Deep Dive

Selecting a Sperm Bank as a Single or Lesbian Woman

There are 3 - 5 large sperm banks in the United States, and a handful of smaller providers. Typically, the larger banks have anywhere between 200 – 500 donors' sperm available at any one time. Banks usually establish recruitment centers near large, state universities, and often claim that they accept less than 10% of total applicants. That said, most clinics will tell you they struggle to meet customer demand, especially if a client has a highly-specific request re: race or ethnicity. Lesbian couples typically represent 30 – 40% of any sperm bank's customer base.

It's important to ensure your clinic follows ASRM and FDA guidelines when it comes to properly screening donors medically and emotionally. Banks are responsible for ensuring candidates have no meaningful health or emotional issues, they are free of infection or communicable disease, and they can be relied upon to make themselves available if need be in the future. The extent to which a clinic delves into these issues varies by company, and even recruitment center. Customers should probe into what exactly each bank knows about its donors, and how they know those assertions to be true.

Probably the most unsettling case of donor fraud to surface in the last few years was of a man who fathered more than 35 children through a sperm bank, did not have any of the august accolades that he claimed, and ultimately was found to have a serious psychological disorder. The case originated out of one of the larger, more reputable banks, and has cast a pall on the field.

Additionally, banks vary in terms of the personal information they collect about each donor. Most intended parents are especially interested in the donor’s appearance, but typically banks will only provide photos from the donor’s adolescence. Few banks will specify what university the donor attended, because most are current students at schools that lack prestige.

The costs of using a sperm bank vary, but prices between the major banks range by 10 – 15%. One should assume you will pay for varying tiers of information on donors, with top-tiers of information access running at $99 per month. The costs to acquire a vial of sperm range from $500 - $1,000, depending on whether the donor is “open”, and his sample is washed (both of which are more costly). For context, the average number of vials each woman will use for an IUI treatment will be 3 – 7 in total and typically, the costs of sperm rise 4 – 10% per year.

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