Selecting a sperm donor

These days it’s not uncommon for single women, lesbian couples and even some heterosexual couples to access donor sperm to help build their family. If you have decided to go down this path, your next steps will involve choosing a sperm donor. In this article, we discuss the ins and outs of becoming a donor sperm recipient, including the process of donor selection and other important considerations you will face along the way.

Accessing donor sperm

There are several ways you can obtain donor sperm from both clinic-recruited and known donors.

Clinic-recruited donors

Most fertility clinics have access to a sperm bank with stored donated samples. Although these used to be known as ‘anonymous’ donors, it’s important to note that children conceived from these samples can request the identity of their donor after they turn 18. At Newlife IVF, our dedicated on-site sperm bank contains samples from local donors. We also offer the option to select donor sperm from an international sperm bank.

Known donors

Alternatively, you may choose to use a sperm sample from someone you know, such as a friend or acquaintance. Some couples wish for their baby to be genetically connected to them. In these circumstances, you may decide to approach a family member. It’s important to note that the sperm donor must not be related to the partner who will provide the egg.

So, how do I choose?

There are many factors to take on board when choosing a sperm donor. These will depend greatly on your situation and can be discussed with your fertility counsellor.

Sperm quality and medical screening

One of the benefits of accessing donor sperm from a fertility clinic such as Newlife IVF is that all sperm samples and donors undergo thorough testing. This includes a quality assessment of the sperm, as well as testing of the donor for any infectious diseases (such as HIV or hepatitis) and genetic conditions. Samples are then frozen and quarantined for at least three months before donors are retested for infectious diseases. This ensures that the sperm is safe for use. If you elect to use a sample from a known donor, we recommend contacting a fertility clinic. We can perform the same screening we normally would for clinic-recruited donors on known donors, as well as freezing the sperm for a similar quarantine process.

Legal considerations

An advantage of using a clinic-recruited donor is that they are fully aware of their obligations and rights. Typically, the donor will attend one or more counselling sessions informing them of the various legal boundaries in place to protect them, the recipient and the donor-conceived child. For instance, the donor has no legal relation to your child and cannot seek custody. In addition, clinic-recruited donors cannot donate to more than 10 women (including their own partners). Fertility clinics also keep specific information about the donor, such as their name and date of birth, as well as medical and genetic test results. Whilst the donor’s identity remains undisclosed to recipients, your child can request the donor’s identity when they turn 18. All donor-conceived births are reported to the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA), a statutory authority that assists donors and donor-conceived individuals.

If you obtain donor sperm from someone you know, it’s important to create firm social and legal boundaries. You may choose to seek legal advice to assist with this process. As the level of donor involvement can vary greatly from situation to situation, it’s important to discuss expectations from all members involved (including any partners) before trying to conceive. For example, in co-parenting arrangements the donor may maintain an ongoing relationship with the child, whereas for other families the donor may have a limited level of involvement (or no involvement at all).

Personal preferences

Donor characteristics may also help guide your selection process. For example, some patients will want to choose a donor with a similar physical appearance. If you decide to go down the known-donor route, you will have a good understanding of their appearance, personality and perhaps why they are donating to you. Clinic-recruited donors are also asked to provide general information about their appearance, characteristics and personality. You may also take into consideration why they have chosen to donate. All clinic-recruited donors provide a donor statement as a part of their donor profile.

Newlife IVF deliberately recruits sperm donors from a wide range of backgrounds and ethnicities, with the aim of providing donor recipients with adequate choice and cultural representation.

The route to receiving donor sperm

Before you can select and obtain donor sperm, there are several appointments you will need to attend. At your initial consultation, your fertility specialist will explain in-depth the process of receiving donor sperm, including particular legal considerations such as using an identity release donor (i.e. donors who consent to releasing identifying information about themselves). Your fertility specialist may also request the person providing the egg and carrying the pregnancy to complete a medical evaluation with blood tests if they haven’t been done previously. This helps us develop an appropriate fertility treatment plan for you.

During your donor counselling appointment, you (and your partner if applicable) will meet with one of our fertility counsellors. The purpose of this session is to talk about common issues that can arise following the decision to use donor sperm. For instance, you may discuss topics like:

  • How to select a donor
  • The level of donor involvement during your pregnancy and child’s life
  • Handling conversations with a child conceived from donor sperm
  • Communicating about your fertility treatment with your inner circle and acquaintances.

Following this appointment, our donor profiles will be made available for you to access online (if you choose to use this service as opposed to known-donor sperm). If you select a donor from our sperm bank, a second counselling appointment and a consultation with a fertility nurse will be arranged to organise the various consents. For instance, donor consent is required to release identifying information upon your child’s request. During this session we will also arrange the details of your fertility treatment.

Further advice

If you are ready to begin your fertility journey or want to find out more about donor sperm, book a consultation with a Newlife IVF fertility specialist. We can recommend the most appropriate options for you based on your personal circumstances and preferences. To book an appointment, call (03) 8080 8933 or book online.

Disclaimer

The information on this page is general in nature. All medical and surgical procedures have potential benefits and risks. Consult your healthcare professional for medical advice specific to you.