How to choose a sperm donor: Beginner’s guide for intended parents

How to choose a sperm donor: Beginner’s guide for intended parents
If you’re thinking about building your family through sperm donation, here’s what you need to know about choosing an sperm donor and what you should consider in your search criteria.
Written by Orchid Team 
Medically reviewed by‍ Cristina Vidal, RN 
  • Cristina Vidal, RN, is the IVF-Donor-Surrogate nurse coordinator at Stanford Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility with over 20 years of experience in the fertility and reproductive clinic.

How Can I Find a Sperm Donor?

Sperm donation banks assist couples in finding the right donor sperm. Banks provide databases of sperm donor candidates that include donor profiles, blood type, education level, marital status, occupation, languages spoken, family history, ethnic background, career goals, interests, hobbies, medical history, genetic screening, and infectious diseases testing.

In order to become a donor sperm, donors need to have a normal screening of infectious diseases testing and normal parameters for semen analysis. Carrier screening results also help intended parents identify known reproductive risks in donor conceived children for rare recessive genetic disorders. 

Intended parents and recipients make decisions often based on physical appearance, medical history, and education background. 

Types of Sperm Donors

The laws in every state and country determine the types of donors allowed, but the sperm donor decides what kind of donor he'd like to be. There are different types of sperm donors:

  • Anonymous Donor: Donors don’t authorize any contact from donor-conceived children at age 18, but have not ruled out the possibility of interaction in the future. The donor-conceived individual can contact the bank who will try to reach the donor to see if he is open to any contact. 
  • Open Donor: Donors authorize the bank that donor-conceived children may contact them at age 18. 
  • ID Disclosure: Donors authorize the bank to release their information to any offspring at 18 years of age.
  • Directed Donor: A friend or family member previously known by the recipient or intended parents will cryopreserved the sperm at the bank for their use. 

Requirements of Becoming a Sperm Donor

The sperm donation process involves thorough testing and screening of donors based on the FDA requirements.

There is mandatory screening for infectious diseases and risk factors. It is important to select a reputable bank that has FDA registration and compliance, and also follows ASRM guidelines. It is highly recommended that you check first with your IVF clinic if they have a preferred list of sperm banks since they survey banks yearly for compliance. Many clinics only use sperm donors from that list to ensure they follow the guidelines. 

Donors, both anonymous and directed, should fulfill the requirements of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and FDA. The banks select the donor sperm carefully and they go through a qualifying process that include:

  • The age recommended for sperm donors is 21-38 years old, but some banks offer sperm donors starting at age 19 who undergo a thorough psychological evaluation prior to becoming a donor sperm
  • Medical and sexual history including a questionaire on the risk of communicable diseases
  • Blood test for infectious diseases testing by FDA regulations is done before donation, within 7 days of the sperm donation and 6 months later after quarantine period, before it can be released for use.
  • Semen samples for sperm count, motility and quality, and a blood sample for genetic screening
  • Genetic counseling to evaluate genetic risks based on family history and if any further preconception testing is necessary.
  • Evaluate the psychological status, level of functioning, emotional stability and history of the donor. Donors are also asked their preferences with future contact and sharing of personal data to donor-conceived children in the future.

Other requirements vary depending on the sperm bank—for example, some of them specify features such as height, education level, and criminal background. 

Factors Intended Parents May Consider

Knowing how to choose a sperm donor depends on personal and legal factors. Selecting the type of sperm donor is based on your personal situation and thinking about your child’s future. Some considerations to keep in mind include:

1. Consider your state or country legislation

Every state and country has legal requirements concerning sperm or egg donation—for instance, some permit providing donor ID for future contact, while others do not.

The sperm bank you select should adhere to government laws and ASRM guidelines on sperm donation. 

2. Determine the main characteristics of the sperm donor

Decide what features matter most to you such as ethnicity, eye or hair color, educational background.

3. Consider the possibility of future contact

Choose whether you’d like your child to have the option of getting in touch with the donor when they turn 18. This will determine the type of donor (anonymous, open, ID disclosure, directed donor) you select. 

Some people are comfortable with telling their children that they were conceived with donor sperm and give the option to get in contact with the donor sperm in the future. Others may not feel comfortable releasing the information to the child and have any contact in the future. 

It is important to have a counseling session with a mental health professional specialized in third party reproduction before making your decision in order to help make informed decisions about family building regarding sharing information with the child and others, the impact on the family, and readiness to start the process. Speaking with a third-party specialist can also assist you with your ideal goals and expectations regarding having future contact or a relationship with the donor, and receive education about emotional, ethical and logistical considerations.

4. Review the donor’s medical history

Review the donor's family medical history for risks of possible hereditary diseases or genetic conditions. Make sure your sperm donor gets tested and screened for infectious or communicable diseases as well as genetic carrier screening for autosomal recessive disorders. 

5. Consider the possibility of genetic siblings

If you’d like more than one child from the same donor, ensure there’s adequate sperm for all the treatments. You may choose to select a donor with multiple sperm vials available for purchase. Consult with your reproductive endocrinologist about the type of specimen to purchase (may vary if you are doing IUI or IVF treatment) and also how many vials they recommend to purchase and ship to the clinic for the specific cycle. 

If you are planning on starting or growing your family, check out our expert guides on all things genetics and fertility. Today, advanced genetic screening is now available to couples who want their child to have the best shot of a healthy life. Explore how Orchid helps you conceive with confidence.

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