Note: this article, and more, also appears in the 37-page 2015 Choice Mom E-Guide: About Sperm.
This is one in a series of policy comparisons ChoiceMoms.org has written about the donor sperm industry. It’s important for Choice Moms to be comfortable not only with a particular donor, but with the sperm bank that recruits and tests him. No one regulates the industry and women should understand the differences between banks before they “get in bed” with any donor.
I asked three of the sperm banks I know well to describe the way they operate their business, to give a sense of how recruitment policies vary. Please note that I have not verified the information independently and am merely reporting what they told me.
The Sperm Bank of California
Donor applicants go through a rigorous screening process that includes STD testing, general health screening (including a physical exam, a complete blood panel, and a detailed personal and family health history), and an HIV risk assessment interview. This screening is repeated every 6 months with an abbreviated personal and family health update. We ask our donors to let us know if new personal or family health issues arise in the future. Personal and family information is self-reported by the donor. We ask for this information multiple times during the screening process and if there is insufficient information, we ask the donor to speak with relatives to obtain more information. We check all the information for inconsistencies and if at any time we feel a donor is intentionally giving false information, we reject him from the program. Our Medical Director reviews the complete file on all prospective donors prior to their being accepted into our program.
In addition to the medical screening outlined above, all donor applicants are assessed based on criteria of interest to our recipients. For example, we make efforts to maintain an ethnically diverse donor pool. We also look for donors with ranges of interests, talents and physical traits as we know there is variety in what donor characteristics appeal to women.
Seattle Sperm Bank
All sperm donors go through a rigorous application process before being admitted into the program. This process involves social questionnaires, a physical with blood draws and family medical history. Two semen quality control checks carried out in the lab are also vital steps toward admission. Only after approval from both our Medical Director and Geneticist can a donor begin donating.
If any medical information changes for a donor, the website profile is updated. Depending on the extent of the change, a medical review is performed along with notification of previous clients.
All information is verified by duplicate interviews performed by the Managing Director and Medical Director during the application process. A valid photo ID is required on all donors from which background checks are completed.
- Basic requirements: The majority of sperm donors are recruited from world-class universities, including UCLA, USC, Stanford University, Harvard University and MIT. Other donors are professionals in fields such as business, medicine, law, and the entertainment industry. We recruit donors via Internet advertising, information seminars, and university publications. The 3-6 month screening process begins with a basic set of criteria that includes: age between 19 and 39, enrollment or degree in four-year university, minimum height of 5-foot-9, good health.
- Qualification process: Mikki’s note: Not all sperm will survive the freezing and thawing process, so semen samples at all banks must be evaluated to determine whether or not they will be useful. Many potential donors offer less-than-adequate specimens. If a potential donor’s semen sample meets count and motility standards, it takes at least another three months for the applicant to become a fully qualified donor. During this period, a prospective donor must leave several semen and blood samples for laboratory testing and genetic screening.
- Medical History: One of our Genetic Counselors conducts a genetic interview which includes a review of the potential donor’s long profile. The long profile includes information about the health of the donor, his siblings, his parents, his grandparents, his aunts, his uncles, and his cousins. The family medical history is carefully evaluated for any birth defects or known genetic conditions. A donor applicant is disqualified from participation in the donor program if there is a family history which indicates that his offspring may be at increased risk for a birth defect or known genetic condition.
- Once the genetic counselor, donor manager, laboratory manager, and the medical director are satisfied that the potential donor is a good candidate for our donor program, he becomes a fully qualified donor.