Women as young as 18 searching for sperm donors online
Dr Zara Mahmoud
Progress Educational Trust23 October 2011
Increasing numbers of women under the age of 25 are turning to sperm donors online, an investigation by the Sunday Times has shown. Many of these women have stable jobs and good support networks, and see no reason to wait before starting a family.
'I'm ready in every way possible to be a mum. The only problem is you need a male and female to make a baby and I only have the female part', read an appeal by a 21-year old on an online forum.
These forums, such as babydonor.com, bring together prospective parents and potential sperm donors, and women under 25 account for up to a quarter of their advertisers.
A 20-year old care worker from Moray, who found a willing donor via online advertising, says of her experience: 'He [the donor] has donated several times before and has stayed in contact with those families. I don't want to just meet men in bars and sleep with them, I'm not that kind of girl. I haven't told my parents what I'm doing, but if I fall pregnant then I'll tell them the truth. They'll be shocked, but I know they'll support me'.
The high number of adverts found online suggests that many women are not using regulated clinics – whose customers under the age 25 make up only one to two percent of the client base. The high cost of a single round of fertility treatment (around £1,000), combined with a success rate of less than 16 percent, may be driving women away from authorised clinics towards the unregulated sperm donation market. The Sunday Times reports that while it is illegal to procure, test, process or distribute human sperm or eggs without a licence, these 'introduction agency' sites may technically be within the law.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) cautions that using unscreened sperm samples is potentially harmful to both mother and baby. Touching on the question of paternity, it adds: 'For people using unlicensed services or private arrangements there are serious implications as to who is legally the father of any child conceived. Outside of a licensed clinic the man's status as the father cannot be waived'.
Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.