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Should I bank sperm?

Currently, there are few resources available to patients regarding sperm banking and what is available is often not comprehensive and difficult to understand. As a result, sperm banking is often overlooked during the treatment of more pressing medical concerns. But cryobanking can insure that when a patient recovers, he can consider the option of having children.

What is a sperm bank? is sponsored by Michael A. Werner, MD, FACS, founder of Maze Health and a board-certified urologist who specializes in male infertility and sexual dysfunction.

What if I am Interested in Donating my Sperm?

What is an anonymous sperm donor?

An anonymous sperm donor is a man who chooses, for any number of possible reasons, to donate his sperm anonymously to help a woman or a couple become pregnant.

An anonymous sperm donor will generally not meet the couple that uses the sperm, nor will he have information about any resultant child’s whereabouts. Different sperm banks differ on the amount of information they will provide the donor about resulting pregnancies. You will need to speak to the sperm bank with which you choose to work about their specific policies and conditions.

What is involved in being a sperm donor?

Each sperm bank has its own requirements and procedures for sperm donors; however, many requirements are required by all sperm banks. You should look at the question below “Am I eligible to become a sperm donor” and make sure that you generally meet the criteria before approaching a donor bank.

The following is an outline of the typical procedure at a sperm bank. The process you will go through at any individual sperm bank may be more or less extensive in terms of the evaluation but there will be many similarities.

You may approach a sperm bank directly to see if they are accepting new donors. You will be asked a number of questions over the phone. At that time, you will be asked to come in to the bank (or laboratory) for a meeting. During this first meeting, the laboratory will spend significant time with you, have you fill out a very thorough questionnaire about your own medical history and your family history. At that time they will go through their rules and procedures. Often labs will ask you, during this first visit, to produce an initial semen sample in the collection room. This initial sample is tested by the lab to see how much sperm is in the ejaculate, its quality, and how well it freezes. Most labs have private collection rooms with videos or magazine to help with production.

Assuming the sample looks good and you meet the bank’s basic criteria, you will be invited back for a full physical and to have blood drawn. At that time, you will probably be asked to produce another sample of semen and urine. These will be thoroughly tested for infectious disease, sexually transmitted diseases or genetic problems. Assuming all of these tests are completed and come back negative you will be able to start regular donations. Most often banks ask you to sign a contract agreeing to produce specimens 1-2/ week for at least 6 months. Again, each laboratory has its own requirements.

Am I eligible to become a sperm donor?

Most banks look for the following qualifications:

  • Ages 18-44.
  • Individual who were not adopted.
  • Healthy: No significant illness or conditions.
  • No family history of genetic diseases.
  • Ability and willingness to produce a specimen 4-8 times per month in the laboratory.
  • Ability and willingness to make a minimum 6-month commitment.

How much can I expect to be paid as a donor?

Each bank varies in what they pay per specimen. Usually, the range is $35-$50 per specimen. Banks often require a six-month gap between production and complete payment. That is, they will not release payments to a sperm donor until he has completed the second set of blood tests; six months after the first set were done. The reason for this is fairly straightforward. Any specimens in a laboratory’s bank cannot be released until a second blood test, (done after a 6 month quarantine period) returns negative and proves that no infections were in the blood at the time the specimens were produced. The banks, as an assurance that the donor will return for the 6 months blood test, will hold payment for that time.

How do I become a sperm donor?

You can contact the banks closest to you about your interest in becoming a sperm donor. Please be aware that most sperm banks require that you live within an hour’s commute.

Is Sperm Banking an Expensive Process?

No. There is absolutely no indication that this is the case. Costs can vary from one sperm bank to another. Generally there is an initial fee for counseling, collection and testing. There are also ongoing annual fees for storage. Storage fees will be determined by the number of specimens you choose to bank and the length of time you will be banking. Most sperm banks can provide you with an up-front list of pricing. Make sure that you review a list of all costs before you begin the process.

How to know if your sperm or donor’s is viable: What is behind a semen analysis?

View sperm bank costs by visiting some of the leading sperm banks.

If you seeking a sperm donation, or are a prospective donor, here is a list of sperm banks by location.

Can My Semen Be Contaminated by Other Specimens in the Tank?

The specimens in any cryobank should have absolutely no contact with each other. Many states now have guidelines recommending that men be checked for multiple sexually transmitted diseases (HIV, hepatitis, etc.) in order for their specimens to be stored. Be sure any cryobank you consider follows these guidelines whether or not they are required.

To see a comprehensive list of FDA sperm bank guidelines visit here.

Costs for sperm banking services can be found here.

If you seeking a sperm donation, or are a prospective donor, here is a list of sperm banks by location.

How Do I Know That My Specimen Will Not Be Confused or Mixed Up with Another?

Each cryobank follows its own protocols to insure that specimens are not mixed up. Some banks have a policy that only one specimen at a time can be processed to ensure that there can be no confusion. Each vial generally has both the patient’s name and an accession number which is unique to him. You should make sure that whichever cryobank you choose follows rigorous standards for the labeling and tracking of specimens.

If you are concerned that your sperm may become contaminated by other specimens, click here for more information.

If you seeking a sperm donation, or are a prospective donor, here is a list of sperm banks by location.

How Long Can You Effectively Keep My Sperm Frozen?

Sperm can be frozen indefinitely. There have been normal pregnancies from sperm stored frozen for 12 years. The efficacy of the freezing is questionable when it has been frozen for more than 12 years. Each individual’s sperm reacts differently to the freezing process. The result of the thawed test batch can give you some indication of how your sperm reacts to the process.

If you are wondering if insemination with thawed sperm increases the birth defects or leads to abnormal children, click here.

If you seeking a sperm donation, or are a prospective donor, here is a list of sperm banks by location.

How Do I Know that My Sperm is Viable and Worth Banking?

A sperm bank should do a complete semen analysis before banking your sperm. This will not only tell you about the quantity of sperm but the quality as well. The evaluation of the thawed specimen will give you a general idea of the quality of the sperm when you later attempt a pregnancy.

If you are interested in learning more about the minimum quantity of sperm that makes freezing worthwhile, click here.

If you seeking a sperm donation, or are a prospective donor, here is a list of sperm banks by location.

How Is the Sperm Actually Frozen?

Frozen sperm must be stored in extremely cold temperatures (-196 F), but in order to ensure that the fewest possible sperm are damaged, the freezing must be gradual. Generally, the following procedure is followed:

  1. If the sperm hasn’t been previously tested, a comprehensive semen analysis should be performed on the first specimen in order to provide a complete picture of the sperm quantity and quality. Make sure that the sperm bank conducts a thorough semen analysis before banking. This will give you significant information on the quality of the sperm.
  2. Each subsequent specimen is analyzed prior to freezing to assess total number of moving sperm.
  3. Immediately after the specimen is analyzed, it is divided into smaller batches and transferred into vials for freezing. A special compound (a cryoprotectant) is added to aid the freezing process.
  4. The test tubes are gradually frozen in liquid nitrogen vapor. After 30-60 minutes they are transferred into liquid nitrogen tanks for permanent frozen storage.
  5. After a minimum of 48 hours have elapsed from the time of the initial freezing, an initial “test sample” is thawed and tested again to ascertain from each specimen how well the sperm survived the freezing. After the banking is complete, the results may be sent to you, as well as possibly discussed with your primary care physician. This information will be important to determine which specimen vials to thaw for an insemination.

Each sample is stored in its own specially marked storage unit. Some cryobanks split the specimens, storing half of any individual’s specimens in two separate nitrogen tanks in case of tank malfunction. Some may actually store the two tanks on separate physical sites in case of an unforeseeable disaster to the building in which a tank is stored. The nitrogen tanks are checked daily for temperature and liquid nitrogen leakage.

If you are interested in banking your sperm, but would like to know if your sperm is viable and worth banking , click here.

If you seeking a sperm donation, or are a prospective donor, here is a list of sperm banks by location.

What Is the Process I Will Have to Go Through to Bank My Sperm?

Sperm banking is, in most cases, a simple and straightforward process. It is not time consuming nor “appointment intensive.” Although the process differs slightly between cryobanks, the basic procedure remains similar:

  • An appointment is set with the laboratory to meet with a lab representative, review your case history and medical background, and to fill out necessary paperwork.
  • Many labs require an initial test freeze of the sperm before actually conducting the banking and they may require that you return for a second appointment. Some labs conduct the tests and banking during your first visit.
  • You may be given a choice of producing a specimen at home or at the lab site. If you choose to collect at a laboratory you will be given a private room. Visual material may also be made available to you. If you choose to collect at home you will be given clear and exact instructions.
  • You may choose to bank sperm from one ejaculation (one collection yields 1-6 vials of sperm). However, in most cases, it is desirable to bank more ejaculates. On average, patients bank three, as the quality of the sperm often necessitates using more than one vial of sperm for each attempt to achieve a pregnancy. If you choose to bank more ejaculates you can do so by setting up further appointments for future collections. Ideally, you should leave a minimum of 2 days between appointments to build up your sperm count.
  • The sperm is frozen for as long as you choose to maintain it.
  • When you are ready to use the sperm you notify the bank in writing. The bank then releases the specimen, shipping it to whatever physician you request. When and if you want the specimens destroyed, most facilities will do so only with notarized instructions from you.
  • If there are no sperm banks in your area, there are banks that will collect the sperm through the mail. This is not the most desirable solution since the quality of the sperm deteriorates during travel.

To learn more about the process of freezing sperm, click here.

If you seeking a sperm donation, or are a prospective donor, here is a list of sperm banks by location.

Should I Consider Sperm Banking?

Sperm banking is used in a variety of different situations. Most commonly, men bank sperm because they are about to undergo treatments or take medications which may affect their sperm production.

You may want to consider cryobanking if:

  • You are undergoing a treatment for cancer, which may impair your sperm production or quality (e.g. chemotherapy, radiation).
  • You will be taking any ongoing medications which may impair your sperm production or quality (e.g. sulfasalazine, methotrexate).
  • You will undergo any procedure which could affect your testis, prostate, or your ability to ejaculate (e.g. prostate resection, colon surgery or retroperitoneal lymph node dissection).
  • You have a medical condition which is beginning to affect your ability to ejaculate (e.g. multiple sclerosis, diabetes).
  • You are having a vasectomy.
  • You are entering a line of work where you may be introduced to reproductive toxins.
  • As part of your infertility treatment, you will be undergoing a procedure where sperm may be easily harvested (e.g. vas reconstruction, testicular biopsy). These sperm can then be stored and used later in conjunction with advanced reproductive techniques if alternative infertility treatments do not prove successful.

This list is by no means exhaustive and we encourage you to discuss the issue with your doctor.

If you are interested in banking your sperm, but would like to learn more about the process you will have to undergo in order to bank sperm, click here.

If you are seeking a sperm donation, or are a prospective donor, here is a list of sperm banks by location.