Using donated sperm to achieve pregnancy is a relatively simple process. It’s an especially common procedure for same-sex female couples who want to have a baby and start a family. Here is everything you need to know about using a sperm donor to achieve pregnancy.
Who Can Benefit from a Sperm Donor?
Historically, there have been two categories of couples who visit the Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility seeking a sperm donor to get pregnant: hetero couples with male infertility issues, and same-sex female couples.
In the past, many heterosexual couples would use a sperm donor if the male partner produced little to no sperm, or producing sperm that didn’t mature properly. However, advances in assisted reproductive technology have given us the ability to achieve pregnancy even when there are some initial issues. Now, our clinic is helping more same-sex female couples start their families through sperm donation. In fact, about 95 percent of couples utilizing sperm donation are same-sex couples. And in many cases, both women are able to participate in the pregnancy.
Using a Sperm Donor
When a sperm donor is indeed necessary, there are two ways to go about getting that contribution.
Friend or Family Member
Some couples choose to ask a friend or family member to donate sperm. When a male relative donates the sperm, they carry the same genetic material so the family genes are passed down.
The most common option for sperm donation is using a sperm bank. One great advantage of a sperm bank is that all the donors are already pre-screened for health, family and medical backgrounds, and communicable diseases, so every donor is deemed healthy before they can donate. By using a vial of sperm from a reputable bank, we know for certain there are no possible diseases that can be transferred to affect the health of the pregnancy or baby. They also give couples the option to choose a sperm donor based on dozens of characteristics like ethnic background, educational background, and physical or behavioral features.
Sperm banks are also extremely accessible. If we order sperm from a bank, we can potentially have that sperm the next day. It would be pre-screened, quarantined, and ready to use immediately.
Choosing a Sperm Donor
With hundreds of options offered by sperm banks, deciding on which donor to use can be overwhelming. Because all the donors have already been screened for health, there really is no one better option than another. They all have the same fertility potential. All couples need to do is choose the characteristics they want in their donor.
So when couples come to our clinic and ask for advice, we usually start by telling them to decide on the characteristics that are most important to them. Once you have those aspects chosen, just look at the donors who meet that criteria—it greatly narrows down the options and makes the choice less daunting.
What to Expect Next
Once the donor has been chosen, using the sperm to achieve pregnancy is not difficult, painful, or horribly expensive. Just like with any other couple, we always take the time to make sure the female partner is healthy and won’t experience any difficulty getting pregnant. When we know the female is healthy enough to carry the baby, there are two procedures we can complete to help the woman get pregnant.
Artificial insemination is very similar to achieving pregnancy through intercourse. We first verify that the female partner is ovulating—this can be determined through at-home monitoring or through the clinic. The procedure itself lasts no more than three to five minutes and is no more intrusive or uncomfortable than having a pap smear. It’s not painful or complicated; successful insemination is just a matter of timing and having the right sperm.
We also have the option to use the donated sperm in conjunction with assisted reproduction, or in vitro fertilization. With this procedure, we retrieve several eggs from the female partner and fertilize those eggs with the donated sperm. The resulting embryos are transferred into the uterus to achieve pregnancy. This gives the couple a much higher chance of successfully becoming pregnant (compared to conceiving through intercourse alone). We can often complete three to four attempts from a single cycle of eggs, which gives us an overall pregnancy rate of 90 to 100 percent.
Sperm donation is a wonderful option for couples to achieve pregnancy when other options have failed. To make an appointment and learn if sperm donation can help you, visit Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility online or call us at 520-326-0001.