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Accuracy in Sperm Bank Pregnancy Tracking

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a blog by Michelle Ottey, PhD, Director of Operations, Fairfax Cryobank and Cryogenic Laboratories, Inc., July 6, 2011

To read more of Michelle Ottey's Adventures in Donor Sperm blogs, CLICK HERE.

Sperm banks are often criticized in regard to tracking pregnancies and limiting the number of pregnancies per sperm donor. Admittedly, this is a tricky area for those of us in the field because once the donor sperm is shipped from our facility, there is nothing we can do to require clinics or recipients to report pregnancy outcomes back to us.

We all strongly suggest and stress that pregnancy reporting is incredibly important and is the only surefire way for us to track the number of pregnancies per sperm donor. Many sperm banks have made pregnancy reporting incredibly easy and accessible by allowing reporting online with minimal but identifying information.

The issue of accurate tracking is complicated by websites that allow recipients to share purchased donor sperm. Recipients will often purchase excess vials for future use for siblings, and it is common for several vials to go unused. If they stored the samples on-site at the original sperm bank, most offer a buyback program would refund a percentage of what was paid. Once the vials have left the sperm bank, they cannot be returned and re-distributed due to safety and regulatory reasons.

Many sperm banks also offer a transfer of ownership program that allows the transfer of vials to another recipient. A problem arises when someone purchases excess donor sperm, stored off-site, and then transfers, with no involvement of the original sperm bank, to another recipient. This happens more often than you may think. When this occurs the sperm bank has no record of the second recipient, no knowledge of any resulting pregnancies, and therefore that pregnancy and possible resulting birth is not part of the sperm bank’s record for the donor. This leads to an inaccurate tracking of the number of pregnancies and family units for the donor and can result in a larger than desired sibling group.

The bottom line is that donor sperm should only be purchase directly from sperm banks or transferred through the original sperm bank. This allows for accurate distribution records and for accurate pregnancy and family unit tracking.

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