Sperm donor selection: What criteria is followed?

By (embryologist), (embryologist), (gynecologist), (embryologist) and (psychologist).
Last Update: 02/07/2022

Finding and choosing a sperm donor is a process that takes time: it will have an influence on your family's long-term wellbeing. Although the steps followed depend on the country where it is done and the regulations governing third-party reproduction there to a large extent, recipients should consider aspects such as the race and blood type, as well as his educational level and family background.

The following is a guide to all the steps one is advised to follow when choosing a donor, especially if you want to select one with an open profile. Firstly, you will find some tips for finding a sperm bank, and then a list with the main aspects to take into consideration when picking the right donor for you. If your country only allows anonymous sperm donation, this process will be carried out by your fertility clinic.

Choosing a sperm bank or clinic

When choosing a sperm bank, many intended parents focus merely on the characteristics of the donors available. However, paying close attention to the policies of the sperm bank is crucial as well, given that they might not fit your needs or interests in terms of family building.

Before picking a sperm bank, a number of factors should be considered in advance. Do not choose one or another just because it was recommended by your physician or according to its popularity: you better focus on whether you will be happy before, during and after the process.

In order for you to make an educated and well-informed choice, the following areas should be addressed carefully, as the modus operandi of each bank might differ to a great extent:

  • Identity of the donor: Do you want a known or an anonymous/open donor?
  • Success rates: Do they reach consistently high pregnancy or live birth success rates? How do they track their outcomes?
  • Offspring limits: Have they limited the number of offspring per donor?
  • Donor screening: Do they follow a strict safety protocol to prevent disease transmission? How many tests do they perform and what's included?
  • Sperm storage: Can the sperm of the same donor be purchased and frozen to be used for a second child?

Other issues such as how long has the bank been in business are to be taken into account as well. Also, a bank that has full-time genetic counselors might be more suitable, especially because it helps patients make sure the donor's genetic background is well documented.

Some sperm banks have a registry service available for donor-conceived adults—from age 18 onwards. Thanks to it, children born by sperm donation can have access to it and find their donor's medical records or even contact him.

Medical tests performed on the donor

In addition to interviews with professionals and a psychological study, one of the most important tests that the sperm donor candidate undergoes is the analysis of seminal values by means of a complete semen analysis. The result of this analysis should reveal a magnificent seminal quality, with adequate mobility, morphology, and concentration of spermatozoa.

A small sample of semen is also frozen and thawed to analyze the sperm's ability to survive this process, which is essential.

Other medical tests that are performed on all potential sperm donors are the following:

  • Microbiological culture of the sample to rule out genital infections.
  • Hemogram and blood biochemistry to rule out liver diseases.
  • Detailed physical examination.
  • Blood tests to rule out infections, serious illnesses, and determine blood group and Rh factor. It is also important to carry out a study of the chromosomes (karyotype) in order to determine if there are chromosomal abnormalities such as deletions or translocations.

Those sperm donor candidates who pass these medical tests will be selected as donors. However, both hemogram and serology are repeated 6 months after acceptance into the sperm donation program to check the values and rule out the presence of HIV.

Allocate the donor to a patient

When a woman or couple needs donor sperm, it is the clinic or reproductive center itself that makes the adjudication of the sperm donor taking into account blood group compatibility as well as phenotypic characteristics such as race, weight, height, hair, and eye color.

There are also cases in which the person providing the sperm sample isn´t anonymous and therefore the process is a bit different. We will now explain the differences:

Anonymous sperm donor matching

In countries where the law grants access only to anonymous sperm donation, the criteria followed involves mainly matching a donor to the intended parents in terms of physical traits and Rhesus compatibility. This is the common policy in most European countries: preserving the sperm donor's right to privacy above all.

For this reason, the selection of the best donor for each recipient is done by a board of fertility specialists from a sperm bank or fertility clinic. When allocating a donor to a recipient couple, the aim is to look for the greatest possible phenotype and immunological similarities between them:

  • Phenotype characteristics: race, skin color, eye color, hair color, height, etc.
  • Immunological characteristics: blood type and Rh factor.

By no means will the intended parents be allowed to indicate their preferences or choose the physical features or personality traits of their potential sperm donor. Clinics and sperm banks should ensure the donor's right to anonymity is respected in all terms.

Only under very exceptional circumstances in which the child's health is compromised, if there is a danger to his life, or if appropriate in accordance with the existing laws and regulations, the identity of the donor might be revealed to the intended parents. It is allowed only on a restricted-access basis, though.

Open sperm donor selection process

The criteria followed for choosing a known sperm donor are different depending on the regulations of the country where it is carried out, the expectations of each family, and the policies of the facility chosen. Be it as it may, the aim is to maximize safety and minimize the risks of transmitting an infectious disease.

Some choose a person they know, e.g. a friend or family member, because they want their child to be in contact with his bio-dad, or because they want him to have an uncle-like role in the child's life. In some cases, the intended father might want his brother to be their sperm donor to still share some percentage of DNA with that of the child.

Others place special attention on the donor's academic level and talents. Most fertility clinics and sperm banks require a minimum educational background for a candidate to be eligible.

Once the sperm bank or clinic has been chosen and their policies thoroughly analyzed, the next step would lie in the hands of the patients.

FAQs from users

How much does getting a sperm donor cost?

By Andrea Rodrigo B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

It depends on whether you want an anonymous or an open donor, and the type of profile (extended or basic, long or brief, etc.).

Although it depends on the country, the cost of IUI with an anonymous sperm donor ranges from €800 to €1,500. To this we should add the fertility medications for mildly stimulating the recipient's cycle: about €300 on average. In the case of donor-sperm IVF, the average cost is €3,000 to €5,000, which increases to €7,000 or more if donor eggs are needed too.

Anonymous donors are cheaper than known donors, mainly because getting an open donor involves that the intended parents are the ones paying for the donor to be screened and tested. Anyway, it depends on the fertility clinic or sperm bank chosen.

We recommend you to visit the following section to find the center that best fits your needs by country: Clinic Directory.

Can you choose a sperm donor online?

By Andrea Rodrigo B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

Yes, it is possible to choose a sperm donor online from a sperm bank's donor book/catalogue and have it shipped home for DIY artificial insemination or at-home artificial insemination. Firstly, you choose the best donor for you by just carrying out a search. Most sperm banks allow you to limit the search according to your needs and the type of donor profile you wish to look for.

How can I find a sperm donor in the UK?

By Andrea Rodrigo B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

The NHS allows three main routes for finding a sperm donor in the United Kingdom:

  1. Anonymous sperm donors by visiting a fertility clinics.
  2. Known sperm donors, say a friend or someone you've met online. Fresh sperm donors are allowed, too.
  3. Going abroad for IVF or IUI with donor sperm.

If you choose the first option, there exist numerous HFEA-licensed clinics and sperm banks across the country. They all have to follow strict criteria in order for qualifying a candidate as eligible.

How should you go about getting a sperm donor?

By Andrea Rodrigo B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

When a couple has been trying to conceive for a long time without luck, they should undergo fertility testing in order to find out whether it is a case of male infertility, female infertility, or both. If it is a male factor, sperm donation might become the only solution in the most severe cases.

Also, in the case of lesbian couples and single females (single mothers by choice or SMC), the absence of a male partner leaves them no alternative but to use donor sperm. In these cases, and especially among heterosexual couples, accepting the fact that the baby will not share his genetic material with that of the intended father becomes hard for some couples.

However, having a child is not only about sharing your DNA with that of your child, but also about bringing him up, and seeing him grow up in a loving environment. Keeping this in mind, the process for finding and choosing a sperm donor may be easier to cope with.

How can you find your biological father if he was a sperm donor?

By Andrea Rodrigo B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

Finding the identity of an anonymous sperm donor is possible only if it was an open sperm donation. If this was the case, the donor-conceived person will be able to find his or her bio-dad. In those countries where this option is allowed, the person is allowed to find out about the donor once he or she turns 18, and not earlier.

How long does it take to find a sperm donor?

By Andrea Rodrigo B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

It varies depending on whether it is a known or an anonymous donor. In the latter case, it depends on the phenotype characteristics of the recipient: the more common they are, the easier for the clinic to proceed with the matching process.

If you choose a known donor, the process may take longer. Most sperm banks require recipients to pre-register with them, and then access to their database or catalogue is granted. Then, the only thing for you to do is choosing the most suitable donor for you. If you choose a friend or family member, it may take longer, as he has to be pre-screened.

If you are interested in donating sperm and want to know all the information about the process, don't forget to visit this link: How is sperm donation explained step by step?

Thanks to sperm donors, those single women who wish to become mothers can do it. If you want to get information about the reproductive options available for this family model, we advise you to visit the following article: How to become a single mother? - Fertility treatments and prices.

We make a great effort to provide you with the highest quality information.

🙏 Please share this article if you liked it. 💜💜 You help us continue!


Andrade-Rocha FT (2003). Semen analysis in laboratory practice: an overview of routine test. J Clin Lab Anal 2003; 17: 247-258.

Ballesteros A, Castilla JA, Nadal J, Ruiz, M. Manifiesto de la SEF sobre la donación de gametos en España. Publicado a través de la Sociedad Española de Fertilidad (SEF).

Comisión Nacional de Reproducción Humana Asistida (CNRHA) (2015). Aspectos legales y éticos de la donación. En: Registro Nacional de Donantes de Gametos y Preembriones. Ministerio de Sanidad, Consumo y Bienestar Social de España.

Kvist U, Björndahl L. ESHRE Monographs: Manual on Basic Semen Analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Ley 14/2006, de 26 de mayo, sobre técnicas de reproducción humana asistida. Jefatura del Estado «BOE» núm. 126, de 27 de mayo de 2006 Referencia: BOE-A-2006-9292. (ver)

Matorras R, Hernández J (eds): Estudio y tratamiento de la pareja estéril: Recomendaciones de la Sociedad Española de Fertilidad, con la colaboración de la Asociación Española para el Estudio de la Biología de la Reproducción, de la Asociación Española de Andrología y de la Sociedad Española de Contracepción. Adalia, Madrid 2007.

O'Brien P, Vandekerckhove P. Intra-uterine versus cervical insemination of donor sperm for subfertility (Cochrane Review). In: The Cochrane Library, Issue 1, 2001. Oxford: Update Software.

Sigman M, Zini A. (2009). Semen analysis and sperm function assays: what do they mean? Semin Reprod Med; 27: 115-123.

Sociedad Española de Fertilidad (SEF) (febrero de 2012). “Saber más sobre fertilidad y reproducción asistida”. En colaboración con el Ministerio de Sanidad, Política Social e Igualdad del Gobierno de España y el Plan de Calidad para el Sistema Nacional de Salud.

Sociedad Española de la Fertilidad (SEF). Libro Blanco Sociosanitario. La Infertilidad en España Situación Actual y Perspectivas. Imago Concept & Image Development 2011.

Sociedad Española de Fertilidad (SEF) (2011). Manual de Andrología. Coordinador: Mario Brassesco. EdikaMed, S.L. ISBN: 978-84-7877.

FAQs from users: 'How much does getting a sperm donor cost?', 'Can you choose a sperm donor online?', 'How can I find a sperm donor in the UK?', 'How should you go about getting a sperm donor?', 'How can you find your biological father if he was a sperm donor?' and 'How long does it take to find a sperm donor?'.

Read more

Authors and contributors

 Amel  Khelifi Schreiber
Amel Khelifi Schreiber
B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D.
Degree in Pharmacology from the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom. She also has a PhD in Biological Sciences from the University of Seville. More information about Amel Khelifi Schreiber
Licence number: COBA 02223
 Andrea Rodrigo
Andrea Rodrigo
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Bachelor's Degree in Biotechnology from the Polytechnic University of Valencia. Master's Degree in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the University of Valencia along with the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI). Postgraduate course in Medical Genetics. More information about Andrea Rodrigo
 Jon Ander  Agirregoikoa
Jon Ander Agirregoikoa
Graduated in medicine from the "Pays Basque" University, with a specialization in obstetrics and gynaecology. He has several years of experience in the field of assisted human reproduction and is co-director and co-founder of the ART clinics. He also combines his medical activity with teaching at the "Pays Basque" University. More information about Jon Ander Agirregoikoa
License: 014809788
 Marta Barranquero Gómez
Marta Barranquero Gómez
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Graduated in Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences by the University of Valencia (UV) and specialized in Assisted Reproduction by the University of Alcalá de Henares (UAH) in collaboration with Ginefiv and in Clinical Genetics by the University of Alcalá de Henares (UAH). More information about Marta Barranquero Gómez
License: 3316-CV
Adapted into english by:
 Cristina  Algarra Goosman
Cristina Algarra Goosman
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Graduated in Psychology by the University of Valencia (UV) and specialized in Clinical Psychology by the European University Center and specific training in Infertility: Legal, Medical and Psychosocial Aspects by University of Valencia (UV) and ADEIT.
More information about Cristina Algarra Goosman
Member number: CV16874

Find the latest news on assisted reproduction in our channels.