It goes without saying that just being in the situation of choosing a sperm donor is extremely difficult. “It’s often a tremendous sadness for couples. It’s a time of realizing fully that this is a loss,” says Carol Frost. And it may be that you feel differently about using donor sperm than your partner does, cautions Linda Applegarth, Ed.D., director of psychological services at the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. “Men need to come to terms with the loss of the genetic connection to their child, [but] a man may be more open to conceiving a child with donor sperm than his wife is. He may say, ‘I don’t have a great attachment to my sperm, and the child will have a genetic connection to my wife,’ ” says Applegarth. “But a woman may grieve the loss of the connection to him through her child. Or she may feel some moral or religious issue, that this feels adulterous or uncomfortable. Those are all hurdles.” In Applegarth’s experience, this grieving process takes at least six months; she’s found that couples can benefit from working together with a psychotherapist.
One thing couples should also discuss earlier rather than later is whether or not they plan to tell their child he/she was conceived using donor sperm. According to Frost, more parents are choosing to tell their children.
Beyond the obvious desire to find a sperm donor who looks like a member of the family and is free of medical problems, couples shopping for sperm often have two other concerns. First, even after reading the profiles, they wonder about the men who donate the sperm. And second, they want to know how they can be sure the sperm they order is safe.
In answer to the first question, Mary Hartley, who heads up donor recruitment for Xytex, says she uses both a rigorous screening process and her intuition to find good candidates. “We take maybe 5 percent of those who come through the door,” she says. “The top disqualifications are they aren’t going to be here long enough—it takes months to be qualified—and they need to have some type of college education or be enrolled in college.” Xytex’s age parameters are 18 to 40, which is typical of sperm banks. “Most important is the family medical history and the donor’s own health status,” says Hartley. “They must have no diseases and be on no prescription drugs for conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol or asthma. And then, of course, they need to have a high enough sperm count.” For most banks, that’s about 20 million motile (meaning they can propel themselves along) sperm per sample to be injected into the uterus, explains Joe Conaghan, whose lab oversees as many as 2,000 inseminations a year.
As to the question of safety, sperm banks are overseen by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and some states, like California and New York, also have local regulations for collecting, storing and using donor sperm. (New York’s laws, in particular, are very stringent and well-regarded, so if the bank you’re using
is licensed in New York, that’s a good sign.) Some banks, like CCB, are accredited by the American Association of Tissue Banks; this is one indicator of quality, and the new FDA regulations for sperm banks going into effect in May  will incorporate many of the AATB standards. These standards specify that, among other conditions, sperm are screened for HIV, hepatitis B and C, chlamydia and gonorrhea, and genetic abnormalities.
Getting Pregnant with Donor Sperm|
Feb 24, 2009
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