Sperm Donor

sperm cartoon
image by Clix

It reads like a dating ad… "Scientific researcher; mathematics and computer expert; vice-president of company; straight A student in university; chess champion in high school; awards for academic excellence and athletics; 6 ft 1 inch tall."

If sperm donor is an option you are considering, you may find yourself poring through ads just like these.

You may need a sperm donor if a single woman without a partner would like to conceive a child, either with her own or someone else's eggs or if a couple is struggling with male factor infertility and cannot conceive using the husband's sperm. Other couples may choose a sperm donor if the male partner is a carrier of a genetic illness that they do not wish to pass along to a child.

Types of Donors

There are two types of sperm donor–known and unknown.

Known donors

A known sperm donor is obviously someone known to you and who has agreed to be a sperm donor. Some states however require a 6 months waiting period for the donor sperm to be held in a holding tank prior to release. That is, they will not release any of your sperm donor vials until your donor has completed the second set of blood tests, six months after the first set were done. If you use a known sperm donor, fork over a few bucks for a visit with an attorney and a counselor who specialize in reproductive issues to help everyone sort out issues that may arise.

Unknown donors

An unknown sperm donor is found though a sperm bank. The advantages of using a sperm bank are clear:

  • Semen has been tested for HIV and other diseases
  • Wide assortment of donors from which to choose
  • Donor signs away parental rights
  • No waiting period

Sperm banks, by law, must be thorough in screening out donors who have HIV, hepatitis, and sexually transmitted and genetic diseases. Banks are required to quarantine all specimens for six months until a second blood test can be run on their donor to insure that the samples are disease free.

Getting Started

A sperm donor is most frequently used in IUI (intrauterine insemination) or IVF (in vitro fertilization). IUI can be done at your OB/GYN, but IVF must be done through a Reproductive Endocrinologist. You can choose to do an at-home insemination, although state laws vary as to what is allowed.

Choosing a Sperm Donor

You have to decide what traits are most important to you. Banks may have infancy, childhood or even adult photos of the donor to help you choose. You may wish to match hair and eye color or ethnic origin. Most clinics offer consultation (some free, some not) to help you find your perfect match.

How Much Is It?

Prices range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the clinic.

  • Cost of sperm vials: $180 - $250. (Usually 2-3 vials needed for cycle)
  • Consultations: $50 -$100.
  • Brief Profiles in donors: free - $10 each
  • Long Profiles on the sperm donor: $5 -$25.

Expect to pay a few hundred dollars no matter which option you choose. For a known sperm donor, you still have to foot the bill for testing, and an unknown donor depends on a number of factors, including how much information you want on the sperm donor.

Pick a Clinic

There are huge differences in prices, ethics, information, and quality of donors from clinic to clinic. Choose carefully and get as much information as possible from several clinics before making a decision.

Sperm Banks are licensed and accredited, although requirements regarding accreditation and licensing vary from state to state (some states do not require any time type of licensing.) There are two national licensing programs that are considered to be the most thorough and stringent: The New York State Department of Health and The American Association of Tissue Banks, according to Sperm Bank Directory.

Frozen sperm can be shipped all over the country, so you can use any sperm bank you wish. Some states have laws restricting shipment, so that it may need to be shipped to your doctor's office and not your home.

Closed vs. Open

The question of anonymity is controversial when considering the sperm donor. Does your child have the right to know who his or her biological child is? Does he or she have the right to have access to medical information? Does a sperm donor have the right to choose whether or not to be known? The questions aren't easily answered, and you'll have to make some decisions as you choose a sperm donor.

You have several options, though because there are no generally accepted terms within the industry, you will have to do a lot of your own research. Generally, an open sperm donor agrees to have identifying information (name, address, phone number and date of birth) released to offspring at age 18. Recipient patients are usually required to sign a consent form before purchasing sperm from such a donor.


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