You’ve decided you want to grow your family, and that using a sperm donor is on the path to getting there. Like with any relationship, you may have a list of criteria you’re looking for when it comes to donors. 

Beyond the specific details and history of your ideal donor, there are other important considerations like potential communication with donors or your future children’s biological half-siblings and the number of vials available. 

Choosing the right sperm donor: 5 things to consider

To help you navigate the complex process of selecting a sperm donor, we connected with California Cryobank — an industry-leading sperm bank with a comprehensive database of highly vetted donors. 

1. They meet your criteria

When selecting a sperm donor to build your family, there may be certain criteria you’re looking to meet. Maybe it’s important that your donor shares the same ethnicity or physical traits as you or your partner. You may have genetic requirements to reduce the likelihood of passing on an inheritable disorder. These criteria are personal and unique for each parent-to-be or couple. What matters to you might not matter to someone else, and vice versa.

Many sperm banks will provide access to sperm samples from people with a diverse range of backgrounds, professions, hobbies, academic levels, and even personality traits. You can also select a donor based on their genetic screen results, blood type, and whatever other biological factors are important to you.

The experts at California Cryobank suggest beginning with a few key characteristics and narrowing down your options from there. You can review your shortlist of donors with your healthcare provider to ensure the donor fits your medical needs before finalizing your selection.

2. You have access to their extensive family medical history

You likely learned in biology class that genetics and family history play a big role in everything from appearance to likes and dislikes to health conditions. When you’re selecting a sperm donor, knowing as much as you can about their medical history is important. Some sperm banks may offer extensive family medical histories for their donors — up to three generations of information to help you make your decision.

According to the experts at California Cryobank, in addition to helping you make your selection, having access to a sperm donor’s extensive medical history can also help your future child navigate their health and identity.

3. Your donor conceived child may be able to get certain identifying information when they turn 18

Over time, it’s become more common for people who were conceived with the help of sperm donors to learn about their donors. Technological advancements have made this easier. As a result, the “anonymous” donors of yesterday are less common today.

For many parents-to-be, explain the experts at California Cryobank, having their child have the option to get certain identifying information about their donor when the child turns 18 is important. Knowing that’s possible may also be beneficial for conversations with your children before they turn 18. 

Sperm banks may specify which donors have allowed for ID disclosure or only allow donations from people who feel comfortable with identity disclosure. By knowing you have this option in advance, you can make a decision with your and your child’s future preferences in mind.

4. If you choose, you can connect with other families with children who were conceived using sperm from the same donor

Donor sibling registries allow for knowledge of and communication with other children who were conceived from a particular donor’s sperm. Whether or not connecting with a sibling registry is right for your family depends on not only your own preferences, but the preferences of your future children.

Some parents-to-be may want to opt out of communication with other families who’ve used the same sperm donor. However, children may have a desire to reach out to their biological half-siblings.

Understanding your options for communication with other families and potentially the donor can inform your selection process. At California Cryobank, families have the option to enroll in the Donor Sibling Registry where they can potentially connect with other families that have utilized the same donor. Information on other families and potential siblings will only be provided if the other family also opted to join.

Sperm banks that offer sibling registries may organize all of this information by donor number to make it easier for families to find one another.

5. You can get as many vials as you need for your reproductive goals

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If having multiple children conceived from the same sperm donor is important to you, purchasing all the vials of sperm you’ll need for your reproductive goals at one time is recommended. In some cases, the vials from a particular donor may sell out — and getting more may not be possible.

Before selecting a sperm donor and ordering vials, talk with your healthcare provider to create a plan. How many children would you like to have? What procedures will be the most effective given your and/or your partner’s health history? Your provider can help you understand how many vials to order, what type, and how many procedures or cycles may be necessary to achieve your goals.

Many parents-to-be may try intrauterine insemination (IUI) as their first procedure. The experts at California Cryobank note that many families order 3-4 vials per planned pregnancy when using IUI. For those doing in vitro fertilization (IVF), which typically has higher success rates, only 1-2 vials may be necessary for more than one pregnancy.

Some sperm banks, like California Cryobank, may offer the ability to select a donor whose sperm at that particular sperm bank are only available for your family or a limited number of families.

Purchasing several vials of donor sperm at one time is expensive. The experts at California Cryobank suggest working with your sperm bank to explore any financing options and/or storage incentives.

To get an idea of what you can expect after selecting your donor, check out our guide to IUI and IVF with donor sperm.

Are you using donor sperm to build your family? Join the Rescripted community to connect with others who are doing the same or head to California Cryobank’s website and use promo code RESCRIPT24 to get a FREE 90-day donor info subscription ($145 value)! 

Kristyn Hodgdon is the Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer at Rescripted.