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Demystifying Donor Selection: 9 Essential Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before Choosing a Sperm Donor

Updated: Jul 2, 2023

Choosing a sperm donor is an important decision for individuals and couples who are planning to use a donor to build their families. While some may have a family member or friend willing to donate as a known donor, many turn to sperm banks for assistance. As a certified genetic counselor, I have helped many individuals understand the information that is available on each sperm donor and how that available information may impact their donor search and health of their future children. Before anyone starts their search for a sperm donor, they should consider speaking with an OB/GYN or a fertility doctor, called a reproductive endocrinologist (RE). Your doctor should inform you what factors to consider in your donor search to give you the best chance of conceiving and having a healthy child. In this blog post, I review nine essential questions to ask your doctor before embarking on your sperm donor search.

1. What sperm bank do you recommend, and why?

When your doctor recommends a particular sperm bank, it's important to understand the reasoning behind their recommendation. Is it based on reputable and ethical practices? Have they witnessed high-quality sperm samples from that bank? Does the bank offer diverse donor options? Follow family limits?

Understanding the basis for the recommendation will help you make an informed decision on whether to consider this bank alongside banks identified in your own research or recommended by your own family or friends.

2. What fertility treatment is best for me, and why?

Knowing the fertility treatment that suits your specific situation can be important when determining the type of vials to purchase. Your health history, family unit, and fertility evaluation will influence the treatment options available to you. Discuss with your doctor the possibilities of intracervical insemination (ICI), intrauterine insemination (IUI), or in vitro fertilization (IVF), and their respective benefits and limitations.

3. What type of vials should I purchase? If this vial type isn't available, will any others be acceptable?

Different sperm banks offer various vial types with different quantities of sperm. Vial types may also be processed differently. Depending on your planned treatment, you may need to purchase a specific type of vial. Inquire about the recommended vial type and if there is any flexibility or alternative options in case your preferred type is unavailable.

4. What are my chances for success with each cycle?

Understanding your personalized chance of success with each fertility cycle is crucial before commencing treatment. It's essential to be aware that even for healthy individuals, cycles don't always result in pregnancy. Knowing your odds can help manage expectations and guide decision-making throughout the process.

5. How many vials should I purchase if I plan to have multiple children with the same donor?

If your family-building goals include having multiple children using the same sperm donor, it is important to estimate the number of vials you would need. Sperm donor inventories at sperm banks fluctuate, and the availability of vials from a specific donor may change over time. Purchasing the required vials upfront can help ensure continuity if you decide to have additional children in the future.

6. How many days before my IUI or my egg retrieval should I have vials shipped to the clinic?

Shipping vials from the sperm bank to the clinic requires careful timing to ensure they arrive in good condition for fertilization or insemination. Inquire about the ideal shipping timeline to allow for any unforeseen delays or weather-related issues.

7. Have I (or the person who will be carrying the pregnancy) been tested for CMV, and how does my result impact my donor search?

Your doctor should help you understand your CMV status and its implications for choosing a compatible donor. If your clinic hasn't explained CMV and theoretical risks for congenital CMV based on your intended treatment, ask your doctor for more information.

8. How does my blood type (or the blood type of the person carrying the pregnancy), specifically Rh factor impact my donor selection?

For individuals who are Rh negative, doctors may recommend selecting an Rh negative donor. Understanding your blood type and your doctor's recommendation will help you filter for a donor. If your clinic hasn't explained Rh incompatibility, treatment for Rh incompatibility, which is readily available in the US, and pros and cons of using an Rh positive donor as an Rh negative person, ask your clinic for more information.

9. Have I (or my egg source(s)) undergone carrier screening?

Carrier screening is a genetic test used to determine whether an individual or couple is at an increased risk to have a child with certain genetic diseases. Multiple professional societies recommend that this testing is offered to all people planning a pregnancy.

9a) If yes, can I have an electronic copy of my full results report? You will want a copy for your records.

9b) If yes, how do my results impact my donor search?

9c) If no, do you recommend carrier screening?

(Be sure to ask about cost of the test and turn around time, as most carrier screens take 3 weeks to complete which could impact your treatment timeline)

Choosing a sperm donor is a significant step in the family-building process for many individuals and couples. By asking your doctor these nine important questions, you can gain valuable insights and make informed decisions that align with your family-building goals. Remember, each person's situation is unique, so seeking guidance from medical professionals can help navigate the complexities of sperm donor selection.

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