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10 Things to Know Before Choosing a Sperm Donor

Be Informed, then Make the Right Decisions for Your Family

Choosing a sperm donor is a critically important decision, one that’s not to be taken lightly. This choice will affect the rest of your life, your family, and your happiness. Before you even decide to take this ever-important step, there are some key pieces of information to consider first. We are here to help you make the right choice for you and your family. These 10 fundamental points will help guide you through decades of experience in reproductive medicine.

1. Not All Donor Sperm Banks Are The Same

Ask your fertility doctor for a recommended list of sperm banks that she or he considers reputable. You will not know who has consistently high-quality specimens without this information. Ask your physician if she or he will review your prospective donor’s information before you purchase the vial(s). Having an experienced medical doctor review your donor’s history may help you make the wisest donor choice.

2. Pregnancy Rates With Frozen Sperm May Not Be As Good As With Fresh Sperm

The amount of motile sperm available after being thawed can be lowered by as much as 50%.  Additionally, frozen sperm when thawed doesn’t live as long as fresh sperm, and pregnancy rates are lower using frozen sperm when compared to fresh sperm. And while the data supporting the use of more than one insemination in a given cycle is controversial, do ask your physician whether two inseminations or combining multiple vials of sperm is appropriate for you.  

3. Medicated vs. Unmedicated Cycles

We generally recommend medicated cycles for patients over 30, but this is not a requirement. If you’d rather try natural cycle inseminations, let your physician know.  The use of a fertility pill will potentially increase your chances of getting pregnant sooner in any given cycle. Fertility medications do come with side effects. The biggest risk is the increased rate of twins (25-30% versus background rate of 1%)  Additional side effects can range from hot flashes and vaginal dryness to mood swings.. While not everybody has side effects, you should talk to your physician about whether or not you would be a good candidate for fertility drugs.

4. Make Sure Your Fallopian Tubes Are Open!

The success of Intrauterine insemination (artificial insemination) depends on your fallopian tubes in order for sperm and egg to meet. If your fallopian tubes are blocked, then the only fertility treatment that is likely to be successful is In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).  Given the potential expense (financially, physically, and emotionally) of fertility treatments, confirming open fallopian tubes is an important part of any fertility evaluation.

Even if you don’t have any risk factors for blocked tubes (Chlamydia, Endometriosis, a history of Appendicitis), it doesn’t mean your tubes aren’t blocked. It’s worth checking and won’t hurt your chances of conceiving if you try right after your tube test. Your doctor may recommend a Hysterosalpingogram or a saline infusion sonogram to check your tubes.

5. Know Your Body

If you are not doing a medicated cycle, then your insemination will occur near the time of your natural ovulation. Track your ovulation as you are getting close to your first insemination cycle. This way, you will know when you’re ovulating and how to plan your life around your treatment. If you are under 30 and your ovulation is not regular, you may want to add a fertility pill. If you are over 30 and are hesitant about using fertility pills, the fact that your ovulation is regular may give you reassurance that you can try a few natural cycles before adding medication.

6. See Your Doctor For A Preconception Counseling Appointment

Even if you are using donor sperm, you should still sit down with your doctor for a preconception counseling appointment. Review your medical and family history with your doctor.  Consider genetic testing for Cystic Fibrosis and other diseases that you could possibly be at risk for based on your ethnicity and family history.

7. Decide Between Known vs. Anonymous Sperm Donor

If you’re planning to use a known sperm donor, be sure to have a legal contract in place, and discuss your situation with a psychologist with expertise in this area. If you are using an anonymous donor, we still recommend talking to a psychologist, but a legal contract is obviously not necessary unless you are in a same-sex relationship. Nonetheless, we recommend a legal contract to protect both partners when starting a family.

8. Required Fertility Lab Work

Talk to your fertility physician about the required lab work. States have different rules and clinics also set their own specific rules. For example, some clinics will require both partners to have infectious disease testing even though donor sperm is being used. If you know the requirements up before choosing a sperm donor, there won’t be any surprises.

9. Research Which Type Of Vial Sample To Buy

There are many different types of vials that you can buy. Ask your doctor which type of sperm sample would be optimal for the type of treatment you decide to move forward with.

10. Know Your Health Insurance Benefits

Just because you are using donor sperm, this doesn’t mean that your health insurance won’t pay for your treatment. Being a same sex couple does not prevent you from using insurance to pay for your treatments. Get all the information first, then start treatment. Being well-informed about the potential costs will allow you to focus on treatment alone.

We hope this advice is helpful as you move forward and choose a sperm donor and start your family! If you have any further questions, please contact our expert team at any time.

This is a revised article based on “10 Things You Should Know Before Choosing a Sperm Donor” by Aimee Eyvazzadeh, MD MPH in the Spring/Summer edition of Lane Fertility Magazine.

Dr. Danielle Lane Danielle E Lane, MD, Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Specialist

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