Infertility affects up to one in seven couples in the UK, including those from the Asian communities. A new study now suggests that action is needed to raise awareness about the use of donor eggs and sperm in infertility treatment among South Asian communities living in Britain. In a one-year study led by De Montfort University, Leicester, researchers investigated attitudes among British South Asian communities on using and donating eggs and sperm in the treatment of infertility. The study was carried out using focus groups with 100 women and men of South Asian (Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi) origin, who were not themselves receiving treatment for infertility, in Birmingham, Leicester and Manchester. While fertility treatment such as IVF using the eggs and sperm of the individuals involved was regarded as an acceptable way of helping childless couples, there were doubts about using donor sperm because the man would not have a genetic link with his children. There was less worry about women receiving eggs from a donor, as those questioned felt that the woman creates a strong bond with the child through pregnancy and birth. They were also concerned about the impact on family and community relationships, particularly with the use of donor sperm. Removal of donor anonymity in April 2005 was regarded by many participants as a major disincentive for people in their communities to donate.
The study was carried out partly in response to a serious UK shortage of egg and sperm donors, especially from minority ethnic communities, which means that couples face long waiting times for treatment. It was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council's Science in Society programme.
Although many participants knew donation was possible, few reported being aware of a shortage of eggs or sperm, despite a recent national Department of Health campaign. The results will be used to form a strategy to raise awareness of egg and sperm donation in South Asian communities.
Culley L (principal of the research team). Public Perceptions of Gamete Donation in British South Asian Communities. Leicester: De Montfort University. For details, contact Nicky Hudson, Project Researcher, De  Montfort University, tel 0116 207 8766 or e-mail