Perinatal outcomes of infants conceived using partner versus donor sperm - An analysis of singleton and twin pregnancies from the UK national dataset

C. Allen, D. McLernon, S. Bhattacharya, A. Maheshwari

Research output: Contribution to journalAbstractpeer-review


Study question
Are perinatal outcomes different in pregnancies conceived using donor sperm compared with those with partner sperm?

Summary answer
The perinatal outcomes of singleton and twin pregnancies conceived with donor sperm are better when compared to those conceived with partner sperm

What is known already
There has been a substantial increase in the use of donor sperm in the last 15 years across the world. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis has suggested that there is an increased risk of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and small for gestational age babies from ART treatment using donor sperm compared to partner`s sperm. This meta-analysis was limited due to poor quality of primary studies often with small sample sizes.

Study design, size, duration
This is a retrospective cohort study on 196,293 singleton and 46,275 twin pregnancies from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) anonymised dataset including all live births from 1991 to 2016. Outcomes were preterm birth ( < 37 weeks); very preterm birth ( < 32 weeks); very low, low, high and very high birth weight ( < 1500g, < 2500g, >4000g and >4500g respectively); congenital anomaly and healthy baby (term live birth with appropriate weight and no congenital anomaly).

Participants/materials, setting, methods
All pregnancies resulting in singleton or twin livebirth were included. Any cycle involving donor oocytes, PGD, gamete intra-fallopian transfer, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, stillbirth, or termination was excluded. Logistic regression and generalised estimating equations were used for analysis of singletons and twins, respectively. Odds ratios (aOR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) for donor versus partner sperm were adjusted for maternal age, previous pregnancy, cause of infertility and year for all outcomes plus gestational age for birthweight.

Main results and the role of chance
Baseline characteristics for donor and partner sperm pregnancies were assessed for singleton and twin livebirths separately. In both analyses there were significant differences between donor and partner sperm pregnancies in terms of maternal age, previous pregnancy status and cause of infertility.

Analysis of singleton births demonstrated an increased odds (aOR, 95% CI) of having a healthy baby (1.09, 1.05 - 1.12) and reduced odds of congenital anomaly (0.34, 0.29 - 0.39), very preterm birth (0.66, 0.58-0.75), preterm birth (0.81, 0.76-0.86), low birthweight 0.89 (0.83 - 0.96) in singleton births using donor sperm compared with those using partner sperm. There was, however, an increased odds of high birthweight (1.10, 1.05 - 1.16) and very high birthweight (1.16, 1.05-1.29) with donor sperm pregnancies.

Analysis of twin births conceived with donor sperm also showed higher odds of having a healthy baby (1.07, 1.01 - 1.15) and lower odds of congenital anomaly (0.52, 0.39 - 0.68) compared with partner sperm. There were no statistically significant differences between the birthweight or birth gestation outcomes for twin pregnancies.

Sensitivity analysis of only cases with complete outcome data showed no significant differences when compared to the primary analysis.

Limitations, reasons for caution
This is a retrospective study of a single nation’s routinely collected data. We could not adjust for confounders such as smoking, BMI and pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia, as they are not recorded in HFEA’s dataset.

Wider implications of the findings
Patients and clinicians can be reassured that donor sperm pregnancies are not at higher risk of adverse perinatal outcomes. In fact, they are more likely to result in a healthy baby. Worldwide registries should consider including maternal data to enable a better assessment of outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-3
Number of pages2
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue numberS1
Early online dateJul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 6 Aug 2021


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