This is an article I never thought I would be writing! I always thought I would have 2 or 3 children with my best friend husband and life would move forward as planned. As we all know, nothing ever goes as planned. I gave birth with my second pregnancy over 40 to my first child, my daughter, as a single woman at age 45 via artificial insemination. I learned a great deal about the process including how to select a sperm donor.
When I started the lengthy process of trying to have a baby, I assumed that the fertility center/hospital would have sperm donor books I could look through to select my sperm donor. Wrong. Once I cleared all of my tests and surgeries, I learned that I was responsible for finding, ordering, and delivering the sperm to the hospital’s Andrology Lab. The fertility nurse gave me a photocopied sheet with a couple of urls, told me there were lots of reputable donor services, and wished me luck. And by the way, I had one day to pick the sperm if I was going to make the schedule for my first insemination! (I could have taken more time, but I would have missed the first month and I didn’t want to wait.) Throughout my corporate career, I have been decisive and time-line aggressive; so I was certain I could do it. I drove the 30 minutes home from the clinic filled with excitement to be selecting the sperm donor that would help me make my baby.
Choosing the Sperm Bank
1. Safety. I began the process by looking at the websites recommended by the fertility nurse. I then did a general search for sperm banks. I eliminated any sperm bank that wasn’t accredited. I double checked to insure that the sperm bank screened donors and provided testing for disease.
2. Detailed Donor Information. Most sites require you to set up a profile to view donor information. Many charge a fee to join the site and gain access to detailed donor information. I spent about an hour looking though sites before deciding on one to pay a fee to join. I selected this site over others because in addition to detailed information about the donor, their medical history and family history; this site offered psychological information and photos of the donor both as a baby and as an adult. I also identified an alternate site which I did not pay to join but wanted to have available in case I couldn’t find the right donor on the first site.
3. Sperm Preparation. My doctor required washed sperm, so I could only use a sperm bank that provided that service.
Choosing the Sperm Donor for Pregnancy over 40
Once I was comfortable with the two sperm banks I had selected, I began searching donor profiles to identify my donor. I used the following process to help me wade through what seemed like an overwhelming array of profiles. There are lots of ways to select a donor, but this worked well for me:
1. Identify physical attributes you are interested in. In the sites that I selected and in most other sites, you can search on race, ethnicity, height, weight, eye color, hair color, etc. This is a good first place to run a search and see which donors are available who meet your physical criteria.
2, Identify the non-physical attributes you are interested in such as education level, athletic ability, religion, standardized test scores (if available), occupation, etc. This sort will narrow the list of donors from step one above. My goal was to get to my top three potential donors, rank them, and then select from there.
3. Search through the medical history of the donor and their family. This step caused me to eliminate on of my donor selections because two of his male relatives died fairly young from heart disease. I also eliminated another donor because the site reported that one of the children born from his sperm was autistic. (Is there a direct correlation? I don’t know; but I wanted to give my baby the best odds possible to be healthy.)
Using the steps above, I narrowed the search down to three top candidates and then ranked them 1 to 3. This was fairly subjective. I was excited to be to the point of ordering sperm.
I only have experience with the sperm bank I used. The process will probably vary by sperm bank. When I was ready to order, I called the toll free number and spoke with a very helpful and kind representative. I gave her the donor number for my first choice and told her that I needed to order a washed sample to be delivered overnight to the Andrology Lab. She checked his samples and told me that his washed samples were not available but that she could contact him to come back in to donate again. I did not have the luxury of time, so I asked about my second choice. He had several washed samples available so I ordered one.
To order more than one sample? When my representative asked me about this, my first reaction was “no”. Then I started thinking about the value of ordering or reserving more samples. If I got pregnant on the first try, the additional samples (and money) would be wasted. If I did not get pregnant on the first try, and didn’t reserve additional samples, I would risk not having my donor’s washed sperm available when I needed it. I ultimately decided not to reserve additional samples because my donor had 15 vials available and I thought that was enough.
When you are ordering sperm, you can specify overnight delivery. It comes frozen and packed in dry ice. You can have it delivered to you or to the andrology lab which will charge you a handling fee. If you have it delivered to yourself, you become responsible for keeping it frozen and in good condition. I choose to let the lab have that responsibility and pay the handling fee. I think it was a good investment in peace of mind.
Over the course of my quest to get pregnant over 40, I ordered sperm 4 times. My second insemination resulted in a pregnancy which I miscarried. My fourth insemination resulted in my beautiful daughter. Whichever sperm bank you choose, do your research and relax once you have chosen the donor. That is only the beginning!