Figures from last year showed that 52% of newly registered sperm donors in the UK were actually from overseas, up from around 22% in 2010. The statistics prompted scientists at the University of Sheffield to dig into why this is the case, and what is driving men from overseas to donate in comparison to those here in the UK.
Professor Allan Pacey, who led the study, said that not being able to remain anonymous when donating in the UK is perhaps the biggest barrier. "In the UK, you can only become a donor if you agreed to be identifiable and there simply aren’t enough guys in the UK that are willing to do that, or we haven’t managed to tempt them enough, because we haven’t got an advertising system that targets them," he said, noting that the 'viking baby invasion' began back in 2005 when the change in law banning British sperm donors from being anonymous took place.
On top of that, Pacey says that geographical barriers are also to blame. "To donate sperm now, you’ve often got to travel to the local sperm bank, which may not be where you live," he notes.
"If you live in Inverness are you going to travel to Aberdeen to donate?" Pacey asks. "I think we need to change the system – we need a system like the blood donation one where you can go to a local hospital or there are donor sessions in village halls, and it’s much easier."
As for why he thinks sperm donations to the UK are largely from Denmark and the US, he said: "There is something about Danish men that I think is very different, they are much more altruistic, much more open, much more relaxed about this kind of thing." Pacey isn't sure about the motivating factors for US donors, but proposes this could be because "there are big sperm banks all over the United States."
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