Sperm Donation

Sperm donation is a process wherein a man donates his sperm to a woman, who is not his sexual partner. The person who donates is called a sperm donor.

The most common reason for seeking a sperm donor is because of the inability of a woman to get pregnant through her husband or sexual partner.

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Depending on the law of the state, the sperm donor does not usually have parental rights over the child, despite being the biological father. Sperm donation is more often done for monetary purposes, rather than altruistic reasons.

Selecting a donor

Selecting a donor can be daunting, but a few question asked during the selection process can make it easier to choose a donor. Some of the questions which need to be answered include:

  • How old is the sperm bank and does it have a good track record?
  • Does the bank have accreditation/certification?
  • What are the tests and screenings carried out on the donor?
  • Has the donor been screened for infectious diseases and other genetic or hereditary medical conditions?
  • How many children is the donor allowed to have, and are there any in your geographic area?
  • Logistical questions like – how, where and when is the sperm shipped, if using an agency? Can the sperm be stored for later use, and if yes how, and what is the cost? What is the bank policy in case of inadequate motility, morphology or sperm count after thawing?
  • In the long run, you may need to quench your child’s natural curiosity. You may need answers to questions like - what does the donor look like? Questions about his life, his other children and if it is possible to meet him?
  • If using an anonymous donor, you may need some information about him? Can he be contacted over time if needed, and will non-identifying information be made available to the child? If the bank ceases to operate, how can information about the donor be accessed?
  • Besides asking these questions, you need to confirm that the sperm bank uses only frozen sperms, and that the sample was held for 180 days and re-tested for HIV.

While selecting a donor, you of course also need to take into account your personal preferences regarding the donor’s education standards; age limit; physical appearance; racial, ethnic, religious, educational and family background. Recipients also need to talk to the doctor about all and any risks involved.

Types of sperm donors

There are primarily two types

of donors – unknown or anonymous donor and the “directed” or known donor.

Unknown or anonymous donor:

Unknown donors normally use sperm banks or sperm agencies. When using a sperm bank, the donor normally donates his sperm to the bank for a contracted period of time. Depending on the number of pregnancies the bank wishes to procure from the donor and other factors, this contract can typically range from six months to two years.

Some jurisdictions allow the sperm to be donated through an agency. The agency normally uses internet advertising and recruits donors. The donors have to go through the same process as in a bank, and when a donor is chosen, the agency takes care of all the logistics like procuring and supplying the sperm as per the recipient’s preferences.

Known or directed donor:

Some donors prefer to facilitate the donations privately and directly with the recipient. In this type, the donor is personally chosen by the couple through advertising, or by using a friend or family member as a donor.

Sperm donation process

The first step in the sperm donation process is applying for sperm donation. Statistics indicate that there are around 150 commercial sperm banks in the Unites States. The sperms of young college students are mostly sought after by women or couples trying to conceive. It is for this reason that most sperm banks can be found around colleges and universities, and many of the donors are young college-goers.

Prospective sperm donors have to undergo a rigid application and screening process which involves a complete physical examination, blood and sperm specimen testing and screening, and answering questionnaires. According to statistics only 5% of potential donors meet all the eligibility criteria in order to donate a sperm.

The screening and examination process may involve the following steps,

  • Questionnaires and interviews concerning reasons for applying for the donation process, family background and sexual behavior, history and habits.
  • In some cases, family history across three generations may be acquired and assessed.
  • The semen analysis involves examining sperm cell count, sperm cell motility (capacity of the sperm to move properly to the egg), and normal sperm morphology.
  • Various tests are carried out, for example, blood type testing, genetic testing for cystic fibrosis and infectious diseases tests like HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, etc.

Following are some of the reasons why a potential donor may be disqualified:

  • Family history of cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia and/or other genetic and hereditary diseases.
  • Homosexual men and intravenous drug users may not be eligible for donation.
  • Men, who have had sex with women staying in areas where significant numbers of AIDS cases have been reported, may also not be eligible.

Depending on the sperm bank, this entire process takes between 8 weeks to 6 months. Eligible donors who qualify need to sign a contract and agree to all the terms of the contract. The donors are paid anywhere between USD 40 to USD 100, for each semen sample.

The selected donor walks into a room filled with pornographic material and masturbates into a sterile vessel. The sample is then preserved using cryopreservatives, sealed, and frozen with liquid nitrogen and stored at -321 degrees Fahrenheit.

In accordance with federal and state regulations, the sperms need to be quarantined for 180 days, after which the donor is required to undergo a final blood test. The donor may also receive some payment for the exit blood testing.

Risks of sperm donation

There are risks involved in sperm donation, for both, the donor and the mother. For instance, emotional problems may arise if the known donor is in constant touch with the child and the parents are not secure about this ongoing relation.

The main risk involved in sperm donation though, is the lack of uniform rules and laws regarding responsibilities and parental rights of the sperm donor. Absence of uniform state laws can in future lead to a great deal of confusions, controversy and emotional pain. The legal risks are greater if the donor is a known donor. Also, if there was no physician involved and the insemination of the sperm was done at home, through a sperm agency, it could lead to legal complications if the donor decides to go to court for parental rights.

Another risk involved, revolves around the number of children who can be born from one sperm donor. If the donor has many children, especially in the same geographical region, it may increase the risk of them eventually marrying or having sexual intercourse without knowing that they are half brothers and sisters. In fact such cases have already been reported.

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