Sperm banks have a vital part to play in the fertility process for many individuals and couples who are struggling to conceive. But there is still some taboo around the idea of donating and collecting sperm. Men who donate worry about what the process will involve and how it will make them feel. While couples or individuals who access donor sperm want to feel confident that the sperm has been properly collected, tested, and prepared. The truth is that sperm banks around the world are tightly regulated and controlled, with rigorous quality procedures in place. The best way to break down taboos around sperm banks is to learn more about how they operate and how sperm is collected.
We have brought together everything you need to know about sperm banks, below.
What is a sperm bank?
Sperm banks are facilities where sperm is donated, analysed and stored. Sperm is stored by a special solution and carefully frozen in liquid nitrogen to keep it intact and viable for use in the future. Sperm can be tested and used almost immediately or stored for long periods of time before use. Sperm banks may collect donations from men who simply want to help families in need and men going through fertility treatment.
Who donates sperm?
Men may choose to donate sperm for altruistic reasons, to help families who have fertility problems or to store their own sperm for later use. Men who have a low sperm count or are about to undergo medical procedures that could impact their fertility may choose to store their healthy sperm for the future in case of fertility problems. Finally, men who are undergoing fertility treatment may use a sperm bank to store sperm for testing or procedures.
The types of people who donate may vary but all altruistic sperm donors must meet a rigorous set of criteria before they are able to be considered for donation.
What criteria does a sperm donor need to meet?
The popular image of being able to walk into a sperm bank and give a sample is completely false. In fact, the requirements to become a sperm donor are incredibly strict around the world. Giving your sperm is not only an act of great generosity, but also of great responsibility. After all, you could be creating a new life, so doctors and potential parents need to be sure that your sperm is of the highest possible quality.
Sperm donors will normally begin by filling out an extensive questionnaire with detailed information on their family history, appearance, lifestyle, and health. This information is carefully screened and donors who make it past this stage are likely to be subject to an interview and medical appointment. Donors who complete these steps will normally provide a sample for screening to assess if their sperm is healthy, free of disease, and suitable for donation.
Donors are subject to strict regulations on age and family history, normally between 18 and 40 and able to provide information on three generations of family health. Criteria on height, appearance, and education may also be applied. This is a tough test to pass and many men will find themselves ineligible to donate.
The screening process typically takes several months to complete in full.
What’s the donation process like?
Many men feel nervous about donating sperm. After all, this is an intimate act in what is a sterile and often very alien environment. Remember that the clinic deals with men facing these concerns every day and will do what they can to make you feel comfortable and at ease.
You will be shown into a private room and given a sample cup. You may be provided with materials to help you feel relaxed. After you have completed your sample, you will hand it over to be sent immediately to the lab for testing, preparation, and storage. The act of donating itself is actually one of the most straightforward parts of the sperm donation process.
How is sperm stored?
Samples of sperm are first tested for any diseases that could be passed on to potential future children like HIV and hepatitis. It is then mixed with a special solution which stops the sperm from being damaged during the freezing process. The sperm donation is usually separated and stored in special samples called straws. These are cooled slowly and then placed into liquid nitrogen for the final freezing procedure. Sperm may have to be stored for 6 months before use so that testing on the DNA of the sperm can be carried out to ensure it is genetically viable.
Frozen sperm has been shown to be just as effective as fresh sperms during fertility treatments although not all sperm will survive the freezing process. A single sample will usually contain multiple straws that can be used in several different fertility treatments. Sperm is normally stored for up to 10 years, but in certain circumstances, this period can be extended.
Are sperm donors paid?
It depends where you are in the world. In the UK, it is illegal for donors to be paid more than £35 in expenses for a donation and sperm donors in Australia are limited to verified out-of-pocket expenses. In the US and some other countries, donors will usually receive a fee for the services they provide. In the US donors are usually paid between $75 and $125 per donation.
As the process to donate sperm is rigorous wherever you are, it’s a gift that should be given for altruistic reasons rather than financial reward.
How long does the donation process last?
Often donors are asked to sign up to give donations on several occasions over a period of time, often a year. This can be a huge commitment, especially as donors are asked not to masturbate or have intercourse for several days before each donation. It’s important to consider this time commitment and how it will impact your life and any ongoing relationships before agreeing to donate.
Are donations anonymous?
It depends where you are. In the US, donors can choose to remain anonymous or for their details to be released to any potential children after they turn either 18 or 21. In the UK and Australia, things work a little differently. The laws in these countries means that donors cannot be anonymous, although any children born as a result of a sperm donation won’t be able to contact them until after their 18th birthday. It’s very important that you understand the laws surrounding anonymity and sperm donation in your region before beginning the process.
What about private donation?
Because of the rigorous procedures attached to sperm banks, there can be long waiting lists to access donor sperm. Some people choose instead to use sperm from a friend or an individual that they have connected with online. CoParents.com provides a user-friendly social media platform that connects donors with families and individuals that are trying to conceive. Privately donated sperm may be used with the help of a fertility clinic or on a private basis at home. Explore our site today and find that special person who could help make your dreams of a family a reality.