How Does Sperm Donation Work in the USA?

By BSc, MSc (embryologist) and BA, MA (fertility counselor).
Last Update: 10/28/2015

Fertility treatments using donor sperm are allowed in the USA. Within this country, sperm donors can be anonymous or known, and generally every donor gets an economic compensation for donating his sperm.

It should be clear that, even though there are no specific regulations addressing it, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) establishes a donation limit of 25 live births within an area of 800,000 inhabitants. This is to prevent the risk of consanguinity.

Fertility treatments using donor sperm

When a couple has been trying to conceive for a long time with no luck, it may be due to sperm quality problems. All seminal parameters, that is to say, sperm motility, sperm morphology and sperm concentration, among others, should show normal values.

In case the semen analysis (seminogram) shows low sperm quality or even the absence of viable spermatozoa, resorting to sperm donation can provide the solution to achieve the desired pregnancy. Thus, most common sperm disorders are:

Also in case the man suffers from any genetic disorder, even if the values of his semen parameters are not altered at all, sperm donation turns out to be the best choice again, since the risk of transmission from parent to offspring can be prevented thanks to this fertility treatment.

Likewise, another common reason why sperm donation is needed is the absence of a male partner. This is the reason why, within the USA, single women and lesbian couples wishing to have a baby are allowed to undergo fertility treatments using donor sperm.

Lesbian couples have the chance to use partner donation, that is, one member of the couple can deliver her eggs and then the other woman is the one responsible for carrying the pregnancy to term in case the embryos generated from donor sperm and the partner’s eggs lead to pregnancy.

Types of sperm donation

Given that choosing by yourself a sperm donor in the United States is possible, three ways of proceeding when using donor sperm in our fertility treatment are available:

  • Anonymous donation: Intended parents do not get to know the person who is about to donate his sperm for their fertility treatment, although they are allowed to inform the sperm bank or fertility clinic about their preferences.
  • Semi-known donation: Even though some people see it as another anonymous process because of the fact that intended parents do not have access to their donor identity, the truth is they can actually select him according to more or less detailed information. Eye color, hair color, height, tone of voice, childhood pictures, medical history, academic records, etc. are just some traits that sperm donor agencies make accessible to intended parents.
  • Known donation: In this case, it will be the intended parents who will deliver the donor. It can be a friend, a relative, or an acquaintance.

Considering which type of sperm donation we want to choose is not easy and even some people need to seek psychological counseling to make up their minds. While some couples have a preference for anonymous sperm donation, others are incapable of undergoing this fertility treatment if they cannot meet the person who is about to deliver half the genetic material of their child.

Getting to know your donor

Numerous sperm banks can be found within the USA where semen samples can be requested in case you want to undergo donor insemination. Likewise, fertility clinics are able to provide the semen from their sperm donor database.

Some of these sperm banks offer an identity-release program where the donor-conceived individual, either born from an anonymous or known donor, has the chance to get personal and contact information about his donor. This arrangement is known as open donation.

In case the 18-year-old donor-conceived individual asks the sperm bank to get info about his donor, such personal and contact information will be given in case it was allowed by the donor. Information shall be provided only to the donor-conceived individual and not to his relatives or friends under no circumstances. The purpose of this arrangement is just that the adult donor child is able to get to know his biological origin, with no establishment of a family connection.

Open donation is considered to be a variety of anonymous donation since, after all, the selection of the donor was indeed anonymous.

Requirements for sperm donation

For a prospective sperm donor to qualify as a donor in the USA, it is essential to follow the guidelines developed by the ASRM in this field. Thus, according to the ASRM, the requirements to become a sperm donor are as follows:

  • Assurance of good health status and absence of known genetic abnormalities.
  • Being of legal age, ideally less than 40 years old.
  • Although it is not required, having established fertility (i.e. men who have already had offspring) is desirable.
  • Psychological evaluation and counseling by a qualified mental health professional.
  • Semen analysis (seminogram) after a a sexual restraint period of 2-5 days. Analyzing more than a single semen sample is strongly recommended. The analysis should be carried out one or two hours after ejaculating.
  • Genetic evaluation
  • The patient’s clinical personal and sexual history allows the risk of HIV and any other STDs transmission to be analyzed.
  • Other screening tests for prospective donors

The donor semen sample cannot be used before a quarantine period of 180 days (6 months). After this period, the donor must repeat the aforementioned medical tests to rule out the presence of viral infections. The donor semen sample will be used only in case these tests are negative.

Also noteworthy is the fact that professionals at the fertility clinic or sperm bank where the donation is carried out are not allowed to act as sperm donors.

The ASRM has developed as well a list of cases in which a prospective donor may not be accepted. Such situations are basically related to his sexual history and other risk practices.

How much does it cost?

Depending on the type of donation and the assisted reproductive technology used, the cost will be greater or lower. When it comes to draft an estimate for donor-sperm IVF, the following aspects should be taken into account:

  • Anonymous, open donor, semi-known, or known donor
  • Information about the donor you want to get
  • Sperm storage

In the case of semi-known donation, choosing the donor according to basic, non-identifiable information such as height, eye or skin color, cultural and academic level, pictures, etc. is possible. Thus, according to the type and the amount of information we want to find out, the price will vary.

Donor insemination

Depending on the part of the female reproductive system where the sperm is placed, we can distinguish between different types of artificial insemination. Most common artificial insemination types performed within the USA are the ones listed below:

  • Intracervical insemination (ICI): non-capacitated spermatozoa are directly inserted into the cervix, as would happen when engaging into sexual intercourse.
  • Intrauterine insemination (IUI): the sperm is placed into the uterine cavity.

Typically, IUI counts on higher success rates because, when inserted, the sperm are located closer to the egg. Besides, in the case of ICI, sperm capacitation is not performed, whereas for IUI it is previously processed.

For all the reasons mentioned above, semen samples are more expensive in some clinics or sperm banks if IUI instead of ICI is used. While ICI cost ranges thereby from $350 to $500, the price of IUI is usually $490- $620.

The afore mentioned prices correspond to anonymous sperm donation. But it should be taken into account that getting personal information about the donor himself is allowed in the USA. Therefore, the more private this information is, the higher the cost of the treatment will be.

Nevertheless, there is also the option known as “open donor”, which means the donor-conceived individual will have the chance to get donor identifiable personal information when she or he is 18 or older. If this is the chosen option, the price of the semen sample will amount to $500-$700 in the case of IUI and $400-$600 for ICI.

If you want to find out about the donor’s physical appearance or get information about his education level, medical history or even pictures, you will have to pay an additional cost that ranges from $100 to $300 depending on how private this data is.

Donor-sperm IVF

Sperm donor semen samples can be requested in the same clinic where the IVF treatment is going to take place as well as in a sperm bank. In the latter case, shipping and delivery fees, which range from $100 to 200, must be added to the costs we mention hereunder.

The cost of a sperm donor semen sample for its use in IVF treatments varies from $250 y $400 per vial in case of choosing anonymous donation. It should be clear that this amounts do not include small incentives derived from getting information, which means we will be shifting from anonymous to semi-known or known sperm donation.

Information about the sperm donor may be more or less detailed according to each clinic and/or sperm donor agency. The following are examples of which would be the fees for some of the info than can be provided under request:

  • Facial features report: $20.00
  • Childhood photo: $25.00
  • Donor profile: $15.00-$25.00
  • Medical profile: $18.00
  • Donor interview: $30.00-$35.00

The cost of sperm vials for IVF in case the chosen arrangement is the so-called open-donor program, where the donor-conceived individual has the chance to get information about his donor from age 18 onwards, ranges from $400 y $600.

The cost of sperm storage ranges from approximately $70.00 up to $2,500. Given these figures, for instance in case you want to keep a semen sample during a whole month, the price amounts to $70. Likewise, 6 months will cost between $200 and $250, a whole year $400, and so on up until the amount of $2,500, which is the price for storing a semen sample for 10 years.

Finally, sperm donor fees are not regulated or established by law: they vary depending on each US state, clinic, donation type, etc.

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Authors and contributors

 Andrea Rodrigo
Andrea Rodrigo
BSc, MSc
Embryologist
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
Adapted into english by:
 Sandra Fernández
Sandra Fernández
BA, MA
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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