How We Screen Sperm Donors

At Seattle Sperm Bank, we only use sperm samples from carefully screened donors. This helps ensure the health and safety of you and your child should you successfully conceive. Though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has existing regulations for sperm donation, our internal vetting process is even more rigorous. This has been the case since we opened, and we continually look for ways to improve our screening process to better protect you.

Becoming a sperm donor is more difficult than many people realize. In fact, on average, only about 5% of all donor applicants are able to pass the screening requirements. Below is an outline of our screening and application process, which takes several visits to our clinic and about three weeks to complete.

Comprehensive Questionnaire

The process begins with a detailed questionnaire covering a donor’s family, medical, and sexual history. Other questions cover allergies, international travel experience, age, occupation, education, whether they served in the armed forces, exposure to radiation, whether they have tattoos, and many other topics. Applicants discuss their answers directly with one of Seattle Sperm Bank’s clinicians for greater clarity and to make sure all questions are sufficiently answered.

The questionnaire covers the medical history of not only the applicant, but also their extended family going back generations including parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins. These questions are designed to check for diseases that may run in the applicant’s family. The presence of certain diseases in a man’s background, such as sickle cell anemia and cystic fibrosis, automatically disqualify him from donating sperm. Those who have ever used intravenous drugs or had sex with a man are also disqualified.

Full Physical Exam

Each applicant that passes the questionnaire is then given a full physical exam from a doctor that includes a genital exam and color vision test. The physical also includes blood, urine, and genetic testing to screen for such infectious diseases as:

  • HIV
  • Human T-cell lymphotropic viruses
  • Zika virus []
  • Syphilis
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Hepatitis B & C
  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV) []
  • Karyotyping 46 XY
  • Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

Semen Sample

Potential donors who pass the first two parts of the screening then give a semen sample to be professionally analyzed to determine sperm count, morphology (overall sperm health), and motility (how well sperm move). Regardless of the results of the semen test, this initial sperm sample is destroyed.

Six Month Freezing Process

For the donors that pass the questionnaire, physical exam, and semen analysis there is still one final step before they can become regular sperm donors – another semen sample is frozen and stored for a minimum of six months. If the sperm are still healthy after this freezing process, then the applicant is eligible to become a regular donor. This ensures that the donor is healthy and disease-free and that his samples are ready to be used for insemination.

It’s important to note that all accepted donors must make their donations at our clinic using a sterile container. This cannot be done at home. The semen is frozen using liquid nitrogen and will not be thawed until it is time to be used in an artificial insemination attempt.

Donor Counseling

We are the only sperm bank with a counselor on staff who evaluates all of our final donor applicants. This counselor, who holds a Master’s of Social Work, conducts a detailed interview to help donors fully understand the donation process. This includes understanding the responsibilities of being an open identity donor should they choose to become one, which means that they may have future contact with their offspring. This counseling also ensures us and you that all donors are emotionally healthy and mentally sound.

Criminal Background Checks

Before being approved to donate, every donor applicant must submit to a criminal background check. We do this for your protection and to confirm that the information applicants provide is honest and accurate. This background check covers any criminal charges (misdemeanors and felonies), seven years of residence history, and verification of educational transcripts. In addition, donor Social Security numbers are kept on file should we ever need to trace or contact a donor in the future.

As you can see, our screening process for all sperm donors is comprehensive and rigorous. This protects you and gives you the confidence that, whichever donor you choose, the sample you purchase is healthy and that you have the best chance to conceive.

If you have any questions about how we screen for donors, please contact our clinic at (206) 588-1484.


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