Numerous articles, such as a recent piece from BBC News, have been written about women and couples who used social media such as Facebook to purchase donor sperm to have a child. This has led to questions about the safety and effectiveness of this method.
Are there risks to buying sperm from donors on social media?
From the perspective of Seattle Sperm Bank and other licensed fertility clinics, there are multiple risks involved with looking for donor sperm using social media. These include:
No assurance that the donor sperm is effective. Without doing the type of semen tests that sperm banks perform, the intended parent(s) can’t know for sure if the sperm from a particular sample will be effective or if a donor’s sperm count is high enough for conception to occur. And since semen samples vary between ejaculates, past pregnancies involving a particular donor is not reliable evidence that the sample you purchase will be effective.
Alternative sources of donor sperm have not been tested for infectious diseases and genetic conditions. Infectious diseases can be passed via semen, so for the carrying parent’s safety, it is critical that donors get tested before providing semen samples for use. Intended parent(s) who choose donors using social media or other direct sources don’t have such assurances. However, licensed sperm banks such as SSB follow FDA-required rules, which include holding samples in a six month quarantine to ensure each donor tests negative for a range of infectious diseases before samples can be used. We also perform comprehensive genetic screening on all our donors to ensure that potential parent(s) are aware of any genetic conditions a donor might carry.
Potential legal issues. Some U.S. states do not have defined laws for parentage, so parental rights can become potentially contentious when an alternative sperm donor is used. For instance, in some states, it can be difficult to define whether a person is legally a donor or actually a potential co-parent. There are three potential risks here: donors could be burdened with unwanted parental responsibilities; parent(s) may find they have unexpected, and unwanted, shared rights with their donor; and partners may find they have no parenting rights at all. In contrast, all SSB donors willingly sign away parental rights, and we offer second parent adoption letters to provide full coverage for all parents involved.
The timing of insemination is critical. To be successful, insemination must occur in the window of fertilization near ovulation. Having samples available can be a problem if you can’t meet your donor on time or if they are unresponsive, too busy, or change their mind. To ensure you have semen samples precisely when you need them, SSB will send a 14-day shipping tank to your home so you’ll have your samples ready should ovulation occur early, late, or right on time. This offers you a greater chance of getting pregnant in less time. Alternatively, we work closely with fertility clinics, midwives, and other healthcare professionals to schedule tank deliveries for when they are needed.
For all these reasons, purchasing or receiving donor sperm via social media or directly from a donor cannot be considered safe or advisable. Using donor sperm from a licensed sperm bank, on the other hand, has proven to be a safe and effective method of conceiving a child. If you have questions about using a sperm donor, or have questions about safely using a known donor, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (206) 588-1484.