A systematic review of sperm donors: demographic characteristics, attitudes, motives and experiences of the process of sperm donation

Hum Reprod Update. 2013 Jan-Feb;19(1):37-51. doi: 10.1093/humupd/dms039. Epub 2012 Nov 11.


BACKGROUND This systematic review aimed first to integrate the current body of knowledge on the demographic, institutional and psychosocial information on sperm donors, and second to provide insight into the actual experiences of men who donate and the attitudes towards potential donation. METHODS Electronic databases (PUBMED, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Embase and Web of Science) were searched with no date restriction using a specific search strategy followed by a snowball strategy. English language peer-reviewed abstracts and full texts were screened for eligibility and the risk of bias was assessed with 15 criteria. Eligibility, quality assessments and data extraction were performed by two independent researchers, resolving disagreement by discussion. RESULTS The initial search retrieved 857 studies and after quality assessment, 29 studies were retained for data extraction. Data from nine countries were obtained. The review synthesis revealed differences and similarities between actual and potential sperm donors on demographic characteristics, financial compensation and attitudes towards anonymity, disclosure and providing information to potential offspring. A number of methodological shortcomings have been identified in the studies investigating sperm donors. CONCLUSIONS Institutional factors (such as recruitment procedures, altruism versus compensation of sperm donors, anonymity versus open-identity donation) and the impact of changing legislation have largely dominated the studies on sperm donation. Furthermore, studies from countries with a bias towards white Western ideology and interpretation were over-represented. This has resulted in a profile of potential and actual sperm donors in terms of demographics, recruitment strategies, motivation for donation and attitudes regarding anonymity, disclosure, recipients and offspring. However, the psychosocial needs and experiences of the donor, and their follow-up and counselling are largely neglected. This review has identified key issues to inform current practice and the development of pathways of care for sperm donors that reflect the multidimensional nature of sperm donation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Altruism
  • Attitude
  • Disclosure
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Self Concept
  • Spermatozoa*
  • Tissue Donors / psychology*
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement*