Sperm Banks and Associated Questions

So another thing about October is that Dr Lady and I hope to find and secure some new sperm. Yes, we’re dropping our known, cheap-as-beer donor in favor of an anonymous, super-fucking-expensive donor. I don’t know what’s wrong with us, either.

But we do have good reasons. We’re planning on returning to the RE and doing the whole dog-and-pony show for our last tries, but this RE – and every other one I’ve researched – requires a six month quarantine of any known donor sperm. Which I get, at least in a CYA fashion, but seems ridiculous to us when we’ve had him tested and been using him for over a year. Six months would have been okay if we started this process back in May, but we didn’t know whether or not we’d even be here then, and I think we were already starting to wonder if using a different donor might be a good idea.

I’m sure we could still find a way to use him if we really wanted to, but honestly, I’ve changed everything but the donor in this fertility equation and I’m curious to see if that would make a difference. Plus, we had a sperm analysis done way back in May that came back less than stellar – not awful, but could definitely be better – and our donor said he’d clean up his diet and stop drinking every day. Which would have gone a long way towards helping. And he did – for a short while. Sooooo.

Plus, there are a ton of legal benefits to using an anonymous donor. And since we’re in a more financially stable place than we were a few months ago, it just seems like a good time to try.

Which leads us to my questions. I’d looked at banks a few times in the past, kind of as a passing curiosity, but now that I’m doing it for real I feel very lost. First of all, there are way more banks out there than I remember finding the first time. How did you narrow it down?

Then there’s IUI vs ICI – which we’ll talk to the RE about, but I’m already trying to suss out the difference now. It seems implied that IUI has a slightly higher success rate than ICI, but I cannot for the life of me find Real Factual Info about this. Do any of you know?

I’m sure this is more of a personal preference thing, but I’m really curious as to how you ended up selecting your donor, too. There are certainly some ways to narrow it down, but everything they write about themselves and everything the staff writes is always so positive and they start blurring together a little bit. Have you noticed any telltale descriptors that are warning signs? Does acquiring baby photos help at all? What helped you select a donor?

Also, this isn’t a question, but jesus fucking christ those vial prices. $650+ for one vial? I can’t even.

And last but not least, anything you think I should know about finding and selecting a donor would be super helpful. I’m such a noob at this. Thank you!! ❤

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25 Comments

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25 responses to “Sperm Banks and Associated Questions

  1. Great questions!
    We used Northwest Cryobank, mostly because they will ship to your home and we always did home insems, they are pretty cheap too at 350 per vial. I would check with your re about which banks they will use, out re only accepted samples from specific banks so we couldn’t have the doctor insem even if we wanted.
    Iui format has been ‘washed’, so certain hormones and faulty sperm has been taken out, so you can put it directly in the uterus. I think since you can put it past the cervix, there’s a slightly higher success rate, but it’s all such a crap shoot anyway, it’s hard to tell.
    Selecting a donor is really personal. Lots of people try to match ethnicity and physical characteristics of their partner. Some people focus more on intelligence or college major or hobbies, I would just pick a few characteristics that are important to you two to narrow it down a bit. For us, it was important to my wife that our baby didn’t look just like me, so that lead us to look at having a biracial kid. From there, we picked a short, athletic person over a tall super smart one, we figured my smartness is good enough and my wife has dreams of coaching her teams when she’s old enough to play sports. We thought pictures were really important, a couple donors were cut because we didn’t think they were cute kids. I guess that’s superficial, but who doesn’t want a beautiful child? Anyway, that was our process. Good luck!

    • Thank you for sharing this. I was always curious as to how you chose your donor but I do understand how personal of a decision it is and did not feel it was my place to ask.

      • I know it’s sort of the elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge. I have a whole long post on why we chose to have a biracial kid, maybe I should get around to finishing it…

    • Thank you for answering!! ❤
      That's really helpful about the RE being selective. Didn't even cross my mind that they might care. All the more reason for us to go in ASAP instead of waiting for December.
      And thank you for sharing your selection process. I was having a hard time figuring out just where to start!

  2. Go with IUI, it’ll remove any variance of chance from your cervical mucus or random chance. My obgyn didn’t even offer ICI, your RE probably doesn’t assuming you want an in office sample preparation and insemination. There IUI samples are prewashed, so they’re all swimmers, ICI has other stuff in it.
    Picking a donor is a huge pain and like other parenting decisions tend to be personal. The only thing I’d recommend looking for in a donor is previous pregnancies.
    Good luck!

  3. Good questions. I feel like I could write a novel about this.
    First, we narrowed the sperm banks that offer “willing to be known” or Open-ID donors, because that was important to us. Next, we looked at who provided photos – baby or adult. We just wanted some confirmation that the donor looked normal and we didn’t go “eep!” when we saw him. Next, we went with price per vial. We ended up paying $575 per vial for IUI, Open ID. I think that’s cheap on the spectrum – some are as much as $900.

    As for qualities we looked for in donors, we wanted intellectual curiosity and ambition. Athleticism was important, and any interest in arts/music was icing. We really focused on what the staff did NOT write about the donor. For example, if they really chatted about his good looks but didn’t say anything about wit/intelligence/education, then we steered away. We also looked at how he wrote his profile – if he seemed flippant, hurried, or boring, we nixed it.

    We eventually narrowed it to a few options and bought their photos. This was EASILY a deal-breaker. Some of them were NOT what we were looking for, and a few were reasonable. Only one was really endearing, and he had an audio recording as well. He sounded like a big nerd, which we liked, and he seemed to have good values, interests, and accomplishments.

    As for IUI/ICI, I don’t think there is an apples to apples comparison. Our clinic told us to use IUI, so we are. Both seem to have about 15% success rate on any given cycle, as far as I can tell.

    • Wow yeah, $575 is cheaper than what we’ve been seeing. Which bank did you use?
      Thank you for sharing your process, especially about what the staff did/didn’t write. Very helpful!

  4. We used California Cryobank because it was what our RE accepts. We had physical characteristics that we were looking for so narrowed the search down that way. From there, like Caitlin, we paid attention to what the staff wrote about the donor. We also looked at family history. We had one donor we both really liked but then his family all had addiction problems and that was a chance we were not willing to take. We did pay to see photos but they provided us with pictures of when he was an awkward 12 year old boy so we decided to just go with our gut. Having our children be biological siblings too was important so we made sure it was a donor who had plenty of “stock”. It ended up that our donor became so he was only available to people who had gotten pregnant could purchase more vials.
    We always told people picking a donor is a bit like buying a car, you pick the make, model and all the features you want. Good luck to you!

  5. Christabel Ladibug21

    We used European Sperm Bank, the Seattle location. Since I’m CMV-, I was encouraged to use a CMV- donor. There were only a handful. My biggest concerns outside of that was that they have no family history of major mental illness or genetic diseases.

    We had originally hoped to use a Japanese donor or part-Japanese donor because my wife is part Japanese. It was also important to us to choose an open donor. Someone willing to be contacted when our son turns 18 if he wants to do that.

    We did 4 in-clinic IUIs. The first IUI was a chemical pregnancy and I learned a little after that my progesterone was low. Our 5th try was an at-home attempt after a few months on progesterone, two ICI vials, an Instead cup, and Pre-seed. If I did it again, I would save my time, stress, and sanity and NOT do an IUI unless I had some medical reason. Our last attempt cost us the least and was really non-stressful. Having to lug that damn sperm tank to the clinic when the time was just right, getting an appointment when the timing was right, all of it was stressful. I much preferred the home process, and it worked. If we do it again, I will probably be 40 or almost 40 so who knows if it will work as smoothly.

    • We were looking at the European Sperm Bank. I hadn’t noticed that they lacked a more in-depth medical history. That might be a deal breaker for us, since I already have depression and panic disorder on my side. Don’t want to compound it.
      I really want to keep trying at home, but I have PCOS and can’t predict when I’ll ovulate. I’ll frequently surge several times in one cycle, so I don’t want to waste such expensive sperm. 😦 Unless there’s a way to do ICI at home with trigger shots? We’ll be talking to our RE about all this soon, at least.
      Thank you for sharing!

      • Christabel Ladibug21

        The medical history seemed pretty in-depth to me. They covered all the siblings as well as aunts/uncles/grandparents. It included all kinds of mental illness, etc.. They might have changed though, that was in 2012. We have a photo of our donor at around age 3-4.

  6. My wife and I are currently going through the process of picking a donor, too! I had a lot of the same questions rolling around in my head as you do. I researched the banks looking for how many families they limited per donor, the extent of the testing done on the sperm, as well as what information they had available to help decide. I had narrowed it down to Fairfax and California Cryobank. Then I had a really great experience with customer service at California Cryobank so we decided to go with them. However, I do believe they are one of the most expensive but the things they offered were important enough that we decided it was worth it.

    I have a post dedicated to our search and how we picked who we did, but in a nutshell we knew we wanted someone who shared physical and personality traits with my wife. We picked out about 10 favorites and then narrowed them down by medical history, staff impressions, etc. Then we bought the full profiles which included childhood pictures, extended family history, audio recording, personality test, and an “express yourself” section. The pictures made a huge difference and we were immediately able to eliminate quite a few. There was one who immediately stuck out to us and since he was a favorite before seeing the photos we felt good that it was well rounded decision. We also saved a second and third choice in case we have to switch throughout the process.

    This all happened in the course of a weekend for us, which I feel is semi-crazy and maybe just meant to be. I’ll be excited to hear how you make the decision, too!

    • Fairfax is really expensive, too. But if they do a good job of testing and screening, I am more than willing to pay for it.
      I’ll look up your post, too. Good to know that the photos are super helpful, too. Thank you for sharing!!

  7. We use Northwest Cryobank. We have use both IUI and ICI (one is cheaper, so we do that if we’re getting more than one vial at a time) Also if you get more than one there’s a discount. It’s all UPS so shipping is easy, only bummer is no weekends (which is only a bitch when you forget/aren’t prepared). The real bitch is that shipping is so expensive! Sperm price is one things, but shipping too, ugh! Their site is easy to use. Although honestly my gf does all that stuff. It’s her way to be involved. We started very superficially with race and some basic physical stuff. Then it gets crazy. We spent a long time going through our base pool and scouring every aspect of their profile and handwritten report thing. The staff impressions were a nice perk as well. It’s actually really fun, but also like studying for a big ass test. We gradually narrowed down to like ten and then started a ranking process mainly based on what was available, donor family health and previous pregnancies and picked the winner. Also, we found on one person that there were No previous pregnancies using his sperm, but he did have biological children, so I’m glad we really went over everything that we could.

    • What! They charge shipping on top of that ridiculous vial price! I shouldn’t have assumed that shipping would be included, but it was the only way I could figure why it’s already so expensive. Okay, okay, good to know.
      Yeah, this is actually going to be primarily my wife’s responsibility, since she is the official Spermveyor (TM), but I’m going to help with the initial selection process.
      Thank you!!

      • Lol they charge for everything. I mostly wish it as cheaper to get pictures and extended profiles. Especially if you have to switch donors and pay the extra all over again

  8. We used Seattle/European sperm bank, but we also consulted the catalogues of xytex and local banks. In the end we had very limited choices because I wanted a rhesus negative donor (like me) to avoid the vaccine stuff or possible complications surrounding blood, which meant our candidate pool dropped to at most 15%. We did IUI because that’s what’s done in our area, and because it’s already getting the sperm past some of the potential hurdles. If it’s placed where the egg and sperm do their dance, they’re more likely to dance. We also selected this bank because it offered full profiles, a baby & adult photo, family medical history, biography, personality type indicator results, audio interviews, and essays (small blurbs where the donor writes about his motivation for becoming a donor). We picked a number of contenders but ended up nixing some due to annoying voices, weird answers, etc. The adult photo I liked to have because I figure if I’m going to make a baby with someone, I want to make sure it shares some physical similarities (hair, eye colour, build, etc) as my partner and I want to be able to see myself actually wanting to procreate with this guy.

  9. Susanne

    It’s been three years since I educated myself about all of this, so I’m a bit rusty, but I’ll give it a go.

    ICI vs IUI = unwashed vs washed. Unwashed is cheaper, but you can only do ICI with it.Frozen sperm lives a much shorter time (12hrs?) than fresh sperm (up to 5 days in the nurturing environment of the cervical goo). So making frozen sperm have to make its way through the cervix just means a lot less is going to make it in time. IUI has better success rates. No point in saving a bit of money on the sperm and having to do more tries as a consequence. And not many clinics will bother with ICI anyway. One downside to moving to frozen sperm is how much smaller the fertilization window is. I concluded that I needed to time the IUI to within 6 hours of when I thought ovulation was, which meant a lot of monitoring (I found fertilityfriend.com handy), but I did get pregnant second go!

    Sperm bank. My main considerations were:
    1. bank ethics, reputation and size. I would have preferred a non-profit who I felt would put the family’s wellbeing first vs a profit-above-all that I wouldn’t trust to vet donors well or keep in touch with them. There are some stories about banks not informing families about serious health conditions and some other pretty lousy behavior. I also wanted one big enough that it was likely to be stick around. I really liked a Californian non-profit bank. However this was trumped by…
    2. my child’s possible need for info on their donor. Donor kids seem to vary in their interest, but my experience of adopted kids made me feel it might be VERY important to him at some point to know about his donor. So I wanted to do what I could. This meant choosing a willing-to-be-known donor and a bank that would provide as much info as possible. I thought about my kid at 16 asking me how I chose and it made me me choose California Cryobank because they had baby photos, an audio sample as well as the usual questionnaire. A few years on, I imagine other banks have as good info and perhaps you can find somewhere closer and save a bit of money on delivery.

    Donor – we all have personal priorities, but a friend who had a LONG trip to become a parent and ended up using donor sperm and egg told me emphatically you will love your kid, keep it super simple. Donors get snapped up and run out, so it’s certainly inconvenient to get too attached. Here’s what I considered:
    1. Health. Pretty obvious, but I had concerns about potential for autism and cancer from my family so didn’t want someone with similar family background. You get such good info, might as well make use of it, but bear in mind this is only what the donor knows/is willing to divulge when they are at college, so they and their parents will develop medical issues later.
    2. Rough ethnic match. I was tempted by exotic donors, but didn’t want to risk giving my child a reason to feel they didn’t fit in the family. I know transracial adoptive families get a lot of intrusive remarks and questions (to parents and children) from people they don’t know and felt that might make my kid more likely to feel unhappy with how he was conceived.
    3. Social skills. I’m not sure how much if this is genetic, but I believe someone who is friendly and interested in people tends to be happier.
    4. Intellectual curiosity. I don’t think level of education says much about a person but did look for people who seemed interested in learning about and exploring the world rather than power and success.
    5. good person. When I got down to a short list I realized that one donor sounded like a good person who cared about the people in his life and I’d feel so much happier telling my child that was who I had chosen rather than a gorgeous but rather selfish sounding. It also made me feel he was more likely to keep the bank updated with his contact details and stick by his decision to be willing-to-be-known to my child.
    Some people had luck calling the bank about donors they were considering, talking to someone who had met the donor and finding out useful impressions.
    Hope that is useful! Best of luck!

  10. Susanne

    One more thing – when you’re reading what donors have written, remember these are college students who want to get accepted as donors to make some money. They are very young and are consciously or unconsciously putting a positive spin on everything. Don’t take what they say terribly seriously!!

  11. The thing I liked about the IUI and having a monitored cycle was that it took the guesswork out of it. I had a couple ultrasounds where the egg follicle was measured, gave myself the shot when the egg reached the right size, and therefore knew the timing was right when we went for the IUI. As someone whose ovulation date can vary month to month, that helped lower my stress level a lot. For the donor, we looked for a couple physical characteristics that matched my wife, but mostly looked for intelligence and strong family medical history. We used a local sperm bank where we could pick up the sperm in a tank – not having to ship it saved us a bit of money. Hope this is helpful!

  12. We went through Fairfax mostly because I liked their prices and I liked being able to browse through all of the profiles without having to pay.
    We chose an unknown IUI donor (unknown was cheaper…and we wanted enough for a second pregnancy hopefully). Some of our main qualifications were previous pregnancy, somewhat similar heritage as both of us, good GPA in college and currently in grad school, and a good amount of vials. We also liked his essay and interview. We ended up buying him out. 9 at once, for me and hopefully a future pregnancy with my wife. We ended up getting 2 for free because of deals they have with buying in bulk and you get a free vial after 4 tries if you meet a few qualifications (it took me 5 tries). Buying all at once also cut down a TON on shipping prices (which are A LOT!)
    Although the donor is important, I have really stopped thinking too much about him or his qualities too much at this point. I just think of him as hopefully the biological connection between our future kids. We are so removed from him though, I just think of this baby as ours and sometimes forget about that biological piece!
    Our clinic wouldn’t have done ICI but we would have picked IUI anyway. You get so little sperm compared to fresh sperm that it seemed reasonable that it should all go in the uterus and with none of it hanging around in the cervix or vagina.

  13. We went with The Sperm Bank of California. We liked that it was a non-profit and that they have a lower limit on # of families who can use the same donor (10 families). It was one of the first in the country to do open-id donors, and the bank itself is doing research about outcomes for those kids. They also mostly work with queer moms and single-by-choice moms, and we figured that could be neat if we end up connecting with donor siblings.
    We happened to pick a donor who had just started donating, which worked out well–we didn’t buy additional vials after we conceived my son, but ended up still being able to buy vials when we were ready to start trying for a second kid 3+ years later. It wasn’t something we had considered ahead of time, but it ended up being really useful!
    Good luck!

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