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Inside the murky world of online sperm banks

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Inside the murky world of online sperm banks

British men are trying to lure women desperate for a baby into having unprotected sex under the pretence it’s more successful than fertility treatments.

MailOnline found dozens of men on a sperm donor matchmaking website claiming natural insemination will increase the chances of having a baby, or help guarantee a healthy newborn.

These men present the ‘traditional’ method as a superior alternative to IVF or home insemination kits, which can inject donated sperm into the vagina.

The UK’s independent regulator of fertility treatment, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), has warned women to ‘never’ agree to have sex with a sperm donor due to the dangers.

And fertility experts have told MailOnline that the men’s claims are completely false and have urged women to and couples to avoid them. 

Meet some of the British men offering their sperm online with offering dubious claims about natural insemination. Also don’t worry, they insist ‘it’s not a perv thing’

HOW DOES IVF WORK? 

In-vitro fertilisation, known as IVF, is a medical procedure in which a woman has an already-fertilised egg inserted into her womb to become pregnant.

It is used when couples are unable to conceive naturally, and a sperm and egg are removed from their bodies and combined in a laboratory before the embryo is inserted into the woman.

Once the embryo is in the womb, the pregnancy should continue as normal.

The procedure can be done using eggs and sperm from a couple or those from donors. 

Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that IVF should be offered on the NHS to women under 43 who have been trying to conceive through regular unprotected sex for two years.

People can also pay for IVF privately, which costs up to £5,000 or more according to the NHS. 

The success rate of IVF depends on the age of the woman undergoing treatment, as well as the cause of the infertility (if it’s known).

Younger women are more likely to have a successful pregnancy. 

IVF isn’t usually recommended for women over the age of 42 because the chances of a successful pregnancy are thought to be too low.

In 2019, the percentage of IVF treatments that resulted in a live birth was: 

32 percent  for women under 35 

25 per cent for women aged 35 to 37

19 per cent  for women aged 38 to 39

11 per cent for women aged 40 to 42 

5 per cent for women aged 43 to 44

4 per cent for women aged over 44 

About eight million babies are thought to have been born due to IVF since the first ever case, British woman Louise Brown, was born in 1978. 

In one such profile on Co-ParentMatch.com, Jason, who claims to be a 50-year-old driving instructor from Nottingham, said: ‘Sorry but the old way works.

‘It’s not a perv thing, [I] just feel there is girls and lady’s [sic] that can’t get pregnant in the new ways or can’t afford the high price.’

He added: ‘It would be just sex for that one thing.’

Another user, supposedly a 38-year-old IT worker from London named Jack, who described himself as ‘polite and respectful gentleman’, argued natural insemination ‘increases the chances of a healthy baby’.

And Sinbad, who claims to be a 34-year-old prison officer from London, claimed it was ‘without a doubt most effective way, [rather] than messing around with bits and bobs’, and that it was also the ‘Christian’ way of doing things. 

Other profiles seen by this website spouted similar claims or offered to accommodate women in their homes for the ‘process’, another thing HFEA warns women against. 

Some men also offered a partial insemination service, where they would masturbate and then only engage in sex moments before ejaculation. 

A HFEA spokesperson told MailOnline anyone thinking of using a sperm donor outside of an approved clinic should use extreme caution.  

‘Anyone thinking of using a sperm donor outside of a HFEA licensed fertility clinic should be aware that there may be serious health, legal and potential personal safety risks,’ they said.

‘This may put both mother and child at risk of disease, as well as lead to future issues over parenthood rights.’

One of the key warning signs was a sperm donor insisting or an attempt to convince a hopeful parent of the merits of natural insemination. 

‘They may try to convince you that ‘natural’ insemination offers a better chance of getting pregnant over Intrauterine insemination (IUI), but this is not necessarily the case,’ the HFEA spokesperson said. 

Dr Tim Bracewell-Milnes, an expert in reproductive medicine from Imperial College London, said the fact that potential sperm donors were making these claims online was ‘alarming’.

‘Couples trying to conceive, same sex couples wanting a baby, or single women wanting to conceive are potentially quite vulnerable and it sounds like these online donors are trying to take advantage of them,’ he said.

He said using a sperm donor offering his services for free may indeed be cheaper than a fertility clinic, but it can be case of getting what you pay for. 

‘It is always safer for patients to get pregnant using donor sperm in a fertility clinic setting,’ he said. 

‘Using online donors may well be cheaper but there are many reasons for that.’ 

Dr Bracewell-Milnes added that in addition to checking the sperm is actually capable of fertilisation approved clinics also perform a number of legal and health checks. 

‘Fertility clinics and sperm banks would ensure there is a rigorous medical and sexual health screening performed on all donors,’ he said.

‘Appropriate paperwork would be filled to ensure the donor cannot claim any legal parental responsibilities.’

He added that the men’s claims natural inseminations is more reliable or produces healthier offspring was a lie.

‘This is not true at all,’ he said.

Dr Bracewell-Milnes said that, overall, a woman between the age of 35-37 years, the general age that most fertility treatment would be considered, trying to have baby naturally has a one in 10 chance of conceiving per month. 

In contrast, a technique called intra-uterine insemination (IUI) — where a highly concentrated sample of sperm is injected through a special tube deep inside the vagina — has a success rate of 12 per cent per month.

IVF, where an egg is stimulated, extracted fertilised and then implanted into the womb directly is 35 per cent successful per try.

‘IUI or IVF would always be more successful per month than natural conception with a sperm donor,’ Dr Bracewell-Milnes said. 

Both IUI and IVF can be available on the NHS though waiting times can be long.

It is also available privately though this can be expensive with IUI costing upwards of £700, and IVF £5,000. 

Home insemination kits, where donated sperm is added to a turkey baster like device that is then inserted into the vagina is also available for as little as £2, but success rates with these can vary widely depending on model and technique. 

Dr Bracewell-Milnes also said that he would advise women or couples to consult a fertility expert before embarking on any form of treatment to discuss their options. 

A HFEA spokesperson said: ‘Donor treatment can be expensive and there is limited NHS funding using donor eggs or sperm which can lead patients to find their own donors online.’

‘If you undergo a private arrangement, you will not have the same safety and legal protections and there are no limits to how many children have been born from the same donor.’

As with any sexual activity natural insemination carries a risk of sexually transmitted infections.

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