Sperm Donor Screening Deep Dive
Check out this blog to find more in depth information about sperm donor screening and testing.
When a prospective donor wants to bank their sperm with a cryobank, they must go through a formal screening process to ensure their sperm is safe, healthy, and of sufficient quality. There are different minimum screening regulations in different states, but high-end sperm banks go far above those minimums with rigorous screening to their own industry-leading standards.
How does screening work?
At the highest level of screening, donors are considered from every angle, and any potential issue will exclude them from donating.
To begin, a donor must be of a certain age—between 18 and 39 is considered the most optimal range for sperm quality. Before providing a sperm sample, a prospective donor will go through an extensive health questionnaire which will ask them about their health and wellness habits, their medical and genetic history as well as that of their immediate family, and any conditions they may have.
Before proceeding with screening, the prospective donor will receive a physical exam and testing for medical, genetic, and infectious diseases. A geneticist will evaluate the applicant’s history and genetic screening, and a lab will screen test results for infectious disease.
Many labs use serological testing, which is industry standard, while others use more sensitive PCR or NAT testing that screens for the presence of any DNA of an infecting agent. Diseases that should be screened for include HIV, hepatitis, cytomegalovirus, syphilis, herpes simplex virus, HPV, and chlamydia. Upon request, a donor can be screened for adenovirus, trichomonas, and candida.
For maximum safety, it is considered best practice to “quarantine” sperm for six months after donation, so that the donor can be re-tested for infectious diseases prior to the sample being released for use.
If an applicant passes the preliminary medical and genetic tests, they will then be asked to provide a sperm sample, which will be evaluated for quality. Their sperm is analyzed for every factor that can affect its ability to fertilize an egg: volume, pH, motility, progression, viability, abnormality, and white blood cells. At this point, many donors are excluded, because sperm bank clients who are using donor sperm for highly expensive and invasive reproductive technology procedures like IVF need the highest possible chances of success for each attempt.
Personal and educational screening
If the sperm sample scores well, the donor will be referred for in-person interviews. During that process, their educational degrees will be verified, and the cryobank staff will initiate a criminal background check as well as a psychological evaluation. If a donor makes it through all these screening processes, they receive ongoing physical and infectious disease testing for as long as their samples are active.
The gold standard
It’s important to note that this screening process is the gold standard for screening, and that not every cryobank is so thorough. If you’re considering using donor sperm, it’s wise to compare a few cryobanks, ask a lot of questions, and choose the one that goes to the greatest lengths to ensure the quality of your donor and the health of your potential child. For the greatest degree of assurance that your donor sperm is safe and healthy, you want to go with the choice that excludes the most applicants.
Peace of mind for your growing family
The idea of conceiving a child with a stranger’s sperm can be hard to wrap your head around. How will you know what they are like, what their strengths and weaknesses are, what you need to know in order to best parent your potential child? Donor screening can’t alleviate every one of these anxieties, but it can go a long way toward eliminating any health-related concerns. Rigorous donor screening offers far more information than most people have about even their intimate partners, so you can rest assured that you’ve done your due diligence to best set your kid up for a healthy and happy life.