Sperm donation at a glance
- Individuals or couples dealing with male infertility, or single women and lesbian couples who wish to become pregnant, may choose to use a sperm donor.
- A sperm donor provides sperm so it can be used in assisted reproductive techniques (fertility treatments). Donors can be identified (known), such as family members or friends, or nonidentified (anonymous) obtained through sperm banks.
- Sperm donors are often utilized for individuals with low sperm count, carriers of genetic abnormalities that the individual does not want to pass on, or if the sperm is blocked from leaving the body to fertilize a woman’s egg.
- Donor sperm is often used for intrauterine insemination (IUI), and can also be used with in vitro fertilization (IVF) and the technique of intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).
- According to The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) guidelines, a donor should be screened for infectious disease risk (blood work, questionnaire and physical exam), his sperm should be frozen and quarantined for at least six months, and then the donor re-screened to identify any infectious disease risk before the sperm is used for fertility treatments. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires all sperm banks operating in the United States to follow these strict guidelines.
- Sperm donors must be of legal age but typically less than 40 years old in order to minimize the potential of genetic defects associated with older donor sperm.
Fertility Specialists Medical Group uses donor sperm but is not a sperm bank
We do not accept identified (known) sperm donations, but can refer to local facilities that can coordinate the process and ultimately transfer the donated sperm to Fertility Specialists Medical Group (FSMG) for use.
For nonidentified (anonymous) donors, we routinely work with our patients to facilitate transfer of sperm from a sperm bank when necessary for fertility treatment.
We frequently work with:
Patients may also choose to purchase donor sperm from any sperm banks that have received accreditation from the American Association of Tissue Banks.
What is sperm donation?
Sperm donation is when a man makes sperm available to those who can’t otherwise get pregnant without it. Physicians have been using frozen donor sperm for IUI since 1953.
Patients may opt to use a nonidentified (anonymous) donor from a sperm bank or an identified (known donor), such as a friend or family member. In both situations, the FDA guidelines have rigorous screening protocols to reduce the risk of transmission of infectious diseases. A donor must complete specific blood work, a risk assessment questionnaire and undergo a physical exam within a specified period of time of donation.
After the man donates his sperm, it is frozen and quarantined; this step can be waived in cases of identified donors. After quarantine the donor must undergo repeat screening before the sperm is released for use. In the case of sperm banks, other testing may be performed, such as genetic screening.
Who can benefit from sperm donation?
In recent years the use of donor sperm has decreased in heterosexual couples, as the use of ICSI for the treatment of severe male infertility has become widespread.
ICSI requires very little sperm for use in IVF as a single sperm is injected directly into an egg’s cytoplasm where fertilization can hopefully then occur. Resulting embryos can then be transferred into the partner’s uterus.
Sperm donation is also frequently used as a fertility treatment for single women and lesbian couples desiring to build a family.
Sperm donation for male infertility
Male factor infertility can be addressed through the use of a sperm donor. Sperm donation is used when a male partner’s reproductive system has complications. These include:
- Azoospermia, which is the absence of sperm in the semen
- Men with known genetic abnormalities not wanting to pass them on to a child
- Sperm abnormalities such as decreased sperm count, poor movement (motility) and other irregularities that limit fertility
- Testicular failure, which can be congenital (present at birth) or due to an injury, radiation or chemotherapy treatment
- Blockage or obstruction of the passageways that allow sperm to travel from the testicle to the urethra
Sperm donor screening
ASRM recommends sperm donors be of legal age, but younger than 40 in order to minimize the potential risks of sperm from older donors.
As previously mentioned, donors can be nonidentified (anonymous) or identified (known), but all donors should undergo the FDA’s recommended screening and testing process to minimize the transmission of infectious disease.
This screening includes testing for infectious disease agents or diseases. A comprehensive medical history is the main focus of the screening process, including an extensive questionnaire for high-risk behaviors.
Information gathered includes:
- Evaluation of the health of the donor
- Family medical history of the donor
- Sexual history of the donor, in order to exclude those at high risk for sexually transmitted infectious diseases
A psychological evaluation and counseling are recommended for all sperm donors, both identified and nonidentified. This is to the benefit of recipient(s) and donor. The goal of the assessment is to identify:
- Psychological risks
- Financial and emotional coercion risks
- Concerns regarding disclosure of the donor’s identity
- Plans for future contact
The FDA requires all sperm donors to be tested for a specific list of infectious diseases and return negative results within seven days of the donation.
Additionally, nonidentified sperm donors must be tested again after a period of quarantine of the sperm sample. This is recommended for identified donors as well, but can be waived with appropriate counseling regarding risks.
Selecting a donor from a sperm bank
At a sperm bank, donors will often be asked to provide information about their education, hobbies, interests and personal habits, in addition to medical information.
This is of interest to many intended parents as a child born from sperm donation will inherit the donor’s genes as well as physical and perhaps personal traits.
Sperm banks may also provide photos, video or audiotapes from the sperm donor for recipients to make a more informed, well-rounded decision about the donor.