Sperm donation overview
- A man can donate his sperm to be used in assisted reproduction to aid a woman or couple experiencing male infertility achieve pregnancy.
- Sperm donation is utilized by single women wanting to get pregnant, lesbians who want to be mothers and by men who either cannot produce sperm, have poor quality sperm or are at risk of passing on genetic defects.
- The sperm donor can be known or anonymous, with anonymous donors generally contributing to a sperm bank.
- Artificial insemination is the process of putting the donated sperm and the female egg together, accomplished by intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), or IVF with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).
What is sperm donation?
Sperm donation can help a woman have a child who is not able to achieve pregnancy due to issues related to the male’s sperm. He may not be able to produce sperm due to blocked sperm ducts, or by not producing enough sperm or good quality sperm or by having a risk of passing along a harmful genetic trait.
A woman may also need to use donated sperm if she does not have a male partner but wants to achieve pregnancy.
Sperm donation has been used in reproductive medicine for more than 100 years. Early assisted reproductive techniques involved placing sperm in the woman’s vagina; however techniques now allow doctors to wash and quarantine sperm, then directly deposit donor sperm in the uterus through the IUI procedure.
In IVF, donated sperm can be placed in a lab dish with the female egg in order to fertilize it and create an embryo for implantation in the womb.
In cases of low quality sperm, the ICSI procedure of injecting the male partner’s sperm directly into the female egg during IVF has been very successful and has reduced the need for donated sperm.
Same-sex female partners and many single women wishing to get pregnant can also utilize sperm donation combined with reproductive medicine treatments.
What is the process of sperm donation?
Sperm donation is primarily done through a sperm bank. Sperm banks are specially licensed, regulated and equipped to collect the sperm, evaluate sperm quality, test and quarantine to ensure the sperm is disease free, and to store the sperm by freezing. Sperm agencies may be used to connect donors and recipients.
In all cases of anonymously donated sperm, the donor is screened and tested for disease and genetic problems. His sperm is frozen and quarantined for 180 days, after which the donor is retested for sexually transmitted diseases.
The sperm donor can be anonymous or may be known by the recipient woman/couple. The donor’s and recipient’s identities may be shared by agreement. An agreement could also provide for the sperm donor contacting the child when he or she reaches legal age.
Once the recipient couple or woman selects a sperm donor and is ready to begin fertility treatment, the donor sperm is used in one of several assisted reproduction techniques.
Guidelines for sperm donation
Sperm donation should involve strict medical testing and evaluation of both donor and recipient. This can include social history, family medical background and sexual history.
Due to the complex genetic and parenting issues in sperm donation, it is important for both parties to be prepared to address psychological and legal issues.
Other guidelines for sperm donation include:
- Sperm donors must be of legal age and should be under 40, as older men generally have lower quality sperm
- Consult an experienced reproductive medical specialist, such as our fertility physicians who can explain sperm donation, including the different types of sperm processing available and their suitability for the individual patient
- Only deal with reputable sperm banks and/or agencies
- Seek legal counsel knowledgeable about reproductive law in the donor’s and recipient’s state of residency, and get signed agreements detailing rights and obligations
- Discuss sperm donation with mental health providers experienced in third-party reproduction; they can help all parties come to terms with the factors of sperm donation, including such long-term issues as telling the child later in life.
What are the risks of sperm donation?
Sperm is donated by means of masturbation, which carries no specific medical risk.
Primary risks involve psychological and legal issues, for sperm donor and recipient alike. These can be addressed by consulting the appropriate professionals. Our physicians and staff can give patients recommendations.