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The Issues
Meg Lambrych, RN

Using a Sperm Donor: A Guide for LGBTQ+ Parents

Queer parents might need a sperm donor for a variety of reasons. And sure, it might feel a bit nerve-wracking to invite someone else’s biological material into your family’s life. But here’s the good news: You won’t be the first. Recent data estimates that 30,000 and 60,000 children each year are born using donor sperm.

So, whether you need a sperm donor soon or just want to know how it works, this guide can get you up to speed. We’ll explain the process—from the medical side to finding donors, along with the pros and cons of anonymous and known sperm donors.

What is sperm donation?

Sperm donation is a highly regulated process where one person donates sperm to help another family or individual have a baby. Sperm donors undergo a rigorous evaluation process that usually includes extensive sexually-transmitted infection (STI) and genetic testing, plus an inventory of health, family and sexual history. Because the donor screening process is so intense, only a small percentage of people are ultimately selected to be donors. 

After medical approval, the donor makes their donation via masturbation or an extraction procedure at a fertility clinic. 

Donated sperm doesn’t just go from donor to recipient, either. Collected sperm is processed in a lab and evaluated under a microscope to ensure the sample is of a quality that can create an embryo. 

Types of sperm donors

You can choose from two types of sperm donors: anonymous and known. 

Anonymous sperm donors

An anonymous sperm donor is known to the cryobank but only known to you through an anonymous donor profile. 

When you choose an anonymous donor, you’re purchasing vials of the donor’s sperm to use for your insemination process. As a recipient, you’ll have access to in-depth medical, genetic and health information, plus details about education, hobbies and physical traits. Some sperm banks offer childhood and adult photos as well. However, what you won’t have is the donor’s contact information.

Anonymous sperm donors: pros and cons

Pros

• Speed. Anonymous donor sperm is ready to ship when needed since the donor screening is already complete.

• Anonymity. Fewer personal donor details mean less potential for emotional attachment to your donor.

• Legal simplicity. Anonymous sperm donors waive their parenthood rights, simplifying the legal process. 

• Customer service. Sperm banks streamline the donor selection process and offer support and counseling. 

Cons

• Missing information. Limited donor information might not offer the level of comfort you need to feel confident in selecting a donor.

• Cost variation. It’s tough to know what your complete insemination process might cost since costs for donor sperm and insemination procedures can vary widely.

Known sperm donors

Though not as common as anonymous donors, you can choose to use a known sperm donor. Known donors are either someone you know or a cryobank “identity release” donor who’s comfortable with being contacted by offspring before age 18.

When choosing a sperm donor among people you know, that person will need to undergo the medical, genetic, psychological and sperm screening process through your fertility clinic that a cryobank would typically handle. 

And if you’re in a hurry to start your family, a known donor from your network puts the breaks on. It typically takes six to eight months to thoroughly screen a sperm donor and ensure their sperm is viable. However, if you choose a known donor through a cryobank, their sperm is already screened and ready to ship for insemination.

Known sperm donors: pros and cons

Pros

• Genetic link. You can create a genetic connection to your child if your donor is a family member.

• Potential cost savings. Using someone you know can save you thousands over the cost of anonymous donor sperm. 

• Knowledge is comfort. You’ll likely have much more information about a known donor, including their personality, hobbies, and interests. 

Cons

• Time. If you use a donor you know, screening and sample prep is lengthy.

• Conflict. Your donor could disagree with your parenting, sparking conflict. 

• Legal costs. You’ll bear the legal cost of protecting your parental rights.

• Change of heart. A known donor could change their mind about how involved they want to be with your child, creating emotional conflict. 

Insemination options when using a sperm donor

Once you’ve selected your donor and completed all required testing, you have a few more choices for insemination—introducing the sperm to the egg.

At-home insemination through ICI

You can have sperm shipped from a cryobank to your home with a physician's release and use a home insemination kit to perform intracervical insemination (ICI).

Insemination through IUI

Intrauterine insemination (IUI) places sperm directly into the uterus—a procedure that needs to be performed by a physician or midwife. While typically performed in a medical office as a simple outpatient procedure, some midwives perform IUI in-home.

Embryo creation through IVF

You may need to use in-vitro fertilization (IVF) for one of several reasons, including:

• Using both donor eggs and sperm

• You’re using surrogacy to create your family

• Your physician recommends IVF with your eggs to help increase fertilization chances

With IVF, the cryobank ships donor sperm directly to your fertility clinic. There, the laboratory staff will join the sperm and egg, foster embryo growth and prepare embryos for implantation into the parent or surrogate’s uterus.

Costs: How much is a sperm donor?

Donor sperm typically costs between $400 and $2,000 per vial. But why the big range? Because a donor’s characteristics, success rate and demand can increase costs, and cryobank fees can vary. However, some insurance companies cover fertility treatments, so check with your doctor and insurance carrier to see if your plan includes sperm donor costs.

And it’s important to keep in mind that one vial of sperm isn’t likely to do the trick. Experts say it typically takes parents five cycles (which could require more than one sperm vial) to conceive. Therefore, your donor costs can add up fast.

Other costs of using a sperm donor can include:

• Cryobank shipping fees

• Cryobank consultation fees

• Screening charges for known donors

• Legal fees to secure your parenting rights

• Lab charges to prepare a known donor’s sperm for insemination

• Travel expenses for you and your known donor to your fertility clinic

How to find a sperm donor

There are two main ways to find a sperm donor: through your doctor or a sperm bank—also called a cryobank. 

Through your reproductive physician 

The best place to start looking for information about sperm donation options is with your doctor. Physicians specializing in reproductive healthcare will have recommendations for cryobanks they know and trust. And when you’re looking for the best biological material to help build your family, your doctor’s recommendations can offer extra peace of mind.

Through a cryobank

If you’d prefer to do your own research, you can also find a sperm donor directly through a cryobank. It’s easy to find cryobanks online, and most offer easy-to-navigate websites that outline their donor screening processes, shipping policies and fees. Additionally, many cryobanks offer counseling to help parents with donor selection. 

Once you choose a cryobank, you can browse donor profiles until you find a donor. If you find your ideal donor at an out-of-state cryobank, don’t worry—many cryobanks offer shipping options. But before placing an order, you’ll need to complete a physician release form that allows the shipment of donor sperm to your home or fertility clinic for insemination. 

What’s next?

Using a sperm donor to create your family has its fair share of moving parts, but it’s a fairly streamlined process. Daylight Grow can help you every step of the way—from discussing your sperm donor options to helping you set a financial path for success for all of your parenting needs. 

See what it means to be a Daylight Grow member and how our queer concierges can help you and your family.