France reports drop in sperm donors

Sperm bank, reproductive biology laboratory, University Hospital of Rouen, France
Sperm bank, reproductive biology laboratory, University Hospital of Rouen, France Media for Medical/UIG via Getty Images

Sperm donations in France have decreased significantly in recent years and new figures from the National Agency for Biomedicine are likely to show a further drop.


While 400 men donated their sperm in 2009, only 302 chose to do so in 2010 and a mere 233 in 2011.

Louis Bujan, head of a donor clinic in Toulouse, expects to see a further reduction when figures are released for 2012, following the recent debate over gay marriage and adoption in France.

Discussions in the run-up to the law put the spotlight on issues such as artificial insemination for lesbian couples and some sperm donors subsequently expressed concern that their sperm might be used by such couples.

“In the spring, some of our donors came to tell us that they would not have donated under those circumstances,” Bujan told French daily Libération.

The National Agency of Biomedicine also points to other possible reasons for the decrease in the number of sperm donors.

The idea of lifting the anonymity of sperm donors was mooted as part of a controversial bioethics law in 2011. Although it was decided to maintain the anonymity rule, some donors became worried about future decisions on anonymity.

Also, among those campaigning to have anonymity lifted, were people who voiced distress about not knowing their biological origins.

“People born through artificial insemination protested on the streets, declaring that they had suffered as a consequence of donor anonymity,” said Dominique Royer, head of the Medically Assisted Procreation department at the National Agency for Biomedicine.

Awareness of this psychological distress also appears to have caused potential donors to reconsider.

The November campaign will try to in particular to encourage men from more varied ethnic backgrounds to donate their sperm.

“A more significant problem we have with sperm donors is not quantity but rather diversity,” Royer said.

Clinics face the challenge of matching donors with couples according to key physical traits, such as skin and eye colour or blood type.



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