How Does IVF with Donor Sperm Work? – Cost & Success Rates

By BSc, MSc (embryologist), MD, FACOG, FACS, FACE (reproductive endocrinologist) and BA, MA (fertility counselor).
Last Update: 01/11/2017

The process of IVF with sperm donation involves using the sperm cells of a donor instead of the husband's or partner's to inseminate the oocytes at the laboratory. Turning to a sperm bank does not alter the process followed by the specialists at the fertility clinic for IVF, regardless of whether ICSI is required or not. However, it increases the overall cost of this infertility treatment.

When is sperm donation required?

Basically, sperm donation is indicated in the following cases:

  • Poor sperm quality: When the quality of the husband's sperm is insufficient for the egg to be inseminated.
  • Lesbian couples and single females: Even though artificial insemination is usually the treatment of choice for single women, in the case of lesbian couples donor-sperm IVF is a more common choice by means of reciprocal IVF, a method aimed to women in a lesbian relationship in which one contributes an egg and the other carries the pregnancy.

The following are the main causes that lead a man to give up on his gametes due to poor sperm quality:

  • Cancer treatments: Agents present in oncological therapies can compromise a man's capacity to produce sperm.
  • Hereditary diseases: If a man is a carrier of a hereditary disease, using donor sperm is advisable even if there is no fertility problem. The aim of this is to avoid the transmission of hereditary diseases to offspring. Also, in cases where certain genetic diseases lower the quality of the sperm produced.
  • Azoospermia: Zero sperm count.
  • Oligospermia: Low sperm concentration.
  • Necrospermia: Most sperms present in the ejaculate are dead.
  • Severe asthenozoospermia: Very low sperm motility.

Process step by step

The steps followed in donor-sperm IVF cycles do not differ too much from those in which the partner's sperm is used. The following is an explanation of the whole process step by step:

  • Ovulation induction
  • Thawing procedure of the samples that were previously frozen
  • Ovum pick-up (OPU) to retrieve the woman's eggs
  • Fertilization in the laboratory via conventional IVF or ICSI
  • Embryo culture
  • Transfer of the embryos with the highest quality to the woman's uterus
  • Pregnancy test by measuring the levels of beta-hCG hormone

The main difference lies in the semen sample, which necessarily undergoes a freezing-thawing process. Conversely, when the sperm is provided by the partner, fresh samples are used, which are collected on the day when OPU and fertilization at the laboratory take place.

When a man donates his sperm cells, the vials must remain cryopreserved for 6 months before use due to the quarantine period of the HIV, regardless of whether it is a known or anonymous donor. This means all donors are screened for the detection of the HIV twice: the first time they provide the sample and then again after 6 months.

Samples can be used only if both analyses show a negative result. To remain under optimal seminal conditions, they remain cryopreserved at the sperm bank.

Moreover, after being collected, sperm donor’s samples are split into several cryovials according to parameters such as volume, motility, count, etc. A fresh analysis is done to measure these values.

How much does IVF with donor sperm cost?

In general, using donor sperm instead of the husband's increases the overall cost of an IVF cycle. On average, the cost of IVF with sperm donation ranges from €3,000 to €5,000, although it varies by country and clinic.

In the UK, for instance, treatment on the NHS may be offered to some couples aged 23 to 29 years provided that they meet all the requirements established by the local health authorities.

Often, this amount does not include:

  • Prior medical tests: Since they vary from person to person depending on the medical history, giving a fixed price quotation is difficult.
  • Medications: Although medications needed depend also on each patient, the average cost ranges from €350 and €650.
  • Donor compensation: Donors are paid a compensation of about €40-50 per clinic visit.

If you decide to do IVF abroad, the costs derived from travel and accommodation should be added to the overall cost as well. Some fertility clinics arrange travel plans to make it easier and more affordable for their patients.

What to expect: success rates and risks

Even if donor sperm is used for your treatment, the success rates of IVF are dependent on the age of the woman to a large extent. Nonetheless, if the woman meets all requirements in terms of age, normal egg supply, absence of menstrual irregularities, etc., using donor sperm normally increases the success rates.

The following are approximate percentages by female age:

  • Women under 35: around 14%
  • Women aged 35-39: around 11%
  • Women aged 40-42: around 5%

As for the risks, the main one is linked to known sperm donations, especially when the donor is not extensively screened for infectious diseases that could be inherited by offspring. By ensuring that the donor has undergone a thorough screening process, this potential complication can be considerably reduced.

In addition to the physical risks, the issue of legal responsibility is often a concerning factor for many couples. This is the reason why a legal donor agreement is required: otherwise, the donor could be seen as the child's legal father. Seeking advice from fertility lawyers is strongly advisable.

On the other hand, coping with the fact that the child will not be biologically related with the intended father is hard for some couples. For this reason, and in order to avoid relationship problems, discussing matters with your partner at length as well as raising any concerns before getting started is crucial.

FAQs from users

What are the requirements for donors to donate their semen?

By Mark P. Trolice MD, FACOG, FACS, FACE (reproductive endocrinologist).

Sperm Banks ask donors to undergo a comprehensive health evaluation, including genetic screening and infectious disease testing with a complete physical exam.

Basic Requirements vary but examples are:

  • Donors of all ethnicities, races and nationalities are encouraged to apply
  • 5’7” tall for most donors (5’4” for donors of Hispanic or Asian descent)
  • Between the ages of 18 and 44
  • Physically and emotionally healthy
  • College-educated professional, student pursuing a degree or certificate beyond high school, or in a successful, long-term career (i.e. Civil Service, Trade Specialty)
  • Be willing to commit to a minimum of one visit per week for a minimum of 90 days

Can IVF be done using half donor sperm, half husband's?

By Andrea Rodrigo BSc, MSc (embryologist).

In some countries, this practice is perfectly possible. Some fertility clinics offer this possibility to women in order to increase their chances for success in a single cycle. Some eggs are fertilized with donor sperm, and others with that of the husband/partner. Usually, embryo transfer is firstly done with the embryos obtained with the husband's sperm, and the remainder only in case the first cycle fails.

What are the advantages of IVF using donor sperm instead of the husband's sperm?

By Andrea Rodrigo BSc, MSc (embryologist).

Sperm donation is a possibility offered when the man presents problems with sperm quality, a genetic disease or abnormality, or after undergoing cancer treatments that could lead to a considerable reduction of the chances for natural pregnancy. In this sense, the main advantage of sperm donation is that it increases the success rates of an IVF cycle, provided that the woman presents no fertility issue.

Is it possible to do IVF with both donor eggs and sperm?

By Andrea Rodrigo BSc, MSc (embryologist).

Yes, it is. This technique is known as double-donor IVF and is indicated in the following cases: problems in the ovaries (either because of age or other unknown causes), sperm problems (zero or low sperm count, or poor motility), and single females.

For further information, we recommend you to visit the following post: What is double-donor IVF?

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Authors and contributors

 Andrea Rodrigo
Andrea Rodrigo
BSc, MSc
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
 Mark P. Trolice
Mark P. Trolice
Reproductive Endocrinologist
Mark P. Trolice is the Director of Fertility CARE – The IVF Center and Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology (OB/GYN) at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine. He is Board-certified in REI and OB/GYN, and maintains annual recertification. His colleagues select him as Top Doctor in America® annually, one among the top 5% of doctors in the U.S. More information about Mark P. Trolice
License: ME 78893
Adapted into english by:
 Sandra Fernández
Sandra Fernández
Fertility Counselor
Bachelor of Arts in Translation and Interpreting (English, Spanish, Catalan, German) from the University of Valencia (UV) and Heriot-Watt University, Riccarton Campus (Edinburgh, UK). Postgraduate Course in Legal Translation from the University of Valencia. Specialist in Medical Translation, with several years of experience in the field of Assisted Reproduction. More information about Sandra Fernández

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