Hidden under the media avalanche following the launch of the National Sperm Bank was the HFEA report on egg and sperm donation statistics. On any other day I would have made a big song and dance of it, so significant are these figures. Needless to say, I had other things on my mind and just enjoyed these statistics in silence.
Bottom-line is that since the removal of anonymity altruistic egg donation and UK sperm donation has increased substantially. Some media focussed on the fact there has been a dip in sperm donation between 2013 and 2012 and some on the fact that there’s still a shortage. Whilst both are true, that’s not the real important message here.
Back in 2004 the discussion was about ‘damage limitation’. Only two NGDT Trustees were left because none of the others wanted to be part of a sinking ship. The question was how much donation would collapse, not if there was a small chance that it wouldn’t.
Few predicted this.
Ten years down the line and the facts are clear: there have never been more donors. Recruiting them is not easy, and in some groups just downright difficult, but it can be done. If all clinics and professionals took this message to heart and accept that there are plenty of helpful men and women out there we will have no shortage in the UK from, my guess, 5 years from now.
There, said it.
Summary from HFEA report
While the number of men registering as a sperm donor has increased gradually since 2005, 2013 saw a slight dip in new registrations. In 2011, 541 new sperm donors were registered, and this rose to 631 in 2012, when the HFEA introduced new donations policies . However, last year 586 donors registered.
The proportion of donor sperm coming from abroad, primarily from the US and Denmark, is increasing year-on-year. In part, say clinics, this is because the time and resources needed to recruit UK donors can sometimes make importation more viable .
The data shows that there has been an increase in the number of young people registering as sperm donors, with almost a quarter of newly registered donors in 2013 aged under 25 . Most of that increase was accounted for by donors in the 22-25-year age bracket, with the proportion of the very youngest donors  remaining largely constant. The majority of sperm donors are 26 or older.
The number of women registering as non-patient egg donors  has risen every year since 2006, with registrations rising from 815 in 2011 to 1,103 in 2013 . Clinics have also noticed an increase in both expressions of interest and actual donations since the 2012 policy changes . As with sperm donors, around a quarter of newly registering egg donors were under 25 years of age, while half were over 30 . Since 2012, the proportion of donors aged under 25 has risen from 12% to 24% since 2011 , although the youngest age bracket has remained relatively constant.
My quote in the HFEA press release:
Laura Witjens, Chief Executive of the National Gamete Donor Trust, who run the National Sperm Bank, said:
“When the rules on anonymity were changed it was widely anticipated there would be an enormous decline in the number of donors coming forward. To see an increase in excess of 100% for both egg and sperm donors in the ten years following shows that the right decision was made, and importantly, that clinics have positively improved their recruitment practices. The result is that not only are there more donors, but they are often younger, leading to better success rates for patients.
However, despite this growth, supply is not meeting demand, and we are overly reliant on imported sperm or egg-sharing. For many clinics this is the easiest way, but in the long run this isn’t in the best interests for patients and their offspring. We should therefore continue to work on improving donor care and recruitment so that all patients have equal access to UK donors.”