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Is Donor Sperm a Good Option?

Is Donor Sperm a Good Option?

Here’s how insemination really works

There’s no shortage of rom-coms about single women who choose to get pregnant with the help of an anonymous sperm donor. In the movie “Delivery Man,” the main character donates his sperm to a clinic that later tells him it gave out so many of his samples that he ended up fathering 533 children.

While an entertaining plot for a comedy, this couldn’t actually happen. Reputable sperm banks allow for only a small number of children to be conceived via one donor, mainly to decrease the risk of half-siblings unknowingly having children together.

So, how does donor sperm insemination work in the real world?

Who’s a good candidate

Donor sperm insemination was originally used only in heterosexual couples who had significant male factor infertility, meaning the man did not have enough sperm in his ejaculate for insemination, or the sperm could not be retrieved for in vitro fertilization (IVF) for a variety of reasons.

It was also used in cases where the man had a genetic condition he did not wish to pass on to his child, or where he had an infectious disease, such as HIV or hepatitis, that he did not want to risk transmitting to his female partner.

Today, it’s also common for single women and female same-sex couples to use donor sperm to conceive a child.

Choosing the right donor

If you decide to use donor sperm, we suggest you contact a sperm bank. A few of the larger ones are California Cryobank, Fairfax Cryobank, Midwest Sperm Bank and New York Cryobank. There are many others across the country, so make sure to find the best fit for you.

Most banks offer both open and anonymous donation. In an open donation, the donor has agreed to be contacted by his child, when that child reaches legal age. In an anonymous donation, the donor’s identity is not revealed.

Whether open or anonymous, your sperm bank will provide information on ethnic background, physical appearance, education and hobbies of potential donors, as well as whether their sperm has resulted in previous pregnancies. Some sperm banks may also provide donor photos. Most of this information is available online.

All donors undergo a medical screening, are evaluated for personal and family history and are tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Sperm banks also test for certain genetic conditions such as cystic fibrosis, spinal muscular atrophy or sickle cell disease. Banks differ in how extensive their testing is, so make sure to ask for a list of the conditions they look for.

Obtaining the sperm

Once you’ve decided on a donor, simply order the sperm. It will be shipped frozen to your physician’s office.

There are several types of samples available. For example, an “IUI-ready” sample, meaning it is ready for intrauterine insemination immediately after thawing, is the most commonly used. Another type, called “ART,” contains fewer sperm than an IUI sample because it will be used for IVF.

How it works

Intrauterine insemination is performed in our office. The sperm is thawed and placed with a small catheter at the top part of the uterus, at or shortly before ovulation. This can be done in a natural cycle (i.e., without fertility medication), or in an ovulation induction cycle (i.e., where the woman takes medications to help her grow an egg).

The IUI procedure is comparable to a pap test, with no anesthesia and no restriction on activity afterwards. We recommend that patients wait 14 days before taking a pregnancy test.

We also perform IVF using donor sperm in our lab. Click here for more about how IVF works.

Pregnancy success rates for women with normal functioning reproduction are about 15-20% per menstrual cycle. For women who are older than 35 or have additional challenges such as irregular ovulation, the chances of success are lower.

If you’re unable to get pregnant other ways, anonymous donor sperm insemination might be a good alternative to explore. For more information or to find out how we can help, call us at (502) 897-2144.

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