Sperm donation: When is enough sperm enough?

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The increasing popularity of reproductive technologies has forced some legislators to develop laws regarding the number of children that can result from one sperm donor. This raises the question for many of us in relation to sperm donation: when is enough enough? In this post, Pink Families tries to find an answer to this question.

Countries set limits on sperm donation

In a number of countries, reproductive laws limit the number of offspring (children) that a sperm donor may produce. Some countries, such as France and the UK, have strict regulations about the number of children that can result from the same sperm donor.

Why set limits related to sperm donation?

The main reason to limit the number of children from each sperm donor is to reduce the risk of two donor-conceived individuals unknowingly becoming parents.

The use of these limits are understandable, but in some cases they have led to the growth of fertility tourism and this has led to reports of genetic disorders being passed onto children through the use of imported donor sperm.

For example, in 2012 a report highlighted that sperm from one donor had been used to give birth to 43 children in Denmark. Sperm from this same donor was exported to 10 countries both in and outside of Europe. Unfortunately, a genetic disorder from this donor was also passed on to 5 children.

This report highlights some of the challenges ahead for prospective parents that use reproductive technologies. It also highlights the importance of being aware of the different regulations in various countries.

Different limits on births from sperm donors

The laws and recommendations on the number of births from donors vary around the world. For example, they vary in Denmark, the UK, in the US and Canada.

Sperm donors in Denmark

Sperm banks in Denmark, for example, are popular with those within Europe as it is one of the few European countries that still allow donors to retain their anonymity.

Regulations in Denmark state that the number of women who can be impregnated by the same donor should be limited to 25.

Sperm donors in the UK

In relation to the UK, a maximum of 10 live births are permitted worldwide per donor. However, more live births are allowed if there are special requests made for a sibling to be born from the same sperm donor.

These limits are in place even though there is a shortage of sperm donors in the UK. For example, only 284 sperm donors registered in the UK in 2008.

Sperm donors in the US

In the US, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recommends that donors be limited to 25 births per 800,000 in the population.

Sperm donors in Canada

The recommendation in the US is similar to the one in Canada. The limit on donors is 25 births per 800,000 in Canada.

Call for evidence-based recommendations

Although limits are welcomed by many, the use of these limits have been questioned by some, especially as the limits don’t appear to be informed by evidence.

Regardless, it is understandable why these limits are in place and the limits are of some comfort to many LGBTI parents.

References

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. Statement on Recent Reports of a Danish Sperm Donor Passing on a Genetic Disease to Five Children.  Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. 2012 Sep 26.

Sawyer N. Sperm Donor Limits that Control for the ‘Relative’ Risk Associated with the Use of Open-Identity Donor. Human Reproduction 2010;25(5):1089-96.

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