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Less Than 4% of Sperm Donors Accepted

Author: University of Sheffield
Author Contact:
Published: 10th Jan 2023
Peer-Reviewed Publication: Yes
Additional References: Male Sexual Health Publications

Summary: Less than four in 100 men who apply to be sperm donors reach the end of the process and have samples frozen and released for treatments.


Sperm Donation

Sperm donation is the provision by a man of his sperm with the intention that it be used in the artificial insemination or other 'fertility treatment' of a woman or women who are not his sexual partners so that they may become pregnant by him. Where pregnancies go to full term, the sperm donor will be the biological father of every baby born from his donations. The man is known as a sperm donor, and the sperm he provides is known as 'donor sperm' because the man intends to give up all legal rights to any child produced from his sperm and will not be the legal father.

Main Document

An Analysis of the Outcome of 11,712 Men Applying to Be Sperm Donors in Denmark and the USA.

Quick Facts

A European team of researchers led by the University of Sheffield worked with the world's largest sperm banks, Cryos International, to map the outcome of over 11,700 men who applied to be sperm donors.

The findings, published in the journal Human Reproduction, show that over half of the men (54.91 percent) who applied to be donors at Cryos in Denmark and the US withdrew from the program before having samples released for use.

Nearly a fifth of applicants (17.41 percent) were rejected because of a health issue or because they were a carrier for a genetic disease or had an infectious disease that could not be treated.

The data also showed just over one in 10 of the applicants (11.71 percent) failed a screening questionnaire about their lifestyle, and another one in 10 (11.20 percent) were rejected because their sperm quality was not good enough.

Lead author of the study, Professor Allan Pacey, Professor of Andrology and Head of the Department of Oncology and Metabolism at the University of Sheffield, said:

"To our knowledge, this is the largest study of sperm donor applicants outside China, and given that the UK relies so heavily on imported sperm from the USA and Denmark, we need to understand the recruitment processes there and reassure ourselves that they are safe as well as see if there is anything we can do to improve them."

Recent figures from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority have shown that more than half of the new sperm donors registered in the UK were from imported sperm, mostly from sperm banks like Cryos in the US and Denmark.

Since 2006, it has been illegal in the UK to use sperm from donors unwilling to be identified to any people born from their donations. Therefore, in the new study, Professor Pacey and the team looked at how many of the donors at Cryos agreed to be identifiable compared to those that did not.

They found that more than four in 10 donor candidates (41.27 percent) initially agreed to be identifiable, and it was more common for applicants in Denmark to agree to waive their anonymity than applicants in the USA.

Interestingly, the team found that as the screening and donation process continued (men regularly donate for many months), more donors who initially wanted to be anonymous agreed to become identifiable.

Professor Pacey added:

"The study with Cryos highlights how hard it is to become a sperm donor. It's not like blood donation; you can have a cup of tea and go home once it's done. Sperm donation is a regular commitment with lots of screening and regular testing and life-long implications for the donor if any children are born from their sample."

"What's particularly fascinating is that more donors, who initially wanted to remain anonymous, were willing to be identifiable as the screening and donation process continued. This is excellent news for patients in the UK undergoing fertility treatment, as it is a legal requirement for sperm donors to be identifiable to any children born from their donations."

Dr. Anne-Bine Skytte, Medical Director at Cryos International, said:

"We are very grateful to Professor Pacey and the team for their in-depth analysis of sperm donors, which has already been very valuable in helping Cryos look at its recruitment process and trying to make them more efficient."

"If we can recruit donors more easily, then this will help keep costs down for patients in the UK and elsewhere who often buy donor sperm with their own money because the NHS does not fund it."

To be accepted as a sperm donor in the UK, men must be between 18 and 45 years old and be fit and healthy with good sperm quality. Donors undergo various screening tests for genetic conditions and infectious diseases, as well as an analysis of their family medical history. Any UK males interested in donating sperm should contact their local licensed clinic or sperm bank.

UK guidelines for sperm donor recruitment are published by the British Fertility Society, and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority regulates the recruitment and use of sperm donors in infertility treatments.

Full paper:

An analysis of the outcome of 11,712 men applying to be sperm donors in Denmark and the USA by Pacey, AA et al. Human Reproduction Journal.

References and Source(s):

Less Than 4% of Sperm Donors Accepted | University of Sheffield ( makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith. Content may have been edited for style, clarity or length.

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• (APA): University of Sheffield. (2023, January 10). Less Than 4% of Sperm Donors Accepted. Retrieved January 30, 2023 from

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