For couples who can’t conceive with the husband’s sperm, or single women who want a biological child, sperm donation is a safe and effective option, says Michael J. Slowey, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist at Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey.
Here’s how to start:
Find a good bank. “Your physician will recommend reputable sperm banks that he or she has worked with,” says Dr. Slowey. You can also get information online from the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, RESOLVE and the American Infertility Association. Frozen sperm can be shipped all over the country, so don’t limit yourself to banks in your area.
Do your homework. Investigate a number of sperm banks before making your final choice. Visit their web sites, and ask each to send you brochures and written information.
Check for top-notch credentials. Make sure the sperm bank is licensed and accredited. The two national licensing programs considered to be the most thorough are The American Association of Tissue Banks and the New York State Department of Health. “National certifications show a commitment to excellence,” says Dr. Slowey.
Ask about medical testing. By law, sperm banks are required to screen all donors for HIV, hepatitis, and other sexually transmitted diseases, as well as genetic problems. The ASRM recommends that specimens be frozen and quarantined for six months after the initial HIV test. At that time, a second test is performed to make sure that the donor, and his sperm samples, are disease-free. Sperm banks should also do a thorough evaluation of donors’ medical history.
Learn how the bank operates. Find out how many donors it works with. Does the bank recruit a certain type of donor? How old are donors? (Under age 40 is preferable.) How and when do donors sign away legal rights to any child conceived using their sperm? How is confidentiality maintained?
Request donor profiles. You should receive information about donors’ physical characteristics, race, ethnic background, educational background, occupation, general health, and hobbies and interests. Some banks will even provide photos.
Finally, after you’ve selected a donor whose characteristics and qualities are most important to you, find out how many pregnancies his sperm has previously produced, advises Dr. Slowey. Ten is the recommended limit to lessen the chances of a single donor’s offspring ever meeting and producing children of their own.
A version of this article originally appeared in the 2004 Premiere issue of Conceive Magazine.