SPOTLIGHT CANADA: Outreach Health Services

This is excerpted from our 2016 E-guide “Choice Moms: Canada — insights and resources,” sponsored by Outreach Health Services, which provides sperm donation options throughout Canada.

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Section 1: Where Do I Begin?

by Heather Brooks, Outreach Health Services, CreatingCanadianFamilies.ca

So… here you are. You are at the point in your fertility treatment where you are exploring the idea of using donor sperm. As the director of the largest importer and distributor of donor sperm in Canada, Outreach Health Services, I welcome you to this process. Many clients are understandably overwhelmed when they first contact us. There are a lot of logistics and emotions involved. But my colleagues and I are happy to help guide you through the journey of creating your family.

First Step: Outreach Health Services Donor Search

Begin your search by exploring options on our website. Once there, you can read our ‘donor listings’ to view all of the donors that are available for use in Canada (which means that they are Canadian Compliant) and that are physically in stock and available for purchase. If you see donors you like, keep a physical list somewhere (i.e. in a notebook or on a computer) so you can refer back to this information at any time. Eventually you might want to look at the donor’s profile, which is a document spanning from a few to up to 30 pages of information…


Questions to Ask Yourself

CanadaCover1) Are you thinking of having more than one child?

…Sperm donors may retire, or leave the donor program at any time, and if clients later decide they want to pursue a second pregnancy, they may find out there is nothing available…How many children you are thinking of having will directly affect how many vials you would consider purchasing. And might impact which donor you choose, based on potential availability.

2) What type of treatment are you seeking?

There are two basic types of treatment:

  • natural inseminations or medicated inseminations (IUIs)
  • in vitro fertilizations with or without intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)

Although only one vial per treatment cycle for an IUI or IVF is necessary, planning for future treatment cycles and future children should be taken into consideration. This impacts the type of sperm you will be ordering.

3) What are you looking for in a donor?

You might want to focus on first deciding the criteria for donor matches that are the most important to you. Identify your absolute ‘requirements’ versus ‘wish list’ for a donor. Being open-minded is key. Yes, some women want to find the supermodel with perfect health and a Ph.D., but is that realistic? Remember that the end goal is a healthy and happy baby.

When clients ask us what they should consider, health is either at the top of the list or a pretty close second.

It is also important for the recipient of the donor sperm to have an understanding of their own family medical history. Most of us have a relative who has had cancer, or a heart attack. The more you know about your own medical history, the more you will be able to review the medical history of the donor and his family members and screen accordingly. In this way, you might be able to eliminate donors with anything that is prevalent in your own family history. Also, if you come to us knowing that you are a genetic carrier for a disease or a genetic mutation, thanks to advancing technologies there are donors with additional genetic testing for more than 100 recessive genetic mutations that we can help you explore as potential matches…

4) What are the differences between Open Identity and Anonymous Identity Donors?

Do you prefer a sperm donor with an Anonymous Identity, or an Open Identity? Most sperm banks in Canada have both donor types available. Although there are differences among the sperm banks…

There is a misconception that the return of contact on the donor’s part is guaranteed. It is not. Moreover, there is no guarantee for an in-person or face-to-face meeting with the donor. If you decide that an Open donor is what you want, this is a great time to find out differences between Open programs at various banks.

For example, some sperm banks may offer to help facilitate a one-time or first-time contact to help the offspring reach out to the donor so it is not ‘out of the blue.’ Some sperm banks might not offer this assistance. Others might, but perhaps with a fee.

There may also be differences of how updates on the donors are handled, especially when donors stop donating and leave the donor program. Often fertility clinics will require or recommend counseling sessions when patients are pursuing the donor sperm selection process, and it often includes a discussion about the choices of donor identity types and what the implications might be for the offspring. It is important to do your homework, and think through what might be the best choice for you, keeping in mind that your future child or children might prefer to make a choice as well. Not all offspring want much information about the donor, or the identity, but it is impossible to predict.

5) What screening and testing is performed at the sperm banks?

There is a misconception that it is easy to become a sperm donor. In fact, only about 3 in 100 applicants will become a donor at a sperm bank.

All sperm donor units must be Canadian Compliant in accordance with the Health Canada Regulations if they are to be used for treatment in Canada. Health Canada has an extensive list of exclusionary criteria for sperm donors, as they are extensively screened and tested, i.e. for infectious diseases such as HIV, HTLV 1 and 2, Hepatitis B and C, sexually transmitted diseases and more. Further information may be found directly on the Health Canada website. All donor units are quarantined for a minimum of 180 days, to ensure a safe product, prior to the units being released for sale. Semen cultures are required on the date of donation, which is just one difference in the testing required in Canada versus the U.S. That is one reason why patients seeking treatment in Canada must purchase a donor that has Canadian Compliant units available.

6) How much can you expect to spend on donor sperm?

The range in Canada for donor sperm, per unit or vial, is currently usually between $525 and $1,025. The average cost tends to be between $600 and $1,000 per donor sperm unit. The pricing is in Canadian funds, and donor units are exempt from taxes and are classified as a medical device. You should ask about any discounts for larger purchases, as well as shipping or delivery fees and options. Also ask about storage fees and any other fees. Since pricing can change, contact Outreach Health Services and visit our website for up-to-date pricing.

7) What other questions should you be asking?

We advise that you begin the donor selection process as soon as you are able to do so. Some clients work well under a sense of urgency, but we believe it is best to find a donor well in advance of your cycle if possible.

Take time to become aware of the policies at your fertility clinic, and ensure that you have approval to order the sperm donor before you actually order. Some clinics may order the units directly from Outreach Health Services, and some may ask that the patient order directly from us. Every clinic is different.

…One great resource for clients seeking treatment using donor gametes in Canada is Fertility Matters (formerly IAAC). Their website is www.fertilitymatters.ca.

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