Considering Donor Sperm

If donor sperm is something you are considering in order to become pregnant, it's important to understand every aspect of this procedure, including how often it may need to be repeated, how much of the cost you are responsible for, and the donor screening process. Your healthcare provider can determine whether intracervical insemination or intrauterine insemination is right for you.


Why Consider Sperm Donation?

While any form of fertility treatment can be a big step, the decision to use donor sperm can present you with a number of questions and issues to consider. If you have gotten to this point in your fertility journey, it can help to become as educated as you can about what's involved with using a sperm donor before making your decision.
Taking a look at how to choose a sperm donor, anticipating the emotional effects to prepare for, and knowing the process of what's involved can help you and your partner decide if this is the path you want to take in having a child.

Reasons to Use Donor Sperm

If you and your partner have reached the point where you are considering donor sperm, then it's likely that other fertility routes haven't been successful. You may be at a point where you are struggling with the fact that you can't have a child with your partner.
Or in some cases, you may be a single woman who is looking to have a child, and donor sperm can help make that dream a possibility. Others may be same-sex partners looking to having a child using a sperm donor. There are many reasons people consider sperm donation, so let's take a look at when this may be a possible option for helping women and couples conceive.
The first reports about using donor sperm for artificial insemination were published in 1945; however, using donor sperm has been practiced for over a century. Over the last decade, the use of donor sperm has actually decreased as new methods and technologies have emerged, particularly the use of intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).
ICSI is used for the treatment of male infertility and involves using special micromanipulation equipment (joystick-controlled robotics) and individually injecting a single sperm into the cytoplasm (interior) of each mature egg. ICSI can be especially effective for severe male factor infertility. The injected eggs are placed in a laboratory incubator and are monitored to see what eggs have successfully fertilized (see The Ins and Outs of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) for a closer look at this process).
However, going through ICSI and the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process can be complex and costly. For some people, sperm donation can be a less expensive route. But when should you consider donor sperm?
Donor sperm is often recommended as an option when the male partner has severe abnormalities in the semen and/or reproductive system. These abnormalities can include an obstruction, such as blocked ejaculatory ducts, and nonobstructive problems, such as testicular failure. These can cause azoospermia (absence of sperm), which can be congenital or acquired.
Some examples of obstructive azoospermia include congenital absence of the vas deferens or a previous vasectomy. For nonobstructive azoospermia, some examples may include testicular failure or secondary testicular failure due to previous radiation treatments or chemotherapy.
Some men may also have severe oligospermia (decreased sperm count) or other significant abnormalities with the sperm or seminal fluid. In these cases, you may want to consider sperm donation. Using a sperm donor may also be considered if the man is a carrier or is affected with a significant genetic disorder that could be passed on to his children. Other possible uses would be for women who are Rh-sensitized and the male partner is Rh-positive. Women who are single or who are in same-sex relationships may also seek a sperm donor to become pregnant.
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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