No sperm to spare

A radical overhaul of sperm donation services in Britain is needed to cope with a critical shortage, fertility experts have said.

The British Fertility Society (BFS) said the removal of anonymity for donors in 2005 might have led to the lack of volunteers, leaving Britain struggling to meet the demand for donated sperm.

Some 400 patients need donor sperm every year and many clinics have long waiting lists or have been forced to stop providing services at all.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, Mark Hamilton and Allan Pacey from the BFS suggested that more families could be created from a single donor.

The current limit of 10 pregnancies per donor is designed to prevent siblings born from donation inadvertently having children together.

The authors said that means a minimum of 500 donors are needed every year, but in 2006 there were just 307.

The BFS argued that the size of the British population created a large safety margin as in the Netherlands, where there is a smaller population, the upper limit is 25.

The authors also suggested a shake-up in the recruitment services to increase the number of donors.

They said large regional centers should be created for donor management with smaller centers providing services for recipients.

Currently 35% of potential donors are lost after their first inquiry and never assessed, Hamilton and Pacey said.

However they ruled out raising the age of donors from the current maximum of 40 or lowering the acceptable levels of semen quality.

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