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Considering Donor Sperm

Finding a Donor

Once you and your partner have come to the decision of pursing donor insemination, you may be wondering how to select a sperm donor. Couples or individuals have a choice of which sperm bank and which donor they want to use. You can obtain information about the donor's physical characteristics, ethnicity, educational background, career history, and general health.
Some sperm banks may also have written profiles about the donors that are available, which may even include photographs. Some banks may even be open to providing a service for when the offspring become older to obtain information about the donor.
 
All sperm donors should have tests done to check for certain infections, such as hepatitis, syphilis, gonorrhea, HIV, and other communicable diseases. All of these diseases can be transmitted through semen to a woman, so a thorough evaluation must be performed to prevent transferring any diseases to the woman or potential offspring.
 
Men who have had a blood transfusion within the past year, a history of homosexual activity, a history of genital herpes, or a history of IV drug use will be excluded from donor programs.
 
Sperm donors should be of legal age, but are typically younger than 40 years old. In many cases, donors may wish to be anonymous. However, the donor you choose can also be someone you know. Regardless of whether you know the sperm donor or not, a thorough screening and testing process is necessary to rule out any potential risks to the woman or baby.
 
The primary focus in selecting a donor will include reviewing the comprehensive medical questionnaire that evaluates the health and medical history of the donor. The medical history should include detailed information for at least two generations of family members.
 
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently has regulations in place that require infectious-disease testing to be done and to be reported negative within seven days of all sperm donation. Some of these tests will include checking for the following:
 
  • Treponema pallidum (syphilis)
  • Chlamydia trachomatis
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae
  • HIV-1
  • HIV-2
  • Human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV)-1 and HTLV-II
  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
  • Hepatitis B surface antigen
  • Hepatitis C antibody.
 
The sperm specimen is collected by masturbation, concentrated into small volumes of motile sperm, and then frozen until needed. The FDA guidelines also call for testing for infectious communicable diseases to be done at six-month intervals for anonymous donors. For known donors, the FDA exempts the six-month retesting requirement. However, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recommends that known donors be retested just as anonymous donors are retested.
 
It is also recommended that all sperm donors (anonymous and known) have a psychological evaluation and counseling by a mental health provider. This evaluation should also include a discussion of his feelings regarding disclosure of his identity and plans for future contact.
 
In many cases, the sperm donor will undergo a semen analysis that will include a test sample that is frozen and thawed to evaluate post-freezing/thawing semen parameters. Each man's sperm will have different susceptibility to the freezing and thawing processes. A donor may be selected if the post-thaw semen has met certain standards.
 
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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