Donor assisted conception

IVF and reproductive technology may use donated sperm, eggs or embryos to try and achieve pregnancy.

Participants in donor assisted conception are:

  1. the donor who provides the sperm, eggs or embryo.; and
  2. recipient/s who will receive the donation.

Donors may be:

  • known to the recipients; or
  • unknown to the recipients. 

Counselling is a required part of the donation process. Counselling is required to inform effective consent from donors and recipients.

Only altruistic (unpaid) donation is permitted in Western Australia. It is legal to advertise for an altruistic donor. Reasonable expenses can be reimbursed.

Family limits in donor assisted conception

In Western Australia laws relating to donor assisted conception limit donors to a maximum of five families through donation (excluding their own). There are no limits to the number of children conceived through the same donor within these five families.

Family limits may differ across jurisdictions but are standard practice in many countries in the regulation of donor assisted conception.

Family limits are implemented to:

  • reduce the likelihood of donor conceived persons who share the same donor entering an intimate relationship (known as consanguinity); and
  • limit the psycho-social impacts on donor conceived children.

Clinics should ensure they adhere to the five-recipient family limit by:

  • talking about this with donors and ensuring they are aware of their responsibilities;
  • ensuring they check if a donor has donated in another jurisdiction, at another clinic or privately;
  • identifying if previous donations resulted in the birth of donor conceived children; and
  • ensuring systems are in place to track the number of families created by a donor and prevent use after five families have been reached.

Breaches of the five family limit must be reported to the Department of Health.

Information for sperm, egg or embryo donors

Screening

Donors will be screened for medical and genetic conditions. Clinics must screen and quarantine donated sperm, eggs, or embryos to manage the risk of infection transmission.  After a donation, donors should contact their clinic if they or a family member are diagnosed with a serious medical condition that could impact a person conceived from the donation.

Counselling

Unknown donors (where the donor does not know the recipient) will be provided with information on approved counsellors and must undertake counselling as part of the donation consent process.

Known donors (where the donor is known to the recipient/s) must have counselling separately and with the recipients prior to consent being given. There is a 3-month cooling off period between counselling and donation/or use. 

Parentage

Where the donation has occurred through a licensed fertility provider, legislation makes it clear that donors are not the legal parent of any donor conceived child.

Donor names are not listed on the birth certificate of a donor-conceived child.

There is less legislative clarity where donation occurs in an unregulated setting. Donors are advised to seek legal advice. 

Access to information – donor conception registers 

Non-identifying and identifying information about donors will be sent to the Department of Health Reproductive Technology Treatment Registers.

From 2004 onwards, a person conceived with the assistance of a donor has the right to access identifying information about their donor once they reach 16 years of age. Donors have recently been notified (PDF 137 KB) that these donor-conceived people have started to turn 16 and are becoming eligible to access information about their donors.

Donors may access identifying information where there is consent from all parties.

learn more about the Donor Conception Information Service (external site).

Payment for donation

Only altruistic donation is allowed in Western Australia.  It is illegal to donate gametes for commercial gain.

Donors can be reimbursed for reasonable expenses associated with the donation.   

Unregulated sperm donation

Unregulated or informal sperm donation refers to the practice of arranging sperm donation, for artificial insemination practices, outside of licensed fertility clinics.

Informal donation arrangements might occur between two people who know each other or arranged between people online or via social media groups.

In Western Australia, human reproductive technology legislation focuses on sperm donation and artificial insemination procedures by licensed fertility providers. This means that the rights and protections for donors, recipients and donor conceived children, that are enshrined through legislation, may not be realised through an unregulated sperm donation process.

Risks of unregulated sperm donation:

  • transmission of infectious diseases using fresh sperm which has not been quarantined;
  • birth defects and genetic conditions due to lack of screening;
  • donors making very large families which increases the risk of a donor conceived child unknowingly having a relationship with a relative;
  • donor conceived children not having the right or being able to obtain information on the donor parent or any siblings;
  • lack of clarity on legal parentage;
  • increased risk of coercion into sex or sexual assault when meeting unknown donors.

The Department of Health discourages engaging in informal sperm donation due to the potential risks involved. Individuals considering unregulated sperm donation are encouraged to talk with their medical practitioners or a licensed fertility provider about options and how to manage risks. They are also encouraged to seek independent legal advice.

Reciprocal IVF

Reciprocal IVF (also known as egg sharing) refers to an IVF practice in same sex female couples where both parents can be involved in the conception of the baby. One partner carries the pregnancy and the other provides the egg, which is fertilised with donor sperm.

The transfer of an embryo formed with a partner’s egg, in female same-sex relationships is not usually permitted in Western Australia unless the partner who will carry the pregnancy (in the case of de facto relationships) or the couple (in the case of married couples) meets the IVF access criteria in the Human Reproductive Technology Act 1991.

It is best to seek advice from your clinician about your medical eligibility for IVF.

More information

Reproductive Technology Unit

Email: rtu@health.wa.gov.au
Mail to: P O Box 8172, Perth Business Centre, WA 6849

Last reviewed: 05-10-2023