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Zen and the Art of Donor Selection


a blog by Cappy Rothman, MD, Medical Director, California Cryobank September 23, 2010

One of the most frequently asked questions is both the simplest and most complicated part of starting your family using donor sperm: “How do I choose my donor?”

The Simple Answer

  1. Choose a fully accredited sperm bank (FDA, AATB, CLIA) to guarantee the medical testing and screening process meets all regulatory requirements. You want to make sure you are protecting your own and your future child’s health, as well as your parental rights. While the instinct to use a friend, acquaintance, relative or online solicitor as a sperm donor may seem like a good idea, all these options have potential issues that range from annoying to life-threateningly dangerous.
  2. Come up with a list of traits you are looking for in a donor (ethnicity, height, coloring, education, religion, etc.) and prioritize them into categories like “must have” “want” and “can live without.” Then, using the catalog, online search function and donor information offered by most sperm banks, narrow down your criteria until you find “the one.” Like most large sperm banks, we offer a wide variety of information on our donors including Extended Profiles, Donor Personal Essays, Family Medical Histories, Childhood Photos, etc., to help with the process.

The Complicated Answer

After completing steps one and two above, you may come to realize that everything you thought was important in a sperm donor completely went out the window once you started to “get to know” these guys.

The reality is that the sperm donor industry as we know it today evolved around couples experiencing male infertility. The general notion was that as long as the donor was healthy and as close a physical match to the husband as possible, little else mattered since no one (including the child in many cases) was ever going to know a donor was used. Basically “what” the donor was became far more important than “who” the donor was.

Today, that has changed. Single Mothers by Choice and Lesbian Couples make up about 60 percent of the clients using sperm banks. Add to that an increasing openness of heterosexual couples using a sperm donor, and you have a vast majority of children born via sperm donation growing up with a whole new set of questions. It’s not about “what” the donor was anymore, it’s about the “who.”

So, if you plan to discuss your sperm donor with your child one day (and we encourage you to do so), the challenge of finding “the one” just got far more interesting. Is 5’11” with brown hair and no family history of heart disease or cancer what you want to tell your 6-year-old about, or is it everything else that defines us as human beings that you truly want to pass on?

You are making an amazingly loving decision to do everything you can to bring this child into the world, and you should be proud of the donor you choose to help you. You want your child to hear the love and pride in your voice when you explain how he or she came to be. And when you do explain, won’t you want to be able tell how his or her donor loved sports, or animals, or music? Why he decided to become a sperm donor? If the donor was funny or smart or sensitive? Whatever it was that drew you to this donor over the hundreds of other choices is exactly what your child will want to hear about the most.

Do Your Research

Read those Donor Personal Essays and Profiles as if you were reading them to your future child. Look at the Childhood Photos knowing how meaningful it may be one day when your son or daughter recognizes that button nose or big brown eyes as their own. Study the stories the donors tell about themselves and know that while they may just seem cute or quirky to you now, your little one will likely carry them close to their heart for a lifetime.

Donors come in all shapes and sizes. But those are just numbers. Think about any important person in your life. If asked to describe them, is their height or ethnic background the first thing that comes to mind?

Your child may never become interested in learning more about the donor. But if he or she does, won’t it be wonderful to have an amazing story to tell?

Comments (2)

Loved this article! Really well written and engaging; it is nice to see how choosing a sperm donor can be such a personal, profound experience.

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