What is Donor Sperm?
While most men would prefer to be genetically related to their children, this is unfortunately not possible for all men. Some men don’t produce any sperm (this is called azoospermia), while other men produce very few sperm (oligospermia), or their sperm have poor motility or abnormal shape and are not able to fertilize an egg. For these men, if they would like to become fathers, they may choose to use donor sperm. The donor sperm are often used in an artificial insemination (IUI or ICI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure to fertilize the eggs of the female partner of the intended father; however, the couple may also use donor eggs and/or a gestational surrogate.
Additionally, single women may choose to become mothers, and will require donor sperm to do so. The same is true for homosexual female couples who would like to have children. Additionally, homosexual male couples may choose to use donor sperm rather than selecting one of the male partners to be the genetic father of the child.
If you’re choosing to use sperm donation to create your family, make sure you’re choosing it because you really want it, not to please someone else or to fit an imagined ideal. No one else can make the choice for you; it’s your body, and you’re in charge of it. After you do your research and understand the procedure, if you believe that the use of donor sperm is right for you, then proceed. To help you in your decision-making process, we have some information about the risks and benefits of using donor sperm at Donor Sperm: Risks and Benefits.
Please note that this page is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for qualified, individualized medical advice. You should discuss your potential elective procedure with your own doctor(s), including your primary care physician and the doctor who will perform your procedure if you decide to proceed.
How it’s done
Compared to egg donation, the sperm donation process is much simpler. This is mainly because sperm are far easier to obtain, and are also easier to store for long periods, than eggs are.
There are many sperm banks available. To procure donor sperm, the intended parents first select a sperm bank. Your assisted reproductive clinic will not provide you with donor sperm, but may refer you to a sperm bank.
The intended parents then select a sperm donor. The sperm bank provides information about the donor’s physical characteristics and medical history, and sometimes other information about him, such as his educational level and work history. In most cases, the donor’s identity remains confidential, although some sperm banks provide an option for the children produced by the sperm donation to contact their genetic father in the future, if the donor has agreed to such contact. The availability of this option may be a consideration when the intended parents are choosing a sperm bank and a specific sperm donor.
The donor sperm can then be used in a few different ways, depending on the situation. If the intended mother does not have fertility problems, then the sperm can be used for an intrauterine insemination (IUI) or, sometimes, intracervical insemination (ICI). The donor sperm are introduced into the woman’s body around the time of her ovulation, and fertilization (if it occurs) will occur naturally. If she has fertility problems also, or if previously frozen eggs, donor eggs and/or a gestational surrogate are also being used, then the donor sperm can be used for in vitro fertilization (IVF). They will be combined with eggs in the laboratory to produce embryos, which will then be transferred into the intended mother’s or gestational surrogate’s uterus.
Preparing for the procedure
Choosing your clinic
When choosing an assisted reproductive technology clinic (sometimes called a fertility clinic), there are several factors you may want to take into consideration. One is the physician(s) and others who will oversee your care. Make sure that your physician is board-certified; you may want to know that a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist (a specialist in the hormones involved in reproduction) is on the staff, as a consultant if necessary. You should also expect that your clinic will be a member of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART), and follows the guidelines of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). You might also want to consider the clinic’s success rates, which are collected and published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), but you should be aware that interpreting this data is more complicated than you might think.
For more help in your search for a reproductive medicine specialist, visit our How to Find the Best Assisted Reproductive Technology Clinic page. At Doctor Review, you can also search providers for patient reviews to help you find the very best.
Getting ready for the procedure
The preparation for an assisted reproductive procedure that uses donor sperm is the same as for the same procedure that uses the intended father’s sperm.
The recovery from a procedure that uses donor sperm is the same as for the same procedure using the intended father’s sperm. See the artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization pages for more details on those procedures.