How to Become a Sperm Donor
Sperm donation helps couples become pregnant when they cannot conceive using the husband’s sperm. Women who decide to have a child on their own may also pursue donor insemination. Contributions from anonymous sperm donors result in the birth of nearly 75,000 American children each year. For many of these parents, the birth of their child is the fulfillment of a life-long quest to build a family.
The donation process is very different from the way it is depicted in movies and on television. Most of the time, anonymous sperm donors make donations through a fertility clinic or sperm bank. The facility may provide basic background information and a childhood photo of each donor. The prospective parents use this information to select a donor. The clinic may use artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization to help the couple become pregnant.
Passing basic sperm donor requirements
Because age can affect sample quality, most sperm banks are looking for donors who are 18 - 44 years old. Candidates must also be in good health, with a family history free of genetic diseases. Potential donors should live within driving distance, and be willing to produce specimens 1 - 2 times per month for at least six months.
Some facilities may have stricter requirements. For example, they may ask that donors be at least 5’9” or taller. There may be education restrictions as well. Many fertility centers only accept donors who have graduated from or are enrolled in a four-year degree program. These factors are market-driven and may vary depending on the type of clients the facility serves.
Becoming a donor
If you pass the preliminary requirements, you will move on to the screening process. You may meet with a donor coordinator, who will explain the donation process.
At your initial intake appointment, you will be asked to provide a specimen for analysis. Laboratory staff will evaluate factors like sperm count, motility, and volume to determine whether your sample meets the program’s quality standards. The facility will contact you within a few days to notify you of your eligibility status.
Screening and testing
If you are eligible to donate, you will move on to the screening and testing phase. You will have one appointment per week for 4 - 6 weeks and produce a specimen at each appointment. You must also provide blood and urine samples for genetic, health, drug, and sexually transmitted infection screenings.
Since sperm donation is a type of tissue donation, many of these tests are required by law. The sperm bank or fertility center pays for any tests they conduct. The results are typically shared with you, free of charge.
In addition to a physical examination, you may also be asked to complete psychological testing. If you are an anonymous sperm donor, the results will not be linked with your name. However, limited information may be included in your donor profile. A complete donor profile can help prospective parents select a donor with personality traits similar to the child’s father or another family member.
Signing a contract
Once you pass the donor evaluation process, you will be asked to sign a contract. You will be asked to produce a specimen at least once a week for a specific period, usually six months to a year. The contract should also stipulate how much you will earn per donation and when you will be paid. It should also contain a clause that relinquishes your rights to any child produced by one of your samples. Ideally, this protects both you and the fertility clinic from any paternity issues.
Maintaining participation in a sperm donor program
Once you are an established donor, your time commitment is minimal. Many donors spend less than five hours per month at the fertility center. While you may not be compensated for early specimens, you will be paid for each specimen you produce under contract.
Mandatory health screenings
Federal law requires sperm donors to be tested for infectious diseases every three months. Fertility centers may also collect other health data as well. The exact procedure may vary depending on the facility. Here is what data collection looks like at one major sperm bank.
- For every donation, conduct a semen analysis. Review changes in health or sexual partners with the donor.
- Every month, test for chlamydia and gonorrhea.
- Every three months, test for infectious diseases. Review and update donor’s medical and social information.
- Every six months, donor submits to a physical examination. The medical director must approve continued donation.
Collecting your specimen
All donations are stored cryogenically until prospective parents request them. Because freezing affects sample quality, it is important to boost sperm count as much as possible before each donation. Fertility centers recommend an abstinence period of 48-72 hours before each donation to maximize specimen quality. An abstinence period of more than four days is not recommended.
Fertility centers have small, private collection rooms, much like the rooms in a doctor’s office. Magazines and video materials are also available for your use. A staff member will provide you with a sterile collection cup; use it to collect the specimen.
Contrary to some popular urban myths, no one will help you with collection and no electrical stimulation devices are used. When you are finished, turn the sample in as instructed. You may also need to fill out a brief questionnaire at each visit.
Pay schedules vary with each fertility center. Most will not pay for the initial specimen since it is only used for analysis. Federal law requires a six-month quarantine of new specimens. The donor must have at least two clean infectious disease tests during this time, or the samples cannot be used. Some sperm banks withhold payment until the initial samples are released from quarantine. Others pay once the initial screening period is complete; check with the facility to determine their pay schedule.
The typical pay rate is $30 - 50 per sample. Facilities may offer bonus rates for highly qualified donors. The clinic may also compensate you for your time and other expenses. Many fertility centers offer incentives or perks like gift cards or free movie tickets.
Becoming a known donor
Most sperm donation takes place with a sperm bank or fertility clinic acting as a middleman. The anonymous donor and the prospective parents never meet. However, it is possible to become a known donor. Some clinics allow open donations – the couple may meet the donor or even provide pictures of the child to the donor. However, the donor still does not have any parental rights, and the child is legally considered a product of the couple’s marriage.
In other known donor scenarios, the line between donor and father may be less clear. For example, a donor may agree to relinquish parental rights, but still expect to know the child. Depending on state law and his level of involvement in the child’s life, the mother may successfully sue for child support.
The Uniform Parentage Act
Around two-thirds of the states have adopted the Uniform Parentage Act (UPA). Established in 1973, the law provides protections for donors. As long as a licensed physician acts as the middleman and the woman seeking pregnancy is not married to the donor, he is not considered the legal father of the child.
However, the law makes no distinction between known and anonymous donors. And if artificial insemination takes place without a physician present, the donor is not protected.
Sperm donation and child support
In states that have not adopted the UPA, known donor cases become even more complicated. The courts typically look at the role the donor plays in the child’s life and how often they have contact with each other. The court is less likely to require child support of an anonymous donor who is not involved in the child’s life. However, there are no guarantees. State law may significantly influence how each case is handled.
Anonymous sperm donation protects both the child’s parents and the donor from paternity claims or an undue financial burden. If you pursue becoming a known donor, it is a good idea ask an Expert. They can help you weigh the pros and cons of known donation and explain how your state laws influence your rights and obligations.