How to Choose a Sperm Donor

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 28, 2021
4 min read

The decision to choose a sperm donor isn’t always an easy one, but would-be parents have more freedom than ever when making choices about the future of their child and sperm donor. 

Choosing a donor is the process of picking a biological parent for your future child, which can feel like a lot of pressure. Fortunately, there’s a wide range of donors and styles of arrangements to choose from. Whether you’re using a sperm donor as a part of an infertility treatment or as a way to build your life, there are many factors to consider when choosing a sperm donor.

Prospective parents might seek out a sperm donor for many reasons. Maybe they don’t have a partner or are in a same-sex relationship. Parents may choose to use a sperm donor for medical reasons, lifestyle choices, or simply preference. Whatever the reason, a sperm donor can help households of all types build families. 

Sperm donors may choose to stay anonymous or be identified, depending on how and where they donate. At most sperm banks, donors must pass thorough tests to be eligible to donate. Tests include:

  • A complete family history
  • Analysis of semen health
  • Extensive testing for infectious disease
  • Blood typing
  • Detailed testing for genetic disease

Because of the testing required, you can be sure you’re choosing from qualified candidates. You also have options when it comes to learning more about your donor. Depending on the sperm bank, you may be able to use legal counsel or get information from your donor. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for information that’s important to you. 

Selecting a sperm donor can be a difficult choice. There are many emotional considerations, logistics, legal elements, and preferences to weigh, such as:

Sperm bank details. Although all sperm banks are selective, each has its own requirements for donors. Some may require that donors hold a degree from a major university, while others have physical requirements like height and build. Still others only take donations from men in a certain age range. There are a few extremely selective banks that work only with donors who carry major awards or work in specific careers, but most banks try to provide a gene pool that reflects the typical population. 

When choosing a sperm bank, think about the characteristics you want in a donor. Is height or build important to you? Do you want a donor who has a certain IQ or artistic aptitude? You can tailor your sperm bank selection to the type of donor you're looking for.

Formal vs. informal arrangements. Many donors skip the formality of a sperm bank in favor of informal arrangements. These may or may not be backed by a cryobank or sperm bank, but informal donations give parents and donors more freedom to make their agreement. Many parents get legal help with both formal and more casual arrangements.

Familial connection. For some prospective parents, it’s important that the donor have a biological connection to the family. If this is important to you, you won’t need to find a donor through a bank. 

Anonymity vs. availability. One of the most important things when choosing a sperm donor is deciding between an anonymous or known donor. Some donors want to be known by the mother and child, while others only want to be known by the mother. Known donors offer a level of transparency about family history and other important information. On the other hand, if you’re sure you don’t want the donor to connect with your child later in life, an anonymous or unknown donor might be best for your family. 

Future relationship with the donor. If you choose a known donor, your child will have the chance to connect with the donor before they are 18. But every donor is different. Some want to meet the child, and others don't. Make sure you’re in agreement with your donor on this key issue before making a decision.

Cost. There’s a wide range of pricing for donating sperm. This may include legal fees to outline the boundaries between parent, child, and donor — if you choose. It’s important to have a clear budget before you begin the process, as costs can add up quickly.

Donor education. Studies show that people who seek out donors often want those who have a higher formal education. Think about whether education or career path is important to you — or whether you have access to the information, based on the type of donor you choose.