Before we get to the compensation let’s talk briefly about the criteria, because sperm banks in the UK won’t accept just anyone that walks through the door. They have to screen the applicants to be sure they are healthy, without serious genetic conditions and have sufficiently good quality sperm to produce a viable pregnancy. The staff at the London Sperm Bank will look at an applicant’s family history and ascertain if they have any familial genetic conditions that might manifest in potential offspring. Potential donors may be asked about their personality, education, hobbies and even bad habits to build a complete picture. There is also a physical exam, blood tests to screen for infectious diseases and the most important of all: testing the sperm. This last test involves the applicant producing a sample in one of the bank’s producing rooms and then giving this to the sperm bank staff for immediate testing with the andrologist. The andrologist will be looking at the volume of the sample, the sperm count, the number of sperm that survive the freezing process as well as the motility and morphology of the surviving sperm. In some cases, to get an accurate sense of an applicant’s sperm quality they may be asked to return on another occasion to produce a second sample for testing. Lastly, they will be asked to speak with a counsellor to confirm they understand the full implications of donating sperm.
A Doctor and an andrologist will look over the results from all the tests and will make an assessment on their suitability to be a sperm donor. Being rejected as a donor does not always mean there is anything wrong, it usually means the sperm might have failed the freeze and thaw tests or the necessary criteria set by the fertility industry and the governing body. If the andrologist has any serious concerns, they will inform the donor and advise them.
Now, assuming they are one of less than 5% of men who qualify, they will be invited to begin regular donations. This means visiting the sperm bank no more twice a week for three to six months. The London Sperm Bank has two locations, the first is on Harley Street which is open for donations from 8.30am to 3.30pm and the second is at The Bridge Centre near London Bridge station which is open from 8.00am until 3.00pm.
Lastly, the question everyone wants to hear the answer to. People often ask ‘how much do UK sperm banks pay?’ and we have to make one essential point very clear. We don’t pay, we compensate. The HFEA which regulates the fertility industry rightly insists we emphasise this distinction. The amount offered is not a payment and a person should never feel compelled to donate for financial gain but rather because they want to help a family in need. So, the monies a donor receives is to compensate for out of pocket expenses. The amount in the UK is set at £35 per visit.
The whole point of sperm donation in the UK is to help other people who are unable to start a family. Our donors are on the programme for altruistic reasons and the compensation is incidental. The men on the donor sperm programme will all have different reasons for participation but it’s likely none of them are doing it for financial gain. And for that reason, we salute them.
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