Generally speaking, it’s not a situation anyone really pictures themselves in. But one day you may find yourself wanting to get pregnant and needing to buy some sperm.
It could be because your husband had cancer or testicular or prostate surgery; because he has a genetic disorder you don’t want to pass on to a child; or simply because his sperm levels are too low (what’s called oligospermia) and/or not the best quality for conception. Or maybe you’re a single woman who has decided to pursue motherhood on your own. Or you and your partner are both women, and one or both of you wants to get pregnant. Whatever the reason, you may find yourself needing to buy some donor sperm in order to have a child. Choosing the right donor–and dealing with the emotional ramifications of not starting your family the “ideal” way – are among the biggest steps you’ll need to take.
Where to Start Looking for Donor Sperm
Once you’ve decided to use donor insemination (DI), selecting a sperm donor will become the focus of your efforts. Thankfully, the Web has made it simple to search through hundreds of profiles on sperm bank sites the globe over. (In fact, the biggest bank in the world is Denmark-based Cryos International, which recently opened a branch in New York City.) This all-access (and private) pass to possible sperm donors means that many couples find a donor they like first, rather than choosing a bank first, says Sheridan Rivers, supervisor of customer service and sales at Xytex, a sperm bank in Augusta, Georgia. “People can choose a bank through a doctor referral, but donor selection is a huge deciding factor [since] we’re all pretty competitively priced.”
What can you look for in a sperm donor? Most sites allow you to do an online search based on ethnicity, height, eye color, hair color, etc. Perhaps most important—at least in terms of a successful outcome—is whether the sperm donor has had at least one woman get pregnant from his sperm. “If I was looking for a sperm donor, I’d want to know, can these sperm do what they’re supposed to do?” says Joe Conaghan, Ph.D., laboratory director at Pacific Fertility in San Francisco. “Having children already is a very positive sign.”
Most sites allow you to read a short profile of each donor at no cost. “Use the short profile as a process of elimination, to narrow down your choice,” advises Melonee Evans, client relations manager for California Cryobank (CCB), one of the biggest banks in the U.S. “Then decide what’s important to you.”
Don’t rush through this stage. “You may go into this not being sure what’s important to you, but as you read profiles you’ll get a sense of what’s comfortable for you and what’s not,” says Carol Frost, Lic.S.W., an infertility counselor in Woburn, Massachusetts, and a co-author of Helping the Stork: The Choices and Challenges of Donor Insemination (Wiley, 1997).