COUPLES struggling to start a family will get help with the opening of a new sperm bank in the region.
The Leeds Centre for Reproductive Medicine is launching an appeal for healthy men aged between 18 and 40 to come forward as donors.
Rules now prevent men giving sperm anonymously. The donor's identity is not revealed to prospective parents but any child born would have the right to trace their biological father when they reached adulthood.
Experts say the rules have led to a significant shortage of donor sperm, leading to many people sourcing it abroad. Couples using donor sperm in the UK fell to fewer than 1,800 in 2007, the lowest number on record.
Dave Morroll, consultant embryologist at the centre at Seacroft Hospital, said: "More than one in seven couples have difficulty conceiving, of whom a relatively small but still significant number need help using donated sperm. This may be for infertility reasons or in some cases donated sperm is used to prevent the inheritance of genetic disorders.
"Here in Leeds we have not had access to a local sperm bank for some time, meaning couples have to rely on donors in other areas, who can be in short supply.
"Now is the right time for us to start building up a donor bank in Leeds which can help couples across West and North Yorkshire who use our service. There is a particular shortage of donated sperm from ethnic minorities so we are particularly keen to identify men in these groups who are prepared to help couples from a similar background to their own."
Once donated sperm is cleared for use it is stored in liquid nitrogen for up to 10 years, although strict rules are in place to limit the number of families who can benefit from a particular donor.
Men with a serious interest in becoming a sperm donor can ring 0113 206 3416 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.