Couples and individuals facing infertility have many options available to them today. Until recently, patients needing donor sperm had their physician find their donor and were provided very little information to share with their child about the donor. Now selecting a donor is more open and provides a couple using donor sperm much more information about the donor.
Today, virtually all donor sperm is obtained as frozen specimens from a licensed, reputable, commercial "sperm bank". In addition, much more information is made available about the donor, allowing you to choose a donor based on not only physical attributes and medical history, but also personality profiles, level of education, and even a sampling of childhood photos. The amount of information available truly allows one to select their donor with many preferences met in the decision.
What to expect from a Sperm Bank
An extensive medical screening of sperm donors is be standard, but the level of screening done in each program differs.
An interesting statistic is: less than 10% of the donors who apply are actually accepted into various programs across the country. Some programs actually boast that they accept as few as three percent of all their applicants! This is a good thing, since only the best are allowed through, and the purchasers of the specimens can be confident that they are having the best chances of pregnancy.
The medical screening of donors includes a detailed semen analysis, family history, medical history, infectious disease testing, and genetic testing and evaluation. Since not all sperm backs test to the same level, it is important to compare programs to see which tests are done by each sperm bank.
One should look for a program where all specimens are quarantined while testing for HIV and other infectious agents is done. Samples are generally released from quarantine only after the donor passes another battery of tests six months later. All licensed programs in the US do this. At minimum, a guarantee on specimen quality should be provided. When the sample arrives and is thawed by the doctor's office, a minimum standard is assured by this type of guarantee.
A couple may also want to know if the donor has been exposed to CMV (cytomegalovirus). This is a very common virus, yet it may (rarely) cause infection in the woman receiving the specimen if she has never been exposed to it. Most all women who are positive for CMV antibodies are immune to further infection. CMV is related to Chicken Pox, and just like Chicken Pox, once you have caught it, you no longer have to fear it. If you chose a CMV positive donor, you should be tested yourself to make sure you are immune beforehand.
What Is Expected From A Recipient Of Donor Sperm
A little-known policy in the US is that potential female recipients must to be tested for a full battery of infectious diseases. These include syphilis, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV. This is a policy promoted by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine to document that a woman was indeed negative for these infectious conditions beforehand. This avoids the possibility that a woman could come back to the clinic that inseminated her, claiming that the specimen infected her. It also can be used to document if the very unlikely event of an infection from the sperm used did infect her. If that were to happen, it would allow the sperm bank to be investigated and corrective action taken.
Costs Involved With Donor Sperm
Although donor sperm specimen costs will vary between banks, some typical costs are as follows. Most frozen vials (or "straws") cost about $200.
The straws are usually shipped in very cold liquid nitrogen in big thermos-like containers called dewars. The dewars generally cost between $100 and $130 to ship overnight using a next-day carrier. Weekend shipping will cost more. Some people will order two to three straws per dewar to reduce the costs of shipping. Dewars hold six or more vials and are somewhat fragile containers that come in specially padded cardboard boxes. You may see these boxes coming in and out of a busy local fertility clinic! If you will be ordering straws, it may reduce costs to ask if anyone else at your clinic is using the same sperm back, and if there is someone else ordering, perhaps you can share a dewer to save some money.
Is Donor Sperm Right For You?
Only you can know for sure.
Natural conception is not always able to provide children to those who very much want them. You cannot always overcome male factor infertility issues. Sometimes, a healthy fertile male is not available. Treatment that includes donor sperm is one of the options that may make the chance to conceive a reality for you. Feeling comfortable with your choice in sperm banks, and ultimately the donor you have selected, is critically important. It can take time and some emotional reserves to make these important decisions. Only the couple or individuals themselves can make that choice.