What is a Donor Sperm?

by Angie Best-Boss, Contributing Writer

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 while child; 6 ft 1 inch tall; Caucasian 3/4 English 1/4 Scottish.

Sperm vials are available immediately with no wait.” …until you get to the last line. If donor sperm is an option you are considering, you may find yourself poring through ads just like these.

You may need donor sperm 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 donor sperm 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 donor insemination – known and unknown.

A known 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 donor vials until your donor has completed the second set of blood tests, six months after the first set was done. If you use a known 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.

An unknown donor is found through 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

Donor sperm 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 at-home insemination, although state laws vary as to what is allowed.

Choosing a 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 (either free or for a price) 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 vials of sperm: $180 – $250. (Usually, 2-3 vials are needed for the cycle)
• Consultations: $50 -$100.
• Brief Profiles in donors: free – $10 each
• Long Profiles on donors: $5 -$25.

Expect to pay a few hundred dollars no matter which option you choose. For a known 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 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 the 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 donor sperm. 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 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 donor sperm.

You have several options, although there are no generally accepted terms within the industry, so you will have to do lots of your own research.

Generally, an open donor agrees to have to identify 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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