When buying online is not a good idea
Although the Internet can be a wonderful thing, when it comes to finding a potential donor there are huge risks and disadvantages
You can purchase pretty much anything on the Internet nowadays – and that includes donor sperm, and even eggs. When we’re so used to picking up what we need online, this may seem like a modern, speedy solution for anyone longing for a baby, but just because you can buy sperm and eggs this way doesn’t mean it is advisable.
Buying sperm and eggs online
With donor eggs, there is a level of protection as you can’t just go off and buy eggs and use them yourself. You will still need to find a fertility clinic, and clinics tend not to encourage patients to go off buying eggs online but rather to use their own services where they know donors have been properly screened.
With sperm, however, it is often a very different story. There are now many websites offering donor sperm to purchase which people can use themselves at home, or offering to put people who want to get pregnant in touch with potential donors. Sometimes this can appear to be cheaper than using a clinic, and if all you have to do is click and pay, or click and choose, it may look like an attractive alternative to the more involved process of going to a fertility clinic
The risks of using the Internet
The first thing to make clear to anyone considering using the Internet to buy sperm is that unless you are using a reputable sperm bank, you really don’t know what you are getting. Is the donor fit and healthy? Is he fertile? Has his sperm been screened for hereditary diseases or for sexually transmitted infections? It’s easy for a potential donor to claim that they’ve had every test imaginable, but how do you know this is actually true?
Fertility clinics and sperm banks freeze sperm samples as it’s the only way of ensuring the sperm is free from infection. Donors are regularly checked so that any infections will have been picked up by the time the sperm would be ready to use. If you are using fresh sperm from a donor, you don’t have this guarantee.
More and more websites are springing up now which allow you to search for a man who is willing to donate. You will be corresponding with the donor directly yourself, but it is important the aware of the risks as the world of these websites is often very murky.
The men who offer themselves as donors may donate to limitless numbers of women – so there is no cap on the number of children they can father. In most of Europe, there are limits on the numbers of families any one donor can produce, but this is not the case for the donors who offer themselves up online.
Although some of these men claim to be altruistic donors, many ask for a fee for their services and there have been a number of reports of women being contacted by donors who suggest that “natural methods” of conception may be best to ensure a pregnancy results.
A reputable service
Fertility clinics and sperm banks go through a detailed and often lengthy process to check that their donors are suitable before they are accepted. The majority of men, although fertile, will not have sufficiently good sperm to become a donor. Potential donors provide detailed medical histories and are carefully screened. The whole process can take many weeks or even months, and their sperm will not be released until the clinic or sperm bank is confident that everything is as it should be.
Although the Internet can be a wonderful thing, when it comes to finding a potential donor there are huge risks and disadvantages – and it is essential to bear this in mind when it comes to such an important matter as your future family.
Writer and journalist
Kate Brian is a journalist, writer and author of four books on motherhood and fertility, including The Complete Guide to IVF. Kate started writing about the patient perspective on infertility after having IVF herself.
Currently, she contributes to various types of media as an expert on fertility and writes her own blog, where she gives all the latest news and views on fertility issues, as well as useful advice and links for anyone trying to have a baby.