Sperm Donation: Donor Selection

Sperm donation allows a woman or infertile couple to conceive a child. Choosing which donor to use, though, is a serious decision. While the clinic or bank from where you are obtaining sperm most likely has detailed information on all their donors, what to look for in each packet can still be confusing. Below are a few factors to consider and closely investigate when choosing a sperm donor.

Medical History

A donor’s medical history is the main issue to investigate. Not only should the bank or clinic have gathered information on the donor’s medical conditions, but they should also have requested information about any genetic or other illnesses of the donor’s immediately family members. Keep in mind that this history may not be complete and does not eliminate the possibility of future, unknown and unanticipated illnesses that may affect a child created from the donation. However, should any major illnesses, diseases or conditions be reported, remember that these may appear in your child should you choose that donor.

Similarly, take special note of any medications currently or previously used by the donor. Certain medications will affect a sperm’s motility and viability and could make it more difficult to use to fertilize an egg.

Donor Age

While a man produces sperm during much of his life, the donor’s age will affect the motility and quality of his sperm. Usually, an older donor means lower sperm quality. Depending on the plans for insemination or fertilization, motility and quality of sperm may be a major issue. In this situation, choose a younger rather than older donor. Do not immediately eliminate an older donor, however, because his sperm may have excellent viability, particularly if the donor is in good health.

Physical Characteristics

While it is impossible to pick and choose which physical characteristics your child has with any certainty, you are able to limit the range of potential features. The donor’s height, eye color, skin tone and hair color should have been collected by the clinic. When combined with the recipient’s physical traits, it is possible to predict what your child will look like within a certain range.

Known or Unknown Donor

Certain sperm donors may permit the clinic or bank to release their identity, but others will request that their name be kept private. If it is important to you that your child will be able to contact his father in the future, you may want to choose a known donor. However, if you would prefer that your child not have a relationship with the donor, or if you plan on not telling the child he was conceived with donated sperm, using an anonymous donor may be the better choice.

Previous Donation and Success Rates

If the donor has donated before, either at the same or a different clinic, the clinic or bank will have gathered information on the success rates if the donated sperm was subsequently used. This information should be included on the general donor information fact sheet provided to potential recipients. Donor sperm that has previously resulted in a pregnancy can indicate a better chance that you will become pregnant with use of the same sperm. 

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