Sperm donation and artificial insemination was virtually unheard of by the general public until the first comprehensive report was published in the British Medical Journal in 1954. In 1965, the first commercial sperm banks opened in Japan and Iowa, two decades after the pioneering work of Jerome K. Sherman at the University of Iowa in freezing and thawing sperm, known as cryopreservation.
There are many myths and facts about sperm donation. Some of them may be a surprise, while others are just common sense.
Myth: Sperm Donation Is Easy
Fact: Although it may seem like an easy proposition, the truth is the screening process for sperm donation is rigorous and less than 5% of the men attempting to become a sperm donor are successful. The screening process includes testing for STDs, genetic abnormalities and disease. Sperm must meet specific quality standards regarding sperm count, and both physical and psychological factors are considered. A donor must be over 18, able to provide their family’s health history encompassing up to three generations, and be able to commit to the program for six months to a year. They must also be in good health.
Every sperm bank has different qualifications, but typically the screening process alone can take up to three months.
Myth: Sperm Count Is Constant
Fact: Many men believe their sperm count will be the same every time it is examined. Not so. A man’s sperm count can fluctuate depending on several factors. Illness, medication, and especially the time between ejaculations will have an effect on sperm count. Before making a sperm donation, a man will be requested to refrain from ejaculating for up to seven days prior to the appointment.
Myth: Sperm Donation Makes a Father
Fact: Sperm donors are required to sign a contract regarding privacy and whether or not any progeny can contact them when conceived and become of age. It is important to read this contract carefully, and it is recommended that those interested in sperm donation consult with a legal specialist regarding their rights under state law. Although most sperm donations are anonymous, there are still ways to track a donor through registries and DNA databases. The law generally protects the sperm donor from identification, other than genetic information, if they have opted to remain an anonymous donor, and not liable for any child support.
Myth: Sperm Donation Pays Big Bucks
Fact: Although there are banks that pay hundreds of dollars for sperm donations, the majority of sperm banks will pay anywhere between $1 to $45 per specimen, while some will pay $200 per week through a six month period for weekly donations. Sperm donation can be a way to earn supplemental income, but not a way to get rich.
Without sperm donation, many couples and single women would have no recourse to starting a family. Whether done for altruistic reasons or for monetary gain, sperm donation is a very special gift to people struggling with reproductive issues.