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Women sleeping with strangers from websites to have a baby
An exclusive Daily Echo investigation can today reveal how some women desperate to become mothers are having sex with total strangers to get pregnant. Tara Russell went undercover to find out more about the sordid world of unlicensed sperm donation websites
WITHIN an hour I had 12 strangers willing to make me pregnant, no questions asked.
They didn’t want money.
They had no interest in ever meeting the baby.
In fact they weren’t concerned about knowing my identity or even what I looked like.
All they wanted to know was whether I’d take up their offer of natural insemination (NI) – unprotected sex.
And, of course, the room number of the hotel.
Welcome to the completely unregulated world of online sperm donation where women desperate to become pregnant are putting their lives on the line to have sex with complete strangers.
And it’s a world that is alarming health professionals working in licensed fertility clinics.
These are clinics licensed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and run by a team of professionals who meticulously ensure each sperm sample is checked and screened in a lengthy and rigorous process.
But no tests are needed in the seedy world of NI. Just an Internet connection to register on the sites for free.
Within minutes of posting my fictitious online advert, my inbox filled with men from Hampshire who used fake names, temporary email addresses and pay-as-you-go phones.
“I have donated many times and had 30 plus kids. I donate on a no contract basis,” wrote Paul.
Another read: “I’m totally disease free with an outstanding sperm count and willing to commit until you conceive.”
Twenty minutes later another message flashed up from somebody in Totton. He called himself ‘The Impregnator’.
Some of the messages and the nicknames used by men on the site
Meanwhile Stuart said he preferred a “natural love making approach to conception, with plenty of cuddling.” But tellingly the married man couldn’t do weekends because that was “family time.”
Meanwhile Rob’s comment was nauseating, signing off his offer of sex with “at your cervix.”
One man claimed to be a pilot and promised a “plentiful delivery with genuine warmth and caring. No involvement afterwards. Available at very short notice. Pilot’s medical to guarantee health. It’s been a baby girl every time so far.”
The pilot was just one of many men online boasting of their sky-high IQs, broad shoulders, good looks and elaborate careers.
One said he was a 32-year-old former scientist who went to Oxford and Harvard and is now a doctor in training.
Unsurprisingly he was only interested in NI – natural sex.
Part of one of the messages received.
One in seven people in the UK suffer from fertility problems and at licensed clinics single women, lesbian or infertile couples can seek help through a number of artificial insemination treatments where donor sperm is used.
The unlicensed sites I viewed also offer artificial insemination.
There are lurid web tales of strangers meeting in hotel rooms and men producing samples in used coffee cups before women use syringes bought over the net to deposit the sample.
But these women should count themselves lucky because most men on the site leave vulnerable women believing their only hope of a baby lies with unprotected sex.
Just 24 hours after I posted my simple advert saying I was a 27-year-old professional woman looking for a sperm donor, it had 611 views. Yes, in just one day.
But I wanted to know exactly who were the hundreds of men clicking on my message and what drove them to trawl the site?
I soon understood why critics say the men just want free sex.
Every man I questioned about the most effective method of conception gave the same answer summed up by this response: “NI tends to work the fastest to be honest.”
Some gave me graphic information on positions that would “guarantee” pregnancy.
One told me we could try up to 10 times in a day on the days I was ovulating. He insisted sexy underwear would help conception.
Most people told me they only offered NI.
One wrote: “Have had quite a few ladies try the guilt trip to get me to do AI. Not for me though.”
Another calling himself Flyer30 posted: “NI donations take preference as the only gratitude I’d like from my part is to biologically father the child naturally.
“That’s my payment. If her or her husband can’t compromise with this arrangement then maybe they’ll be left without the child they’ve been longing for all because of their own selfishness.”
All donors expect expenses and the hotel bill to be covered. One donor did want money. He
demanded £150 for his sperm – something which is prohibited in the UK.
Men donating sperm in clinics regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority are only paid expenses up to £350 for a cycle of ten to discourage people from hiding serious genetic conditions.
And most men do claim to be completely altruistic in their motives.
One 53-year-old man emailed me photos of the children he had fathered through NI.
Unsurprisingly the document took a long time to open. He had fathered 25 healthy children in 11 years with five current pregnancies.
(Men donating through licensed clinics are legally limited to providing sperm for 10 families in the UK. And Wessex Fertility in Southampton only receives donations from men aged between 20 and 41.)
His motives seemed innocent enough. He wrote: “After chatting to couples paying for fertility treatment I decided to try and help those in need of a donor free of charge as the gift of life is so precious.”
However, while many do seem genuine, it is difficult to comprehend exactly why the men claiming to be so motivated by helping others do not go to licensed clinics which all suffer a major shortage of men willing to donate their sperm.
After all, there, they have no financial or legal obligation for any children born as a result of their donations.
The clinics protect donors too regarding their identity which is kept secret until any resulting child turns 18.
However privately, men may be the legal father of any children born with all the responsibilities that carries.
Without a licensed agreement, women could demand child support at any point.
In fact earlier this year a sperm donor who has fathered 30 children identified only as Mr F was ordered to pay the bulk of £300,000 legal costs as well as child maintenance after he made a woman he met through an unofficial website pregnant and a judge ruled he was the biological father.
These often unconsidered pitfalls, though, are just the beginning.
Many of the sites serve as a gateway to an underground world of unknown medical histories and potentially dangerous meetings with strangers.
In licensed clinics donor sperm and eggs are subject to rigorous quality checks to ensure there
are no risks of infection, diseases or hereditary conditions that could affect both mother and
I couldn’t help logging out of my temporary email account feeling saddened that the unregulated websites exist and so many people are now turning to them in desperation.
Yes, licensed clinics are undoubtedly expensive. At Wessex Fertility, for example, it costs around £1,500 for a woman to use donor sperm.
But considering the gambles to both mother and baby online, that may seem a small price to
pay for the precious gift of life.
But then in all the posts I read, I didn’t once hear any mention of what bringing a baby into the world in this way could mean for a child’s future.
THE WOMEN GAMBLING WITH STRANGERS
WHO are the women gambling with their health to have a stranger’s baby?
The answer was clear. All kinds of women.
There are single women desperate for a child including career women worried they have left it too late, infertile couples and women in same sex relationships. But disturbingly there are single women as young as 18 looking to have a baby with strangers they meet online.
One teen called Ellie, posted: “Hey, I’m looking for a sperm donor. I’m only 18 which is young but I am ready for a child. I realise there is not too many young guys out there wanting to be a father.”
Another said: “I’m looking for a sperm donor in the Hampshire area. I’m 18 and want a baby but I can’t find anyone who wants to commit.
Within seconds a man in his thirties had posted his mobile number.
While the reasons women use the site were all different, there was no mistaking the vulnerability evident in all their posts.
And most said they did it because they cannot afford to go to a licensed clinic.
A 25-year-old woman called Nicky, posted: “I have a life long dream of being a mother however I’m a lesbian in a long term relationship with my partner, who also wants to be a mother. I’ve looked at going through NHS but I can’t afford to do it private. I’ll appreciate any advice. Please message me.”
Another woman, who said she had become pregnant on the same site through AI- artificial insemination, said: “We did it first time and it worked. I’m now four months pregnant. It’s an emotional journey but worth it and it is possible.
We can’t afford NHS or private but there’s always other ways. The site is free.”
Fertility experts shocked by Daily Echo investigation
“SADDENED, horrified and deeply concerned.”
That was the reaction of Dr Sue Ingamells, the lead clinician of Wessex Fertility in Southampton.
I visited the HFEA private clinic to meet with Dr Ingamells and embryologist Tony Price and found the process to be so meticulous I was even called the evening before as a reminder not to wear perfume or hairspray that could affect the donations.
Here, before any sperm is used, the health checks, tests and lengthy screening processes can even detect the DNA combination of a serious disease even if it doesn’t yet exist.
They explained the complex process to ensure the sperm provided for use is of such high quality it costs them £10,000 per donor.
Online, nobody asked me whether I had even been tested for STIs – not even those willing to sleep with me who boasted fathering more than 30 children.
And a quick trawl of the web confirmed my fears concerning safety when I spotted a story about a married man estimated to have fathered at least 49 babies being quizzed for the sexual assault of three women he met through the unlicensed donor websites.
It’s a very real risk and I spotted several warnings from women on the site.
One posted: “Just make sure you meet the right person. There are a lot of weirdos, be careful.”
Another expressed concerns about a donor she’d met online. She said: “He seems really nice but he will not send a pic.
“He just wants our address so he can pop round and do his thing in our bathroom and just leave but I feel uneasy.”
Dr Ingamells said the risks to both health and personal safety are of “deep concern.”
She said: “I am deeply saddened and horrified about what is happening on these unregulated online forums.
“For us the stringent processes taken are absolutely crucial and we have support here in place for both recipients and donors who go through the process.
“There is simply no space for any mistakes when you bring a new life into the world.
“It seems men are preying on women’s vulnerabilities and it’s deeply concerning women are risking their health, their baby’s health and their own safety. There is a very real risk they might not even leave that hotel room.”
Connie Davies and Myra Armstrong carry out a sperm audit at Wessex Fertility, Southampton
The donor debate: We ask the experts
Is it legal and are free online sperm donation sites regulated?
Yes it is legal because all communication is considered to be private between individuals.
But sperm donor websites do not need to be regulated by the HFEA, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, unless they ‘procure, test, process or distribute’ eggs or sperm for fertility
treatment. Websites can match potential donors with recipients. Once matched, the donor and recipient may either go to a fertility clinic for licensed treatment or undergo a private arrangement, either through artificial insemination or natural insemination.
Isn’t this the same as a clinic?
Women using unlicensed donor sites do not have those same protections as those using licensed ones. The safest route for all those involved is to go to a fertility clinic for treatment. Licensed clinics must adhere to strict legal, ethical and safety standards. This ensures that the
donor is screened in line with professional medical standards to avoid passing on serious infectious diseases to the woman and resulting child and that everyone is clear about their legal position.
What are the pitfalls?
The HFEA say women using unlicensed sperm websites and donating privately outside of a licensed clinic run a number of serious risks including:
• Safety risks for a woman meeting a man through a sperm donor matching
website who she does not know. This is especially the case for women who agree to natural insemination.
• Health risks: In licensed clinics donor sperm and eggs are subject to rigorous quality checks, including screening to ensure that the sperm has not been infected with diseases such as Chlamydia or HIV. Patients using unlicensed services do so have those same protections.
• Parenthood risks. Men donating sperm through HFEA-licensed fertility clinics are not the legal father of any child born through that donation. Men donating sperm in any other way – such as via internet services or private arrangements with people they know – may be the legal father of any children born, with all the responsibilities that carries. This may especially be the case if people have sexual intercourse.
Many people on the sites say natural insemination is much more successful than artificial insemination. Is that the case?
Fertility experts say they are not aware of any evidence to suggest this is the case. They advise women to consider the safety risks and the potential legal implications that the man may be
considered the legal father of the resulting child.
What are the children’s rights?
If the man is the legal father of a child born, the child may be entitled to contact and for financial support /rights of inheritance. This would be determined by the Family Courts.
And what about maintenance?
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions, said: “Generally, only anonymous sperm donors at licensed clinics can guarantee exemption from being treated as the father for child maintenance purposes. “Recent legal changes mean same-sex couples who choose to have children together can now be treated as the parents of a child providing certain conditions are met, and therefore responsible for paying child maintenance after a separation. “But it is vital that anybody considering sperm donation should take independent legal advice on the possible consequences of their actions.”
What are the legal implications of using a clinic?
If a person donates through an HFEA-licensed clinic, which must conform to strict medical, legal and ethical standards, the donor will not:
• be the legal parent of any child born as a result of their donation
• have any legal obligation to any child born from their donation
• be named on the birth certificate l have any rights over how the child will be brought up
&bul; be asked to support the child financially.
Do sperm donors at licensed clinics get money for their time?
Payment of donors is prohibited. Sperm donors can receive compensation of up to £35 per clinic visit, to reasonably cover any financial losses incurred in connection with the donation, with the
provision to claim an excess to cover higher expenses.
How can I find a regulated clinic?
The HFEA website has a comprehensive database of all UK licensed clinics at guide.hfea.gov.uk/guide. This includes a search facility for clinics that offer donor conception treatment.
Is it safe?
Like all medical treatments, fertility treatment carries some risks and the clinic should discuss these with patients before they go ahead. For details about the risks of treatment: hfea.gov.uk/fertility-treatment-risks
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