There’s Now Enough Donor Sperm in the UK for a Sperm App
London Sperm Bank has released a mobile app for browsing sperm donors
A mobile app launched by a London-based sperm bank lets potential parents browse profiles of sperm donors—much like a dating site, but more technical. For its creators, the launch is a sign that the UK is now wholly self-sufficient in quality donor sperm, and that the import of sperm, especially from high-suppliers such as Denmark, is no longer necessary.
The company behind the service, London Sperm Bank, said that this online approach to donor sperm has been key in reversing the "myth" that there's a severe donor sperm shortage in the UK.
Since a 2008 British Fertility Society report that described the sperm situation as "critical", numerous stories in the British press have painted a bleak picture for donor sperm. One report last year on The Guardian highlighted that the UK's National Sperm Bank had just nine donors.
"The days of perpetual outcry of shortages of sperm donors are over"
In stark contrast, however, private clinic London Sperm Bank claims it's had 30,000 men show interest in donating sperm since 2011. Not all of these men are eligible to donate, though. To become a sperm donor a man must be between the ages of 18 and 41, have a very healthy diet and lifestyle, be free from STIs, and not have any hereditary disorders within his family. The donor must also be willing to be identified and known to any children born from a donation when they get to 18. While fewer than 4 percent of London Sperm Bank's applicants make it through World Health Organisation and Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) requirements, the clinic said it always has a stock of sperm of around 100 men ready for mothers. When Motherboard downloaded the app, there were 98 profiles to browse. And with each specimen containing around 20 million progressively motile sperm per millilitre, London Sperm Bank claims there's plenty to go around.
"The days of perpetual outcry of shortages of sperm donors are over," London Sperm Bank's Dr Kamal Ahuja told Motherboard over the phone. "Combining that desire to help people who need donor sperm with the advances in digital technology means that we should be able to deploy the combination of the two to stop importing sperm from overseas destinations."
Motherboard asked HFEA for confirmation on the improving levels of sperm donor levels in the UK. HFEA's own statistics show that there were 392 sperm donors in 2014, the last full year numbers are available for, and that levels of newly registered sperm donors has been increasing almost year-on-year for about a decade (except for a slight dip in the last year.) The figures are in contrast to those of New Zealand's sperm donor levels, where demand for sperm is currently four times higher than supply.
"Although the number of newly registered UK donors has been increasing over the years, many clinics import sperm from Europe or the United States, instead of recruiting from clinics. Some clinics advise their patients to go overseas," said a HFEA spokesperson in an email. "So if UK sperm banks are now able to offer a UK donor to more people who need one, that is good news for patients and their donor-conceived children."
In the app, users are shown biological details about the donors such as eye colour, race, and nationality, along with academic achievements, careers, and personality traits. A vial of sperm costs £950 ($1200), with the sperm bank claiming each vial contains sufficient sperm for one treatment cycle for gay couples and mothers with fertility complications.
The donors, labelled with clinical names such as "Donor 1002" and "Donor 83", are anonymous, with descriptions like "he is a very shy and quiet individual" the only insight into their character traits.
"The key to reversing this sperm donor 'crisis', as reflected in our experience at the London Sperm Bank, has been the internet and an online business model which we have followed since 2011. Since then, and with the introduction of our online donor catalogue, we have treated more than 3,000 infertile women," wrote Ahuja earlier in September on Bionews.org.
"Ordering sperm from an online catalogue or an app does not trivialise treatment, and every step meets the requirements of the HFEA. Donors remain anonymous, and only the details of ethnicity, character and achievement are recorded."
While the app, found on iOS and Android, seems to be the perfect solution for parents with fertility issues living in the Tinder generation, Motherboard thinks it could also boost the number of men wanting to donate sperm, too. After all, is there no greater compliment to boost masculinity than having someone swipe right on your sperm?