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When Men Are Infertile - Donor Sperm

Donor insemination has been a promising treatment option for thousands of couples worldwide for over 50 years. Despite recent advances in reproductive technologies enabling couples with even the most severe male factor infertility to conceive without using donor sperm, more than 30,000 babies are still conceived this way each year in the United States, and donor sperm is both necessary and appreciated by women without male partners who wish to conceive, and couples who want to avoid passing on a genetic disease or disorder that is carried by the male sperm.


Donor insemination is considered quite safe. In fact, a pregnancy resulting from donor insemination carries no greater health risk than a natural pregnancy. Before a donor's sperm sample can even be considered for use, he must undergo extensive medical testing to ensure his sperm is healthy. At the time of his donation, he is tested for numerous genetic and infectious diseases including HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and hepatitis. Additional screening may include a chemistry profile, a complete blood count (CBC), cystic fibrosis screening and testing for drug abuse. Donors must also be under the age of 35.

The doctor will also check sperm count and motility before he freezes a donor's sample and puts it in quarantine for at least six months. This is to ensure that any infectious diseases don't appear in test results after a reasonable waiting period, as some diseases take as long as six months to show up.

You, as the recipient of donor sperm, will go through a comprehensive screening, as well, including an orientation during which you will discuss with your doctor potential donors, methods of and the best time for insemination, and legal issues. You will probably also have a physical exam to ensure that you are in good health to carry a child.

Donor Selection

Many couples and individuals who use a donor prefer to use sperm provided by someone they know personally, while others choose to use a sample provided by an anonymous donor. If you decide to use a friend or relative as a donor, he will have to go through the testing process just like any other donor. If you are not willing to wait at least six months for the process to be completed, an anonymous donor may be a better choice for you.

When deciding on an anonymous sperm donor, many couples make their decision based on the donor's physical characteristics, such as hair color, eye color, height and weight, as well as their ethnic background, level of education and career. Some fertility clinics offer profiles and even pictures of their donors. It is usually recommended that you select at least three prospective donors to increase your chances of finding the perfect match. You and your doctor will then review each of your prospective donor's medical histories and make a final decision. Arrangements are then made to purchase the frozen sample from the sperm bank and have it shipped to your fertility clinic.

How Donor Sperm is Used

Donor sperm can be used in a variety of fertility treatments, from intrauterine insemination (IUI) to in vitro fertilization (IVF) or any of the assisted reproductive technologies, depending on the procedure you and your reproductive endocrinologist have determined to be right for you. The donor sperm will usually arrive washed and prepared for insemination. If you are using donor sperm in an IVF procedure, you will receive fertility medications to prepare your eggs. Once your eggs are retrieved, they will be combined with the donor sperm and the resulting embryos will be transferred back into your uterus. If you are undergoing IUI, the sperm will be deposited directly into your uterus right around the time of ovulation.

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Featured Sites:

Cord Blood Registry
March of Dimes
Susan G. Komen

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