What to Expect When Donating Your Sperm for Lesbian Couples

by Katharine Swan

Sperm donation allows women to become parents who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity, such as single women and lesbian couples. As noble as it is to give these women a shot at parenthood, however, donating your sperm may not be as easy as you expect – in other words, you don’t just march into the sperm bank, leave a deposit, and collect your money. No, women who fork over good money for sperm have standards, and therefore, so must sperm banks.

As a result of the strict criteria sperm banks use to accept or reject donors, only a small percentage of applicants are given the green light. The first step toward achieving donor status is usually submitting a detailed application. If you are accepted based on the information contained in your application, you’ll have to jump through a series of hoops, including an initial screening, several test donations, a medical history check, and a complete medical exam.

Strong Swimmers

Of course, some families prefer to ask a close friend to make the donation. Sometimes, the partner of the mother-to-be will try to get a relative to make the donation, so that the baby has genes from both families. There are fewer requirements in these cases, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to be careful. Remember, the child’s health is on the line – and perhaps the mother’s, too.

Measuring Up: What Sperm Banks Are Looking For

High quality sperm banks have standards because they have to – not only do they need to produce salable product, they also need to satisfy a host of legal regulations. The laws are in place for everyone’s best interests, however, so high standards are a good thing. On that note, before donating you should be sure that the sperm bank is reputable and licensed by the state, not to mention that it doesn’t look like the private booths in an adult entertainment store.

The criteria for donors are in place either because the state demands it, or because the customers request it. Some criteria – such as the medical history and exam – are meant to protect the health of the women and their children-to-be, while others – such as age requirements and questions about your appearance and education – simply ensure customer satisfaction.

Preliminary Criteria

Your application and initial screening will request some basic medical information from you. Essentially, the sperm bank wants to ensure you don’t (or haven’t) had the more obvious medical conditions, such as HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

Other information covered in the application and initial screening includes age and physical characteristics such as height and weight. Some of this information is requested because it indicates the health of your “little soldiers.” For instance, most sperm banks require men to be between 18 and 35, because men in this age group produce healthier sperm. The same goes for men who maintain a healthy weight. Other requirements, such as the height requirement, is because of the characteristics women tend to look for in a donor – for example, there isn’t much demand for sperm donors shorter than 5’8”.

Finally, your profession and level of education will also fall under scrutiny. This is because many sperm banks charge more for the sperm of highly educated and successful donors, under the assumption that such qualities are genetic.

Test Donations

If your application and initial screening pass muster, you will be asked to make two or three test donations, generally several days apart. Although many sperm banks will pay you for these test donations, this isn’t the real deal yet – they are simply testing your actual sperm before they finish “looking you over.”

What qualifies as “good” sperm? Sperm count is a major concern – the sperm bank is looking for men with above-average sperm count. Your sperm will also need to be strong swimmers, with a low rate of deformity. After all, each insemination costs several hundred dollars, so the ladies will want to see results!

Another concern is how well your sperm recover from being frozen. In this respect, not all men (or their sperm) are created equal, and some men’s sperm don’t handle being frozen very well. Ideally, your sperm should be able to do their job just as well after being frozen for six months or a year.

Medical History and Exam

If your sperm can perform their job well enough to satisfy the sperm bank, you’ll be asked to complete a medical history and an exam. The medical history typically goes back four generations, and asks questions regarding genetic conditions that could be passed on to your children. (Remember: no woman wants her child to have a high risk for health problems.)

The exam has the same basic purpose: to ensure the health of the child. You’ll be tested for blood type; your blood will undergo a full panel of tests; even your urine will be tested. The medical exam will also check to make sure you’re not a carrier of debilitating diseases, such as sickle cell anemia, Tay-Sachs, and cystic fibrosis.

Even if you pass the medical history and exam, you’re not off the hook – you will be tested every three to six months for HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Understanding the Long Term Commitment

Even if you do pass the rigorous standards used to screen sperm donors, donating sperm isn’t just getting paid to pleasure yourself once a week. You will be making a long term commitment to the sperm bank, not to mention promising to follow certain rules and give up certain other rights.

Regular Medical Screening

As mentioned above, the pre-screening isn’t the only round of medical tests that you should expect. You will also need to undergo regular blood tests for HIV, hepatitis B and C, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, including a final blood panel six months after you make your last donation. The reason is that these sexually transmitted diseases take up to six months to show up, and the sperm bank cannot sell your sperm until they are one hundred percent sure that it is clean.

Are You Signing Away Your Sex Life?

Be forewarned: committing to a sperm donor program will have an impact on your sex life, as well as any “extracurricular” activities you engage in. Sperm banks generally require that you 1) come in regularly, and 2) abstain from sex or masturbation for several days before you come in to make your donation. If you commit to coming in weekly, and you are not allowed to ejaculate for five days before your visit…

You get the picture.

Your Rights and Responsibilities as a Sperm Donor

It is important to realize that as a sperm donor, you will not be in any way responsible for any children that are “made” from your donations. Then again, you won’t have any rights to these children, either, even if you change your mind later on. To some men, this is a mixed blessing.

Some sperm banks will allow you to choose whether you want to remain anonymous, or allow your identity to be revealed to the children when they turn eighteen. If the sperm bank you are considering offers “ID Release,” make sure you check what that means to them – different sperm banks have different policies.

A Few Notes on Donating Sperm to Friends and Acquaintances

If you are considering donating your sperm to someone you know, be sure to read the medical concerns above. Realize that even though the arrangement has been made privately, you will still need to go through much of the same process as above. For the sake of the baby’s health – and perhaps the mother’s, too – you will need to undergo the same rigorous medical exam, and you will need to be comfortable with giving the mother-to-be information about your family’s medical history. Also, your sperm should be frozen for six months prior to insemination, so that you can do one more blood panel and be sure you don’t have any sexually transmitted diseases before handing over your little soldiers.

The legal aspect should also be considered when donating sperm through a private arrangement. Will the mother and her partner share the rights and responsibilities of parenting with you (and possibly your partner, too)? Or are you giving up your rights as a parent altogether? Once you, the mother-to-be, and her partner decide on the logistics of the arrangement, you should have a lawyer draw up the necessary documents. The last thing you want is to be involved in a legal dispute as the result of your generous gesture.

Donating Sperm for a Good Cause

Donating your sperm isn’t a walk in the park by any means – it is a serious decision that requires a lot of thought, and most likely a lot more work than you ever imagined. Not all men who want to donate will be able to – but for those who do, there is nothing more satisfying than donating your genes to some else’s dream of being a parent. Besides, you’ll get paid to do something you do all the time anyway, and what could be better than that?

Information published on The Rainbow Babies website is not a substitute for proper medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or care. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Disclaimer: The Rainbow Babies provides sample contracts and legal/social health articles for informational purposes only—please do not consider it as legally-binding advice of any kind.