Donor Sperm

Every year, thousands of children are conceived using donor sperm. Couples use donor sperm when the male partner has no sperm count or when semen analysis reveals problems with sperm shape or movement. The fertility specialist recommends that any couples who wish to use donor sperm should see an infertility counselor.


Known vs. Unknown Donors

You can use a known sperm donor or select an unknown donor from the sperm bank. A known sperm donor is someone who has been chosen by the couple to participate, and who has agreed to donate the sperm. In some states, there is a six-month waiting period for donor sperm to be held in the sperm bank before release. This is due to required testing for certain infectious diseases.


Donor Selection

Couples have the right to decide which donor to use. A sperm donor bank has information regarding the donor’s physical characteristics, ethnic background, race, education, career history, and general health. Many sperm banks provide computerized profiles and photographs. Many facilities allows the adult offspring to contact the sperm donor.

All sperm donors are tested for certain infections, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B, cytomegalovirus (CMV), syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomonas, and streptococcal species. Any of these diseases can be transferred to the woman via the semen. In addition, some of these conditions can affect the fetus. Donors are excluded if he or his sexual partner had:


  • Multiple sexual partners
  • History of IV drug use
  • Homosexual activity
  • A blood transfusion within one year


Before the Donor Insemination Process

Before donor insemination (DI), the fertility specialist takes a careful reproductive and medical history on the female partner, and conducts a rubella titer, CMV antibody test, and blood type analysis. Many doctors require a hysterosalpingogram, which is a test that evaluates for blocked fallopian tubes.


The Donor Insemination Process

The donor sperm are inserted into the woman close to the time of ovulation. To assure timing is correct, the woman must monitor her ovulatory cycle by testing for a LH surge in the urine. Insemination is done around 24 hours after the LH surge. Fertility centers may do only one insemination per cycle, or two may be done.

Cervical insemination requires the use of a soft catheter that is passed to the end of the cervix (bottom of the womb). A small plastic sponge is inserted close to the cervix to keep the semen inside. The woman lies down for around 20 minutes, and then removes the sponge in a few hours. With intrauterine insemination (IUI), the sperm is placed inside the uterus using a small catheter.


Success Rates and Costs

The success of donor insemination is higher for women who are 35 years of age and younger and women with no infertility problems. Lower success rates are reported when there is a female infertility factor, such as ovulation problem or endometriosis. Based on current statistics, 60-80% of couples become pregnant using donor sperm. The donor insemination process is quite expensive. Price can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.