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What Is a Sperm Donor's Motivation?

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a blog by Michelle Ottey, PhD, Director of Operations, Fairfax Cryobank and Cryogenic Laboratories, Inc., June 22, 2011

I am often asked about what motivates a man to become a sperm donor. In my experience over the past five years, I have found the answer to that question to be as diverse as the sperm donors themselves.

Sperm donors are compensated for their time and travel, which is a motivator for many men. But the ability to help people build families when they are challenged with social or medical infertility is by far the biggest motivator. Countless sperm donors have shared stories of their friend or family member’s struggle with infertility and spoken of how it touched them and inspired them to want to help. I have had sperm donors tell me that someone they know used donor sperm to conceive and that seeing the joy when they were pregnant was enough to get them to apply.

It is challenging to be a sperm donor. The screening process is intense, and very few men make it through to become sperm donors (less than 1 percent of initial applicants become sperm donors.) Signing the required agreements, discussing something very personal with lab staff and interviewing can be stressful for some men in the process. But those who make it are always happy to be a part of the program and find satisfaction knowing that they are helping to build families.

I read an email this morning from a man who was rejected from participating in the program, and it made an impression on me. He was rejected because of his family medical history and the high incidence of cancer, and although he understood why he was not able to participate in the program, he was very disappointed. He shared that his aunt had issues with infertility and struggled for years to have a child, and that was why participating had been so important to him. He was grateful that sperm donor programs exist and was sorry to not contribute. He is referring friends to apply.

I believe that many of these men are making the choice to participate knowing that they are providing an opportunity for others to create families that would otherwise not exist. It is a beautiful and selfless thing that they are doing.

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