To improve your sperm’s quality, do not smoke or take recreational drugs, limit your alcohol intake to the meagre recommended weekly allowance and cut back on red meat consumption. Taking these steps will save you money into the bargain.
If you’re accepted as a sperm donor and you agree to enter the programme then you’ll need to sign legal forms giving your consent to the storage of your samples and allowing their use. The samples you donate will be kept in storage for up to 10 years, but you may specify a shorter time if you wish.
In addition, notes will be made about your physical appearance (e.g. build, complexion, eye and hair colour) and these details may be used to match your characteristics with those of the recipients of your donated sperm.
Your details will be held on a register maintained by the HFEA as a safeguard against inappropriate sexual relationships between children sharing the same (genetic) father.
Donor-conceived adults can find out the identity of their donor when they reach the age of 18. It is therefore advisable that donors consider the impact of this properly at the time of donation. Often clinics will provide counselling in relation to the future consequences.
The egg donor must be between the ages of 18 and 36 and before the donation takes place a donor will have to undergo screening to limit the chance of genetic abnormalities and sexually-transmitted diseases.
If you’re found to be suitable to donate, you’ll be matched with a couple who have infertility issues. The donor is then given fertility drugs to administer at home; these stimulate the ovaries into producing a number of eggs.
It’s important that the clinic monitors the donor closely during this time, as there can be side effects from the drugs. When ready, the eggs will be harvested either when the donor is sedated or under general anaesthetic. Once this process is completed successfully, the donor will receive their compensation payment.
Some clinics offer women the chance to share their eggs. This means that a woman who is able to can donate her eggs to an infertile couple in return for IVF treatment. As IVF treatment can cost £5,000 to £10,000 per cycle, this can be an attractive prospect for women who do not have problems with their own egg production, but who require IVF treatment to get pregnant.
Technically according to the HFEA, you aren’t allowed to be paid for donating sperm. Instead sperm donors are entitled to £35 per donation, to cover reasonable expenses such as travel.
In the UK, the HFEA advises that the payment is for egg donation is low to ensure that people ‘donate’ out of altruism rather than for the money. Payments are capped at £750 per cycle or course.
According to the HFEA, an egg and sperm donor have the following legal responsibilities:
- You won’t be the legal parent of any child born as a result of your donation
- You’ll have no legal obligation to any child born from your donation
- You won’t be named on the birth certificate
- You won’t have any rights over how the child will be brought up
- You won’t be asked to support the child financially.
The decision to donate sperm or eggs should not be one that’s made lightly. Although donors remain anonymous at the time of donation, a child does have the right to trace the donor when he/she reaches the age of 18. The implications of this should be considered properly at the time of donation.
However it must be remembered that it is because of donation (whether it be eggs or sperm) that those who are unable to conceive without the help of a third party are able to to have the family they want.
Egg donation carries health risks that may not be outweighed by the amount you’ll probably earn – around £750 for one cycle. Sperm donation is relatively risk free. A potential drawback is that any child born after 2005 as a result of sperm or egg donation has the right to trace their biological father or mother.
Useful links and information
If you fancy donating, these contacts can provide you with more specific details:
- Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) – 020 7291 8200. This is the official body regulating sperm and egg donation. Contacts for your local fertility clinics and hospitals are on this site as well as information on your rights as a donor.
- Clinical Contract Research Association – 0116 271 9727.
- For more information on making money from your body, check out our pages on how to sell your hair and become a life model.