Unregulated sperm donors and the women who use them

This is a special report into the hidden world of unregulated, online sperm donors and the women who use them to get pregnant.

Babies are being deliberately conceived between people who have only met on the Internet – who do not keep in touch as parents, with the woman raising the baby herself or within her existing relationship. This is happening all over the country, in ordinary streets and houses – even during the height of the pandemic. Babies have been recently conceived on purpose, between strangers with masks and gloves on. 

It’s happening within marriages, with the couple selecting a donor based on his physical similarity to the husband. It’s happening in lesbian relationships, for obvious reasons. Single mothers are using this method to have another child, without the drama of a relationship or the complication of another parent. To say it’s very common would be misleading – but it is constantly happening. 

Sperm donation that is cheap or free vs safe sperm donation from a clinic

As part of our “Dark Fertility” series, where we explore the hidden and taboo sides of reproduction, we have followed the journey of a woman who is using unregulated sperm donors to try to get pregnant. She has generously allowed us to document this for educational purposes. This is to help protect other women from being assaulted, ripped off or disappointed – but she wishes to remain anonymous herself. 

Free or cheap sperm donation – what did we uncover?

We set out to document this journey, for purely educational purposes and from the point of view of safety. What we actually discovered is a fascinating subculture of people who seek to connect in a very brief and casual way, in order to deliberately create new life, for their own personal reasons. There are ethical and moral dilemmas aplenty, fascinating characters and of course – lots of babies whose father’s name was never intended to be on the birth certificate. It’s actually very easy to get a sperm donor, or to be one – but it’s far from simple or safe 

We were surprised to discover that there are what we would call “ethical” and even “famous” sperm donors, as well as unscrupulous men, predictably taking advantage of women’s need for unprotected sex, while not disclosing details such as health issues – or even vasectomies. There are many success stories, but there are horror stories too.

How do parents explain this situation to their children or their families? Can it be possible for an unregulated sperm donor to both add to and fragment a family? How do the grandparents of the offspring of prolific donors feel, about having multiple biological grand-kids that they will never have a relationship with? Is all of this really a personal choice between responsible adults & no-one else’s business, or do we need to start regulating this practice? And what is our subject – the 40-year old woman who is using donors to get pregnant, going to tell her hypothetical child in the future, if she manages to get pregnant via a sperm donor from Facebook? These are just some of the fascinating issues we uncovered during this investigation. 

Unregulated sperm donation in the UK

This is an in-depth report in many parts, and we have spent 6 months following this journey, which is still ongoing. It’s for educational purposes only, and we are not recommending this method. However, to ignore that this is happening all over the country is to ignore and fail the women who are economically disadvantaged, by being priced out of basic & safe fertility treatment. It’s not enough to say “You should of course, only ever use a clinic for sperm donation” and then ignore the fact that there are barriers to this for many people. 

“Life finds a way.” as the Jurassic Park scientist famously said. Getting pregnant can be the easiest or hardest thing in the world. All fertility journeys are important, and we need to talk openly and without judgement about all of them – even the ones that aren’t Instagram-friendly, or unlikely to secure the sponsorship of a high-end clinic. 

At the heart of this investigation is the issue of women and couples not being able to afford or not having access to basic and safe fertility treatment such as sperm donation. This means they have to opt for risky alternatives that can expose them to very real dangers and complications – or simply give up on their dream and ignore the primal urge to have a child. 

This is not a how-to guide

We accept that some people are going to go ahead and do this, and possibly use our investigation as a how-to guide, despite these risks. We do not recommend this! but have made an effort to clearly signpost the potential hazards that we have perceived during our investigation. We would urge you to consider other options for your own safety because the dangers are very real. 

Experts warn women over unregulated sperm donors on Facebook – The Times

Women harassed after seeking sperm donors online -BBC

The first port of call with fertility issues should always be your doctor, who can inform you of your options, which may include treatment by a properly regulated and safe fertility clinic. We have a lot of information and videos about fertility treatment, and you can always ask us a question & we’ll get an expert to answer it. You’re not alone with your fertility issues. 

It is always safer to use a sperm donation clinic, and it is always risky to have unprotected sex with a stranger or have contact with their bodily fluids. With Covid-19 there are extra risks and laws that must be understood, always check to see what the restrictions and advice are.

Risks of unregulated sperm donors

Risks of unprotected sex or contact with donor fluids includes HIV & other STDS. There is also the risk of assault, rape, robbery and stalking from the potential donor, who may not be who they say they are.

A donor may also have genetic health issues that could manifest in their offspring, and not all donors are even fertile – as in the case of the married man who had a vasectomy but still advertised as a sperm donor in order to have unprotected sex. 

There is also no guarantee that your arrangement will be kept secret forever if you’re concerned about privacy. There is no legal way to prevent the biological father of a child from demanding access in these casual arrangements, even if he initially agreed to be a donor and not a parent. A sperm donor that donates via a specific type of clinic does not have the same rights as an unregulated sperm donor. 

For men who are wondering if being a sperm donor is the magic formula to having lots of unprotected, consensual sex, it’s worth pointing out that you will still be legally liable for maintenance for any offspring you help to produce, even if the woman agrees to waive her interest in that initially, and that you’re equally at risk of STDs. 

One theme that keeps occurring during this investigation is that this process is easy – but it’s far from simple. This is worth bearing in mind if you are considering unregulated sperm donation.

Who is our mystery woman?

We followed the journey of one woman, in her quest to get pregnant via an unregulated sperm donor. She’s happy for us to reveal that she is over 40, disabled but mobile, single by choice, and already has one unplanned child, who she fell pregnant with while she was using long-term contraception. She lives in an urban area in the UK. The father has never wanted to know, but she loves being a mother, and desperately wants a sibling for her child. 

Although she was able to get pregnant and carry a healthy child very late into her fertile years, she’s running out of time to get pregnant again. 

Her situation is controversial for several reasons, which will become apparent as we go deeper into her personal story.

Our mystery lady is a very good sport, and extremely open about all aspects of her quest to get pregnant. As you may be able to imagine, from the fact that she’s willing to share her story with us, she has strong opinions on this subject. She’s also very funny. We’ve decided to call her Eve, although this isn’t her real name. 

Why are women turning to unregulated sperm donors?

As fertility rates decline drastically in men and the economic effects of the pandemic and Brexit continue to bite, women are more in need of sperm donations – but struggling to afford it more than ever before. Not everyone is eligible for this type of treatment on the NHS, and the pandemic restrictions have further delayed fertility treatment for thousands of people. These factors are causing some women to turn to unregulated sperm donors through specialist websites, and increasingly on social media. 

What does sperm donation from a private donor cost?

A single sperm donation via a regulated sperm bank can cost hundreds of pounds, while a pot of “magic” from a prolific and ethical donor can be just £35 to cover travel expenses. Sperm donations can even be had for free – if you can call having unprotected sex with a total stranger in exchange for their donation “free”. 

Are sperm donations legal?

In the UK, it is legal for anyone to donate sperm to a person wishing to get pregnant. It is illegal to charge over £35 for a sperm donation, and this is purely to cover expenses. 

Some unregulated sperm donors do this for altruistic or other reasons and may charge expenses, while others offer sperm donation as a benefit to encourage women to have sex with them. 

The legality of sperm donation in the UK in this particular case, was complicated by the fact that this happened during the pandemic. It was actually illegal for strangers to have sex at some points during 2020, meaning that some sperm-donor babies conceived during the pandemic were sired illegally. It was also illegal for households to mix at all at times, even to personally deliver a socially-distanced pot of “magic potion” as it’s sometimes known. This made the sperm donation to our subject Eve extremely tricky at some points, but social distancing, and legal and safety protocols were followed by all parties at all times, and nobody got Coronavirus. While these restrictions did prevent a lot of donor and surrogate pregnancies from happening during the pandemic, some people legally navigated the restrictions on donors or surrogates by forming a support bubble, like our gay surrogate couple Harvey & Adam

The status of “sperm donor” does not preclude men from being legally liable for the child’s upbringing and expenses under UK law. This leads to some sperm donors “covering their tracks” and being as untraceable as possible, in case they end up paying maintenance. Others are happy to take their chances, trusting the people they impregnate to respect their role as a sperm donor only, and not a parent. 

Part 2

In part 2 of our report, we learn how Eve managed to find her sperm donor on Facebook & the hilarious mix-ups and confusion that occurred when she was new to the scene. We’ll also talk about some of the unregulated donor horror stories we learned about, from STDs to wives who didn’t tell their husband that they used a donor until they absolutely had to.