Definition and Overview

Sperm donation is the process of collecting sperm specimen either for immediate or future use. The end goal is to fertilize an egg that will ultimately lead to conception and birth.

For some experts, the word donation is misleading since it denotes non-compensation but gratuity. A good number of sperm donors are actually paid for their services, although the rate is considerably lower than that of females. On the other hand, depending on the quality of the sperm and the background of the donor (which is based on several elements such as the level of education, physical attributes, and health history), they can make more than a thousand dollars per month. Further, as long as the donor can meet the criteria in every screening, he can donate as often as he wishes.

There are, however, many instances where donors are friends and family members of clients. Some have also used technologies such as the Internet to find a willing donor for free or for a lesser cost. In this case, the sperm may actually be a real donation.

Clients are usually heterosexual couples. However, in recent years, there’s a growing demand for sperm among single women and homosexual couples, whether lesbians or gays.

Sperm donors have the option to keep their identity hidden to both the clients and the future offspring, which makes some question the procedure’s ethics. Some studies have shown that many children go through trauma once they’ve learned they have been conceived using a donated sperm. Thus, a number of banks are now willing to pay a premium for those who are open to sharing at least partial information and a photograph.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

Criteria can greatly vary among sperm banks. One of the major considerations is the genes, which can be passed on to future offspring. Some banks, therefore, have specific requirements when it comes to height, weight, and physical features like the colour of the eyes or the shape of the nose, among others.

Lifestyle and education also have weight, and the healthier and the more educated the donor is, the more valuable and the more expensive the sperm becomes.

Another major factor that affects male selection for a sperm donor is family medical history. Some genetic risks are familial in nature. Although having such genes doesn’t immediately mean the person will get sick of the disease in the future, it simply significantly increases the chances. The quality and the quantity of the sperm produced will also be checked. Only those who pass the rigorous screening process can donate the sperm.

There are also men who donate their sperm if they are about to undergo treatment that may affect sperm quality and production, such as vasectomy and chemotherapy.

Sometimes the sperm donor can be the husband or male partner. This usually happens when fertility issues prevent the egg and sperm cells to meet in a more natural manner. The sperm can then be collected and then introduced into the uterus via medical means. Another option is to develop the embryo in a Petri dish before it’s placed in the uterus.

Sperm can be stored for as long as two decades without any reduction of its capability to fertilize an egg. However, it’s necessary that the bank can store the sperm cells properly. These cells are frozen up to -196 degrees Celsius inside tanks filled with liquid nitrogen. Even then, only 50% of the sperm cells may survive during the storage.

How Does the Procedure Work?

The first step is always the donor screening, which is performed in a sperm clinic or health care facility including a hospital. Potential donors will be asked to produce a semen sample from which sperm can be collected and analyzed for quality and quantity.

This can be accomplished by going in a clean private room where the donor can masturbate. The donor is allowed to take as much time as he wants until he can come up with the required sample. To increase production on the date of collection, donors are encouraged to abstain from any sexual activity at least three days before.

After the collection, the potential donor will undergo other tests and interviews. He will be asked about his age, lifestyle, and education. He may be required to produce proof of any claim.

More tests will also be conducted, including urinalysis, CBC, chemistry panel, blood typing, blood tests to detect the presence of STI-related viruses, and genetic testing. If it’s necessary, the clinic may ask your permission so they can request or obtain further health and medical information from your doctors.

The results may be released within a few weeks. If the donor is accepted, he will return to the facility to provide the sperm for storage or use. The donor will also have to sign a consent form. If the “donation” is for a fee, the donor will receive the payment once the sample is cleared.

Although most donations are done in a licensed center, some are already using home kits while others collect semen sample during sex by using a condom.

Possible Risks and Complications

One of the biggest risks in sperm donation is infection especially for the one who will use the sperm. This usually happens when the bank doesn’t follow protocols or is very lax when it comes to its policies in collecting and handling sperm.

Moreover, sperm centers cannot guarantee 100% that the sperm doesn’t carry any genetic disease. This is because certain hereditary conditions still don’t have any standard testing.

The complications can also go beyond health and cover legal and ethical aspects. Thus, sperm donors are also asked to sign a legal agreement with the bank and sometimes with the recipients themselves especially about concerns that involve the rights of the future child.


  • European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, news release, June 29, 2014
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