UK
01/09/2015 09:44 BST | Updated 01/09/2015 09:59 BST

National Sperm Bank Gains Just Nine Registered Donors In A Year

Britain's national sperm bank is launching a recruitment drive for "superman'' donors amid revelations it has just nine registered donors in the year since it opened.

The sperm bank, based at Birmingham Women's Hospital, is to combat the shortage with an advertising campaign later this month aimed at tapping into the male ego.

It will use a "superman" promotional theme as donors need to have strong sperm in order for it to survive the freezing and thawing process. The campaign is inspired by Denmark's booming donor trade.

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The national sperm bank is launching a donor recruitment drive amid revelations it has just nine registered donors a year after it opened

The centre's chief executive, Laura Witjens, said it could take around five years before the centre has enough donors, but she told the Guardian that a change of tack when it comes to advertising could fast track that.

"If I advertised saying 'Men, prove your worth, show me how good you are', then I would get hundreds of donors.

"That's the way the Danish do it. They proudly say, this is the Viking invasion, exports from Denmark are beer, lego and sperm. It's a source of pride."

Witjens said of the hundreds of men who might enquire about donating only a small number make it through screenings and become a registered donor.

She said: "If 100 guys enquire, 10 will come through for screenings and maybe one becomes a donor. It takes hundreds of guys."

The independent sperm bank is a collaboration between the National Gamete Donation Trust and the women's hospital and received a £77,000 grant from the Department of Health for its first year. It will now be funded independently.

Once the sperm is collected by the centre it is delivered to clinics across the country when required.

The cost of a sperm sample is £400, but is paid for by the NHS if patients meet the guidelines for free treatment, the Trust said.

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Witjens said she hopes one day the centre will have "an abundance of donors", but warned that increasing the £35 for donations was not necessarily the answer.

She said: "We might get more donors if we paid £50 or £100 per donation. But money corrupts. If you feel you can make £200 a week for four months, you might hide things about your health."

According to figures from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, from 2013, the number of same-sex couples receiving donor insemination has increased by 20%.

In some clinics, particularly in London, one-third of the patients are now same-sex couples, Witjens said. TV presenter and shopping guru Mary Portas and her wife, Melanie Rickey, said earlier this year they had used sperm donated by Portas’ brother to allow Rickey to give birth to son Horatio.