NEW laws removing sperm donors' right to anonymity have not stoppedmen volunteering, official figures released today show.
It had been feared that rules which came into force in April 2005enabling future children to trace their biological father would leadto a fall in donations.
But the first full-year figures from the Human Fertilisation andEmbryology Authority (HFEA) since the change show a 6% rise in thenumber of men registering as donors.
A total of 265 new sperm donors (of which 208 were based in the UK)were registered with the HFEA in the 12 months to 31 March last year.
That compares with just 250 (including 197 in the UK) the previous year.
It is the first time that full figures have been available for thefirst year of the new system as many clinics do not register donorswith the HFEA until they have completed the lengthy screening process.
Donor numbers had been falling over a 10-year period and recentreports have pointed to a shortage of sperm reaching apparently crisislevels - widely attributed to the removal of anonymity.
At one point last year there was just one active donor covering thewhole of Scotland - a figure which has now risen to three.
A spokeswoman for the National Gamete Donation Trust (NGDT) said that part of the reason for the decline was the decision by many clinics tostop recruitment amid uncertainty over the future of the system whilethe changes were being discussed.
HFEA chair Shirley Harrison said: "Many commentators continue to claimthat the change in the law to remove anonymity for sperm and eggdonors would lead to an immediate and steep fall in the number of donors.
"These new figures show that the predicted drop in sperm donor numbersis a myth."
She added: "Professionals working in the sector say that there are acomplex set of reasons which led to a fall in donor numbers from 1997 onwards."
NGDT chair Laura Witjens welcomed the increase but said the number of donors were still far short of the estimated 500 donors needed to meet demand.
"The most important lesson that can be learned from this is that recruiting donors can be done," she said.
"First and foremost it requires a willingness to put the effort in, something that is not happening across the sector.
"The focus should continue to be on raising awareness and recruiting willing-to-be-known egg and sperm donors.
"These statistics give hope and show we are on the right path regarding the sperm donors but a lot more needs to be done to recruit egg donors."