Is Sperm Donation Safe?

Private Sperm Donors

A private donor means selecting a man from a sperm donor matching service or by other means who is willing to donate his sperm to you. Choosing a private sperm donor compared to purchasing semen from a sperm bank carries the following risks:

  • Private donors are in control of their own screening process for medical conditions so you are solely relying on the information your donor gives you
  • You have to take your sperm donors word on what he tells you about any known serious medical disability or family history of hereditary disorders
  • Donors who conceive children outside of a clinic have parental rights and responsibilities
  • There is a risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • You could be putting yourself in personal danger.
  • If your donor donates to others your child will have a high number of half-siblings.

Is it Safe to use a Private Sperm Donor?

If you are using a private donor both parties need to be clear about expectations around parental involvement. Setting out a known donor contact or co-parenting agreement can help to specify intended levels of donor contact. What will work in theory and practise with the best interests of the child are two separate things.

Here are 4 important things to consider when using a private sperm donor:

  1. Always meet your sperm donor for the first time in a public place and tell a friend where you are going.
  2. Never use a donor who is not prepared to show you written evidence of health screening.
  3. Never agree to natural insemination if you do not want that method.
  4. It is illegal to pay a sperm donor although expenses are acceptable.

Sperm Bank Donors

Why choose a clinic for sperm donation?

The safest option is to have treatment with donor sperm at a licensed clinic. Clinics around the world are required by law to ensure that donors and their recipients are protected by carrying out rigorous health tests and counselling.

For single women and lesbian couples your donor will be considered the legal parent of any children you might have. This means that he will have rights and responsibilities for your child.

Having treatment at a licensed clinic will ensure that the donor is not a legal parent to your child.

How safe is the sperm I am using?

It is imperative that the sperm you intend to use has been tested for quality and safety. A clinic will ensure this process is robust.

A clinic will test for sperm count, motility (how well the sperm swims) and morphology (is the sperm the right size and shape). Donors will have full health screening for infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis. Donors will also disclose their family medical history to identify any serious heritable diseases.

Clinics will freeze and quarantine semen for 180 days as certain diseases may not test positive for a period after the donor has been infected. Donors will then be tested again after this period of quarantine.

Where did freezing sperm begin?

In 1952 in Iowa, USA, doctors performed freezing sperm and egg cells for the first time. The following year the first 3 babies from frozen sperm were born.

Sperm banks then began recruiting donors for use in IVF treatment. IVF now forms a $60 billion industry. In California only 5% of men qualify for donating sperm. This is because sperm banks are very picky on the sperm that they sell. They want to make sure that the sell only the highest quality semen.

Are sperm banks picky?

Yes sperm banks are very selective on the donors they recruit. Sperm banks check an initial sample of sperm for motility, morphology and cell count. The semen is also tested to ensure that it survives the freeze thaw process.

It is only once donors have passed this stage that the sperm bank will check for medical history, take blood and urine samples to check for diseases such as HIV, syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia and hepatitis B & C.  Most banks will also test for genetic disorders like cystic fibrosis.

There are actually no regulations for sperm banks to do this genetic testing so there is very little consistency. Some banks will go all out to check for genetic history and others will offer a simplified service.

Donors who pass this stage could then be rejected if they are too small (under 5ft 7). Most families who have IVF are white so many black donors do not make it to the final stage. Some sperm banks also reject homosexual donors.

Recipients pay thousands of dollars to pick their ideal donor so sperm banks select what they consider to be best sellers.

Is the testing process through with sperm banks?

Sperm donor information can be misrepresented for example there has been a case in the USA where a donor was advertised as having a Masters qualification and working towards his PHD. He was in fact a schizophrenic college drop out with a criminal record.

Donors through sperm banks have been known to pass on genetic conditions because no genetic testing was performed by the sperm bank.

There are always risks attached with sperm donation so here is a short list of essential points to consider if you are buying sperm:

1) Ensure the sperm has been tested for diseases

2) Ensure the sperm has been tested for genetic conditions

3) Check the quality grading of the sperm you are buying

4) Check the anonymity status of the donor

5) Check the pregnancy success rating of the donor.

Whether you decide to choose a private sperm donor or buy semen from a sperm bank you should always do your homework. Ask as many questions about your donor as you can, be sure all health tests have been completed and select the best quality sperm you can as that will give you the best chance of becoming pregnant and having a healthy child.