Insemination Decision 2: Known Donor or Sperm Bank?

Many lesbian couples start off considering someone they know to be a sperm donor. After all, it’s easy to know what a friend or relative looks like, how he acts,…even his SAT scores. Additionally, using a known donor can mean that your child(ren) can have an open relationship with the man that contributed half of their genetic sequence, if you so choose. You may try a co-parenting arrangement, or explicitly work out the terms of your donor’s parenthood with a legal contract. Other lesbian couples end up using sperm from an anonymous sperm donor, purchased from a sperm bank. This choice is a bit safer legally, as sperm bank donors sign away all parental rights upon donation. In addition, many lesbians prefer the donor to have the most minimal role possible in creating a family. It just depends on you and your partner’s preferences. A few more points to consider when choosing your type of donor:

The pros of a known donor include:

  • You know or can find out his medical history, physical appearance, and personality
  • You will be able to more easily involve him in your children’s lives, should you want that influence
  • Cheap, fresh sperm. I know it sounds vulgar, but the fact is that sperm from a bank is typically much more expensive to buy and transport. In addition, you may have a better chance of getting pregnant if you inseminate with sperm that has been freshly – er – produced: There’s much more of it than you’ll get in the sperm bank portions, and fresh sperm will usually have an advantage over frozen sperm in terms of mobility (speed of swimming).

The cons of a known donor include:

  • You know or can find out his medical history, physical appearance, and personality. That’s right, it’s a “con ? too. You may find yourself dissecting the merits of your friend or relative in a way that the poor guy doesn’t deserve – i.e. “Dan’s only 5’6  ?…and what about that weird habit he has – our child will NOT be a throat-clearer.  ?
  • He may be able to sue for visitation or custody of your child in the future.
  • While you probably don’t have to pay for the sperm, other costs can arise, including legal fees for drawing up a contract, cost of STD testing or sperm analysis before your guy goes to bat for you, and the cost of travel if he lives in another area.
  • If you do choose to involve him in your child’s life, his opinion may differ from yours and your partner’s – even if it’s a small part, you may need to be ready to allow for another opinion in your parenting decisions.

Other things to consider when using a known donor:

  • It’s a good idea to have him get tested for STDs.
  • You may also want to ask him to undergo sperm analysis to check that he is fertile before using his sperm for an insemination .
  • If you would like to use his sperm for another child in the future, you may want to think about storing a supply of his sperm.

Pros of using a sperm bank:

  • Sperm banks require the donor to waive all parental rights, no legal wrangling necessary. Once you buy it, you own that sperm.
  • Sperm banks perform a variety of tests to rule out common STDs and genetic diseases. They also provide a detailed medical history. That said, make sure to research any Sperm bank you are considering using ­– don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • Many sperm banks offer the option of choosing “open ? or “known  ? donors. This typically means that the donor is willing to be contacted once your child turns 18, should your child be interested.

Cons of using a sperm bank:

  • The cost. You know how most people save up for life’s big expenses – a car, a home, a college fund… For lesbians, sperm can be one of those expenses. I’m exaggerating a bit, but depending on what method you’re using, how many tries it takes, and whether you want to store sperm for the future, at around $500 per vial, sperm from your chosen donor can start to seem like a precious metal.
  • You don’t know the guy. While most sperm banks offer myriad of information about donors, including physical descriptions, baby pictures, “staff impressions, ? and sometimes even audio interviews (Usually at an extra cost, of course), there’s still no substitute for meeting a person in the flesh.
  • Frozen sperm. It may take a bit longer to get those guys moving at the speed of freshness.

Other things to consider when using a sperm bank:

Always check to be sure the sperm bank you use is certified and accredited. Also, you may want to ask if the bank limits the number of pregnancies a particular donor can have (12 half-siblings of your child running around out there is one thing, 200 is another).

According to the American Fertility Association, other considerations when working with a sperm bank include:

  • Cryopreserved donor sperm can be released for insemination only after quarantine of at least 180 days, and repeat negative testing of the donor for all STIs (sexually transmitted infections) including HIV.
  • The sperm bank must be licensed by the Board of Health.
  • The sperm bank must obtain and present a detailed personal and sexual history of the donor.
  • The sperm bank must obtain and present a thorough physical examination of the donor and screen out potential donors who are at increased risk for STIs.
  • The sperm bank must screen for heritable diseases, such as cystic fibrosis.
  • In order to limit the number of half siblings that are generated from any one donor, strongly consider working with a sperm bank that controls the number of live births obtained from each donor.

  1. One thing to keep in mind about the relative costs is that purchasing sperm from a bank could end up being less expensive than the legal fees associated with drawing up a donor contract and terminating a known donor’s parental rights. It’s a good idea to work with an LGBT family lawyer to determine what those costs could be, and what legal your legal options are for working with a KD.

  2. We’re thrilled to find your very helpful site — keep up the great work!
    One specific question — do you know of any NYC-area REs that work with UNquarantined sperm from directed donors? My wife and I are hoping to conceive a sibling for our daughter, but are running into a regulatory wall! Thanks again.

  3. Hi Marie,
    I have not been able to find out a specific answer to your question yet, but I will try posing it to some of our partners. I believe it’s probably a legal requirement for these clinics, as it is for sperm banks.

  4. My wife and I used a known donor (family friend) and the process went very well for us. No cost to us for it, and we had him sign documents upfront before he donated to sign off on rights to the sperm and responsibility. He is not apart of our child’s life although he has stated at the age of 18 and she wants to know then he is okay with that. He has seen her once. It does make it easier that we are in a different state as well. It worked on the first try after a year of prepping for it. We are so thankful and blessed.

    • Hi Kris,
      My wife and I are hoping to start a family very soon and are looking for any advice we can get from other couples. We have a friend who has offered to be our donor and were wondering what types of steps you took to prepare. Also congratulations on conceiving on your first try.

  5. Hi Jane,
    From everything I’ve read, sperm can last about 24 hours outside of the body (depending on what type of environment it is put in), although it is best to use it in the first 12 hours. I will try to pass on your question to one of our experts to try and get a more accurate answer.

  6. Hi, There,
    What a helpful site!
    If we decide to use a donor that we know, how long does the, um, “donation” last? In other words, how does it work if we aren’t in the same city? Is there a way to prolong the life of the sperm?
    Thank you!

  7. I am an AI sperm donor in London Ontario. Let me know if you are looking for a donor 😀

  8. HI, THERE
    Well My Wife and i live in Texas and we are looking for a anonymous donor but we do not want to go through a sperm bank so we was wondering how can we go about that?

  9. My wife and are are in the process of looking for a donor. We live in Florida and are considering her brother, who lives in Los Angeles. Do you know of a sperm bank that would accept his donation, freeze it (or whatever the technical term is), and then ship to us? And do you know what the cost of this would be?

  10. My partner and I live in south florida and will be using her brothers sperm. He does not live in same state. What’s the best way to get this done? We would like to inseminate at home? Any info on this would be amazing!

  11. For those considering IVF in need of a sperm donor, my sister is currently helping match families, couples and single parents to known donors in hopes of stopping anonymous donations at the seed level. Her website is She is a huge advocate for the use of known donors and regulation in industry. I believe everyone has the right to know their biological origins. She also assists couples with IVF. She herself has had IVF along with her partner. She works with a well known, high tech clinic offering the most up to date technologies at a substantial discount if paying with cash and have no insurance. One example is PGD. PGD is around $50,000 US dollars however the clinic she works with offers it for around $7,000 US dollars. The clinic is also world renowned in mini IVF. The best to all,


  13. My daughter and her wife asked my son to donate for them. He wants to help them, but is unsure about how he’ll feel when the baby is born. He’s afraid he’ll want to parent, when they want him just to be a special uncle. He wants to talk to someone who has donated to a friend or family member about how they decided to go ahead and do it. Where would he find someone?

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