This article has been externally reviewed by Sanjay Kumar, CEO of Cryobank America.
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Whether you’re an LGBTQ+ couple, a single mom by choice, or your partner is struggling with male infertility – choosing to start a family with the help of a sperm donor is quite common. While there isn’t any national record-keeping that tracks how many babies are born using sperm donation, some experts say the numbers could be as high as 60,000 each year. If you’re interested in using donor sperm, we have some information and resources here to help you get started along your journey.
If you're hoping for additional resources, check out our full digital course with Connecting Rainbows on growing your family with donor sperm here.
Deciding Between Known vs. Anonymous Sperm Donor
You need a sperm donor, but don’t know how it works or where to start? The good news is, there’s a lot of information and resources available because insemination via donor sperm has been practiced for more than a century!
The first thing you’ll need to figure out is whether or not you’re going to buy sperm from a cryobank (sperm bank), or request sperm from someone you know. A known donor can be a relative of your partner, a friend or acquaintance, or even someone you find through a sperm donor app.
Your choice may be dictated by circumstances. If you don’t know anyone who would be able to donate sperm, or if you already know you’d prefer the donor to be anonymous, you’d choose to use a sperm bank. However, if your financial situation prohibits you from buying donor sperm, or you’d like to have more of a relationship with the sperm donor, you might need to find a known donor candidate.
For others, this decision may take some time, and research. For some great information, check out this piece Family Equality put together that may help you on your journey. Very Well Family also has a great article that goes through the pros and cons of using a sperm bank, versus a known donor.
Regardless of where you end up, experts agree that it’s a good idea to start by talking with a therapist or counselor to help you think through this big life decision. They can also help with suggestions for ways you might want to approach someone you know about being a potential donor.
If you are considering a known donor, Family Equality put together this great list of questions to ask a potential donor. There are important questions to discuss with a donor like, whether or not they have a desire to parent, or pursue a relationship with a child that results from their donation, and if they will allow their sperm to be tested, and answer medical history questions.
If you decide to work with a sperm bank, donors will be screened – both medically and psychologically. But you should ask about the methods and the thoroughness of their screening process.
Many sperm banks offer information about donors that includes physical characteristics, education, ethnic background, career history and health history. Some sperm banks also offer photos of donors as children, detailed profiles, and even voice recordings.
Known Donor Agreement or Contract
If you’re planning on using a known sperm donor, you’ll need a legal contract. This is especially important in some states where laws do not protect parents, or children, without a legal agreement in place.
There are attorneys who specialize in reproductive law – and can draft or review donor agreements. The American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys is a great resource to find a reproductive attorney in your area along the LGBTQ+ Bar Association, which has a Family Lawyer Directory here.
If you are using an anonymous donor through a sperm bank, you won’t need a legal contract – unless you’re a same-sex couple. For example, a lesbian couple may want a legal agreement in place depending on their state laws so that both the biological and non-biological parent have parental rights.
Donor Sperm Testing & Lab Work
States have different rules, and so do fertility clinics, when it comes to medical testing. Some clinics require both partners to do lab work to rule out any infectious diseases – even though donor sperm is being used. Most but not all sperm banks do genetic screening and non-infections disease testing. Some even do a psychological analysis with a psychiatrist, drug testing, and full background checks. If you are using a fertility clinic, or a sperm bank, be sure to find out their requirements on testing before you get started.
Since the late 1980s, after the start of the AIDS epidemic, donor sperm has been required to be frozen and quarantined to allow time to test donors. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends that doctors use only frozen sperm and that the sample be frozen and stored for at least 180 days. The FDA requires that both anonymous and known sperm donors get screened for communicable diseases. Current FDA regulations require infectious disease testing to be performed within seven days of all sperm donations.
Frozen vs. Fresh sperm
Medical studies have shown that there is a higher pregnancy rate when fresh sperm is used, compared to frozen sperm. If you’re using a known donor, it might be possible to get a fresh sperm sample, after the donor has been medically screened. However, if you’re using an anonymous donor, through a sperm bank, only frozen sperm would be an option. Despite the studies, it is possible to get pregnant with frozen sperm at home and at a clinic. It’s also good to check with your doctor too to confirm using frozen sperm is a right for you.
Fertility Financial Aid
When you’re assessing the personal and financial impact your fertility journey may have, there are some resources that could potentially reduce your out of pocket costs. For example, some health insurance policies do cover fertility treatments, and testing even when you’re using donor sperm. There are also grants available to support LBGTQ couples with family building, including financial help with treatments. Family Equality has a list of available grants and resources.
We love to hear from the Mosie Community! Please let us know how we can help support you and feel free to reach out to us via our contact page. We also love to read and share your Mosie Stories. Not only do they keep us motivated to do what we do, but they provide hope and inspiration to like-minded others as they navigate their way through their own family building journey.