Early pregnancy outcomes of IVF cycles using donor versus partner sperm: analysis of 1 376 454 cycles recorded by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (1991-2016)

Christopher Allen, David McLernon, Sohinee Bhattacharya, Abha Maheshwari* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


STUDY QUESTION: Are the early pregnancy outcomes of IVF pregnancies conceived with donor sperm different to those conceived with partner sperm?

SUMMARY ANSWER: Pregnancies conceived with donor sperm have a lower odds of early pregnancy loss and ectopic pregnancy compared to pregnancies conceived with partner sperm.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: The number of cycles using donor sperm has risen significantly in recent years. Adverse early pregnancy outcomes have a negative impact on women and their partners. The evidence available to date regarding early pregnancy outcomes for pregnancies conceived with IVF donor sperm is limited by low numbers and lower-quality studies.

STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: This is a retrospective cohort study of 1 376 454 cycles conceived with either donor or partner sperm between 1991 and 2016 as recorded in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) Register.

PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: The HFEA has recorded data on all fertility treatments carried out in the UK from 1991 onwards, and it publishes this data in an anonymized form. This study assessed the outcomes of all pregnancies conceived with donor sperm and compared them to those conceived with partner sperm among IVF cycles recorded in the HFEA anonymized dataset from 1991 to 2016. Cycles that included intrauterine insemination, donor oocytes, preimplantation genetic testing, oocyte thaw cycles and alternative fertility treatments were excluded. The outcomes of interest were biochemical pregnancy, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth and live birth. Logistic regression was used to adjust for confounding factors including age of the female partner, cause of infertility, history of previous pregnancy, fresh or frozen cycle, IVF or ICSI, number of embryos transferred, and year of treatment. Results are reported as adjusted odds ratios (aOR) and 95% CIs.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: This study found reductions in the odds of biochemical pregnancy (aOR 0.82, 95% CI 0.78-0.86), miscarriage (aOR 0.93, 95% CI 0.89-0.97), and ectopic pregnancy (aOR 0.77, 95% CI 0.66-0.90) among pregnancies as a result of the use of donor sperm as opposed to partner sperm.

LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: This study is retrospective and limited by the constraints of routinely collected data. No data were available for maternal characteristics such as BMI, smoking and partner age, which could all be potential confounders. Clustering of multiple pregnancies within women could not be accounted for as the data are reported only at the cycle level with no maternal identifiers.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: This study has demonstrated that there are no increased risks of adverse pregnancy outcome with donor sperm pregnancies. The reduction in miscarriage in pregnancies using donor sperm suggests that sperm could have a role in miscarriage, as the selection process for being accepted as donor is stringent.

STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): No external funding was sought for this study. C.A. has received funding from Ferring to attend a UK meeting for trainees in reproductive Medicine. A.M. has received funding from Ferring, Cook, Merck Serono, Geodon Ritcher, and Pharmasure for speaking at, or attending, meetings relating to reproductive medicine. She has also participated in a Ferring advisory board. S.B. has received grants from Tenovus and the UK Medical Research Council. She has also been supported with a Medical Research Scotland PhD studentship.


Original languageEnglish
Article numberdead057
JournalHuman reproduction (Oxford, England)
Early online date24 Mar 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Mar 2023


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