How Do Sperm Banks Work?

by | Feb 23, 2022 | Fertility 101, Infertility, LGBTQIA+, Resources

Sperm donor requirements, the sperm donation process, and how to use donor sperm

Donor sperm is a great option for single women, LGBTQ intended parents without sperm, and men with male factor infertility; but how do sperm banks work? Sperm banks collect, freeze, and store sperm samples from anonymous donors for intended parents to use in their fertility treatments. Read on to learn more about who can donate sperm, how sperm banks screen donors, and which treatments use donor sperm.

Who Can Donate to Sperm Banks?

Each sperm bank may have its own specific requirements for donors. Typically, though, most sperm banks tend to require that donors:

  • Are between 21-39 years old
  • Are in good physical, emotional, and mental health
  • Have high quality sperm (with good quantity, quality, and movement)
  • Test negative for infectious diseases
  • Can provide a thorough family medical history with no suggestion of hereditary disease

How Do Sperm Banks Screen Donors?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates sperm donation and requires extensive screening to protect the health and wellbeing of everyone involved. These include a physical exam, donor questionnaire, medical history, and infectious disease testing.

In addition to this testing, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recommends a psychological screening, genetic screening, and infectious disease testing for the intended parent(s).

To protect even more against the risk of infectious diseases, banks freeze and quarantine all sperm samples for six months after donation. After the six months, they are tested again to make sure they are disease-free and safe to use in fertility treatments.

What Is the Sperm Donation Process?

Typically, a potential donor goes through a multi-step application and screening process before approval. Once approved, donors go to the sperm bank to provide a donation. A single donation typically provides multiple vials to test and freeze. After a six-month quarantine, the bank tests the vials again. Finally, if they pass the second screening, they are listed in the sperm bank’s inventory and made available to intended parents.

The ASRM broadly recommends that banks limit donors to 25 total children conceived and born with their donated sperm. However, each sperm bank may have its own limit on how many times a donor can donate.

How Do I Choose A Sperm Donor?

Usually, intended parents can view all available donor profiles from their chosen sperm bank. Donor profiles are anonymous, so they don’t have any identifying information about the donor, such as their names or photos of them as adults. However, most profiles will include the donor’s age, medical history, and physical traits like height, weight, ethnicity, and eye color. In addition, some profiles may include more personal details like an essay from the donor, their hobbies or interests, or photos from their childhood.

When choosing a sperm donor, it can help to think about what’s most important to you. Some intended parents want a donor who looks similar to themselves physically; others look for a shared cultural background, or specific interests or personality traits. Having a list of preferences like this can help guide your search. However, remember that genetics are unpredictable, even in traditional conception. There are plenty of parents whose biological children have completely different personalities, interests, or even physical traits. Ultimately, your child will be their own, unique self, which is all part of the adventure of parenthood.

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How Do Sperm Banks Work in Fertility Treatments?

Once you have selected your donor, you can purchase vials of sperm for your chosen fertility treatment. Three main methods use donor sperm:

  1. Intracervical insemination (ICI)
  2. Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
  3. In vitro fertilization (IVF)

ICI is a simple at-home insemination procedure, where the sperm sample is placed against the cervix using a needleless syringe.

IUI is an in-office procedure that places the sperm directly into the uterus, bypassing the cervix, so the sperm has a better chance of making it to the egg for fertilization. IUI is an in-office procedure done at your fertility clinic. For IUI, clinics wash the sperm sample, to concentrate the sperm and make it safe to put into the uterus.

In IVF, eggs are retrieved from the ovaries and combined with the sperm sample in a lab to fertilize and develop into an embryo. A doctor then places the embryo back into the uterus to implant and develop into a pregnancy.

Expert Donor Sperm Fertility Services

Our Center for Collaborative Reproduction helps intended parents through the journey of donor conception. We partner with the best sperm banks around the country to provide diverse, high quality donors. If you would like to learn more about conceiving through donor sperm, reach out to us today.

PNWF Center for Collaborative Reproduction