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New national sperm bank will 'build families'

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A national sperm bank has opened to help meet increasing demand for donors in the UK.

The head of the new service, based at Birmingham Women’s Hospital, said it will help single women, men experiencing fertility problems and same-sex couples to “build families”.

“For us, this is about building families and the important thing is the quality of parenting”

Sue Avery

Patients who want donor sperm can sometimes face few options and find themselves on waiting lists, having to use unregulated providers or stopping treatment altogether.

The new sperm bank will offer a recruitment, screening and banking centre and is expected to meet all donor sperm requirements across the UK, the Birmingham Women’s NHS Foundation Trust said.

Director of the centre Dr Sue Avery told the BBC: “For us, this is about building families and the important thing is the quality of parenting.

“That isn’t necessarily to do with the gender of the parents or whether they are single parents,” she said. “We make sure people really understand what they are taking on.”

She added that the centre regularly helps men whose fertility has been affected by cancer treatment or trauma or who want to avoid a genetic condition being passed on to their children.

There has been a national shortage of sperm donors in the UK, especially in NHS clinics, while patient numbers continue to rise.

Fears had been raised that men would be put off from donating because of a change in the law which allows children of sperm donors to request the name of the donor.

But Dr Avery said more professional men who have experience of people with fertility problems are now coming forward “because they want to help”.

For the first time, those from ethnic minority backgrounds will be able to choose from a range of culturally-matched donors.

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