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Step by Step


a blog by Michelle Ottey, PhD, Director of Operations, Fairfax Cryobank and Cryogenic Laboratories, Inc., November 24, 2010

This past weekend I had brunch with a very good friend. She is in a good place in her life and in her relationship of 10 years with her partner, so she is seriously considering building a family.

Being in a same-sex relationship means that she and her partner will have to use donor sperm to conceive. It is both exciting and overwhelming for them, and like many couples in the first stages of the journey, they don’t even know where to start.

After she initially brought up the topic of having babies and using donor sperm, we moved on to other things: catching up and laughing as old friends do. We both knew we’d get back to the specifics, and we did. Because she had a “friend in the know,” she peppered me with questions, most of which were the downstream steps. Being the organized and structured person that I am, I said, “Let’s start at the very beginning, and then we’ll get to the fun stuff.” We both laughed and dove in.

Step 1: Consult with Your Physician

For anyone just starting on this journey toward parenthood, there are obviously discussions to be had with your partner and/or your support network. Once you are ready to make a move, the very first step should be a doctor’s visit to check your fertility.

Many women are waiting until their early to mid-30s to have babies, so this is a necessary first step. I am a firm believer in getting all of the information and going in with your eyes wide open. Visiting your physician will give you a good picture of your fertility and general health; which will allow you to set up realistic expectations for the process of becoming pregnant.

Step 2: Choose Your Sperm Donor

Once you have consulted with your physician and know what your options are for insemination or IVF, you can proceed with purchasing your donor sperm. Many people start looking for their sperm donor first, which is a smart move.

Choosing a sperm donor can be quick or take a significant amount of time. It is a very patient-specific process.

Step 3: Make Your Purchase

Once you choose your sperm donor, you should plan to make your purchase. One tip I have is to think about your desire for multiple children, because this will affect your purchase size. It is always a good idea to purchase enough vials for multiple cycles if possible. This will ensure that you have the vials should you choose to have another child. From time to time, a sperm donor’s inventory will sell out, so it is best to purchase when the vials are available.

Most sperm banks offer on site storage, which allows you to purchase the vials for future use and store with the sperm bank. If you do not need the vials, storing on-site allows for returns. This is important because once the donor sperm vials leave the sperm bank, we cannot offer returns because we have no way to guarantee the vial handling.

Step 4: Insemination or IVF

For most people the next step is the artificial insemination process, and for some it is the IVF process. Your physician will have the detailed information about those steps for you.

I have had the opportunity to work with several friends through their process of building their families, and it has been a unique journey for each of them, though there are common experiences and emotions throughout the process. Many patients find that connecting with others on a similar journey provides support and experience that they didn’t expect. There are online communities such as FertileThoughts® and resources for people on this journey toward parenthood, including the FertilityAuthority website.

I told my friend that it is important to be self-aware throughout the process and to keep an open mind. Just talking about the specifics seemed to fuel her energy for the process. She is ready to proceed step by step and build a family.

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