Men looking to become sperm donors must pass a number of genetic, psychological and medical screenings. They must also be healthy and free from communicable diseases such as HIV, hepatitis and gonorrhea.
Single women and LGBT+ couples increasingly seek sperm donations to build their families. This is where sperm agencies come into play.
What is a sperm donor?
A sperm donor is a man who donates his semen, which contains sperm, to a couple or single person for artificial insemination. He may do this either through a clinic or directly, through the use of an advertising web site or private broker. Single women and lesbian couples often seek donor sperm in addition to the use of fertility medicines to produce their own biological children.
Men wishing to become sperm donors must pass comprehensive medical and psychological examinations to determine their suitability for donation. They also must undergo extensive interviews about their sexual history and family background, and their semen is screened for genetic disorders and for infectious diseases like HIV and Hepatitis B and C. Some sperm banks have additional requirements beyond the FDA mandated standards, such as height, education level, work status and other physical traits.
If a woman wants to use the sperm of a known donor, she and her partner will usually seek legal advice to ensure that their agreement with the donor complies with all laws regarding parental rights, and to address other issues like contact between the child and the donor. For this reason, many couples prefer to work with a sperm bank that offers semi-open or open donor arrangements, which allow at least some contact between the donor and the children he has fathered.
How does a sperm donor become a donor?
A donor begins the process by applying to a sperm bank. If accepted, the donor will undergo a multi-step application and medical screening. He will be required to provide multiple vials of sperm, which are tested and then frozen. Once the sample is frozen, it’s available for use in assisted reproductive procedures at a fertility clinic or through intrauterine insemination (IUI) at home.
A sperm donor database may include pictures, information about the donor’s work history and interests, IQ testing results and other personal details. Many sperm banks will screen for health issues, including genetic conditions and mental health, while others only screen for physical and sexual health problems.
Most donors receive some form of payment for their donation, though this amount varies widely. Sperm donations can be anonymous, or the couple may choose to know the donor. In some cases, a donor will meet with the couple or individual seeking to use his semen in what’s known as a private or directed donation. In this situation, the donor and recipient may communicate through a broker, which facilitates contact that maintains semi-anonymity for legal reasons. Same sex couples often choose to have multiple children by the same donor in order to foster a biological connection between siblings. Most sperm banks do not place a limit on the number of children that can be conceived using a particular donor’s sperm.
How does a sperm donor donate sperm?
Sperm donors go through a multi-step application and screening process. After passing the tests, they donate a sample of semen to a sperm bank, which is then frozen for six months. The sperm is then tested again for various infections, including HIV and syphilis. After the sperm passes the second test, it is then added to the donor bank’s inventory and made available to prospective mothers or couples.
Donors can choose whether to remain anonymous or disclose their identity. They also decide how often they want to donate – a single sample may not be enough for prospective parents, so sperm donors can give more than one donation if they wish. Donors typically receive a payment for each donation or sample.
Sperm can be donated using natural insemination or artificial insemination. During natural insemination, a woman will be inseminated with the donor’s sperm in a clinic or at home using an oral suppository. Alternatively, a woman can inseminate herself with the donor’s sperm using a condom.
Both types of insemination can result in pregnancy. However, artificial insemination results in a more successful pregnancy rate. There are also legal and emotional considerations when deciding to use a sperm donor. These include whether the sperm donor should be involved in the child’s life, as well as the cost of the procedure and the donor selection process.
How does a sperm donor store sperm?
Depending on their preference, some donors store the semen they produce so that it can be used by other couples seeking to conceive with their donated sperm. This is called a directed donor or client donation and is the most common form of donation used for donor insemination (DI).
Other donors may only donate once during their fertile period and leave the semen to be thawed and washed by a fertility clinic before it’s used in an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle. This method is less common and is usually only considered when a couple is concerned about the time between donation and conception. It can also have a negative impact on pregnancy rates, as the semen will be subject to transit times which can cause the sample to degrade.
The final option is for a couple to use the sperm of a known donor. This is sometimes preferred by intended parents looking for specific physical traits, a shared cultural background or other interests and personality traits. However, it’s important to remember that genetics is unpredictable, and a child born from sperm donation will be no more or less “normal” than any other child. For this reason, it’s always recommended that recipients of a known donor speak to a lawyer about creating a legal contract to protect their parental rights.