Sperm donation is a procedure in which a man donates semen — the fluid released during ejaculation — to help an individual or a couple conceive a baby.
Donated sperm can be injected into a woman's reproductive organs (intrauterine insemination) or used to fertilize mature eggs in a lab (in vitro fertilization). The use of donated sperm is known as third party reproduction.
A man who makes a sperm donation can be known or anonymous to the recipient. Sperm donations made to a known recipient are called directed donations.
You must be screened for medical conditions and other risk factors before you can make a sperm donation. It's also important to understand the possible emotional, psychological and legal issues of sperm donation.
Why it's done
Sperm donation is done to help an individual or a couple conceive a baby. You might choose to make a sperm donation to help those who are unable to conceive — such as a woman who doesn't have a male partner or a couple experiencing male infertility.
If you donate semen to a sperm bank, you'll likely be paid for each donation that passes the sperm bank's screening process. Payment is intended to compensate you for your time and any related expenses. The amount is typically low enough so that money isn't the main incentive for donating.
There are no health risks associated with sperm donation.
How you prepare
If you're considering sperm donation, consider the long-term impact of your decision.
If you're providing an anonymous donation, are you prepared to be the biological father of a child or multiple children whom you might never meet? What if children conceived with the help of your sperm donation wish to meet you one day? Will you tell your current or future family about your decision to donate sperm?
If you're providing a sperm donation to someone you know, be sure to discuss the potential legal issues. You might consider hiring a lawyer to draft a legal contract that defines your financial and parental rights and obligations.
Also, the Food and Drug Administration requires basic screening for infectious diseases and certain risk factors before a man can become a sperm donor. Some states and local governments require additional screening.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology recommend that men who want to make sperm donations — including those who are known to recipients — complete the following screenings:
If you test positive for any medical conditions during the screening process, you'll be notified and referred to treatment or counseling. If you pass the screening process, you'll be asked to provide sample sperm donations and complete further testing.
You'll also be asked to sign a consent form, which will likely state that you deny having any risk factors for sexually transmitted infections or genetic conditions. You can also choose whether you're open to contact from any child conceived with the help of your sperm.
What you can expect
Before sperm donation, you'll likely be asked to abstain from ejaculation — either through sex or masturbation — for two to five days.
During the procedure
After the procedure
If all of your test results come back negative, your frozen sample will be thawed and sperm quantity, quality and movement will be evaluated again. Sperm samples from some men are more susceptible to damage during the freezing process than are others. Damage caused by the freezing process can also differ among samples from the same donor.
If your sperm meet the quality standards, you'll be selected as a donor.
Keep in mind that most sperm banks limit the number of children your sperm can be used to conceive. However, specific guidelines and limits vary.
If you test positive for any medical conditions, you'll be notified and referred to treatment and counseling.
Last Updated: 2012-07-20
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