Donor Conception

How a Lesbian Couple, a Heterosexual Couple and a Solo Parent Chose Their Sperm Donors

Holly Pigache  |   25 Apr 2022


Choosing a sperm donor – three unique perspectives (& where to start)

At The Ribbon Box, we know that choosing a sperm donor is a very personal decision and there’s no one-size-fits all approach.  Settling on your chosen sperm donor might be the result of months combing through profiles, or maybe you’ll come across a sperm donor who just feels “right”.  Either way, the sperm donor you ultimately pick will likely depend on your reasons for undergoing fertility treatment.  Are you a solo parent, a lesbian couple or does your partner have male factor infertility?

When choosing a sperm donor, it’s important to speak with your fertility specialist about what’s important.  With hundreds of sperm donors currently to choose from, California Cryobank is a worldwide-leader when it comes to donor sperm banking for more than 45 years.  California Cryobank is also one of the world’s largest sperm donor banks (view their website here and their profile here).

Whatever your reasons are for choosing a sperm donor, understanding how others went about it can help you decide on who might be right for you.

So, we’ve rounded up advice on choosing a sperm donor from three different family make-ups: a heterosexual couple with male factor infertility, a bisexual woman who may become a solo parent and a lesbian couple who needed sperm in order to create a family.

Read on to discover how these five people went about choosing a sperm donor, for their fertility treatment.

Written by Holly Pigache

Eloise and her husband

As the Founder of The Ribbon Box, Eloise regularly speaks candidly about her husband’s infertility.  Here’s how they chose a donor together:

“When we were looking for a sperm donor, my husband and I wanted to make sure we had a sperm donor who looked like him.  We wanted my husband and our sperm donor to have the same hair and skin color, and height was also important – my husband is 6 ft 3.  Whereas I didn’t mind, my husband was adamant our donor should have blue eyes (I have green eyes) and yet only one of our three children has ended up with blue eyes!

We spent some time looking at photos of my husband as a baby and a child, comparing these photos to images of the donors as young children.  This was bittersweet – we were replacing his genetics, which was very sad, but to create something lovely.

We were shocked to find out that narrowing our sperm donor search to 6 ft 3, brown hair and blue eyes resulted in very few matches, so our sperm bank advised us to set wide filters and go from there.

Our sperm donor’s health impacted our decision, too.  We looked at sperm donors’ medical records and whether they had a family history of cancer or other genetic conditions.

We also knew we wanted to have an open donor – a sperm donor who’d be happy to be contacted when our kids are 18.  Eventually, we narrowed our choice of sperm donors down to two, factoring in personality as well.  Our preferred donor described himself as “sarcastic with a good sense of humor”.  He also liked to debate, talk about worldly things and had the same favorite animal and food as my husband – we saw this as a sign we had found our sperm donor.  We were lucky to also be able to hear the sperm donor’s voice through an interview clip – he sounded funny!”

The Ribbon Box readers can hear the voices of California Cryobank sperm donors (and so much more) with a free Level 3 Subscription ($250 value).  Just use promo code: RIBBON24

What is Included in a Level 3 Subscription?

  • Genetic test summary
  • Medical history
  • Donor personal essay & donor keepsake
  • Donor childhood & adult photos
  • Donor profile & extended donor profile
  • DNA ancestry
  • Staff impressions
  • Facial features report
  • A sample conversation with the donor
  • Keirsey report and Q&A

Holly

Last year, Fertility Help Hub’s Journalist and Editor, Holly, underwent fertility treatment.  After discovering there’s a shortage of sperm donors in the UK, her UK-based fertility clinic recommended California Cryobank because of their strict donor selection criteria.  Here’s how Holly chose her sperm donor:

“As a single person, actively dating, I currently have no idea who I’m going to settle down or have children with.  When I was picking a sperm donor, there was (and still is) a very real possibility I won’t find someone in my dating life I want to reproduce with, so I may (happily) end up being a solo parent.  This meant my canvas was effectively blank when I chose a sperm donor; I wasn’t trying to match the characteristics of a partner.  

Of course, I had to narrow the pool of potential sperm donors down, so the first thing I considered was:

  • What might my future partner look like?  What physical characteristics in a person do I find attractive?  If in the future I build a family with someone who fits my typical “type”, what physical attributes would my offspring need to look like they “fit” in the family?

So, I used California Cryobank’s filtering option to filter by height and ethnic origin.  You may find, like me, that things you thought would be important, don’t seem to be when you’re choosing a sperm donor.  I thought I’d find eye and hair color important – they weren’t.  I also presumed the sperm donor’s religion would influence my decision (I thought I wanted an atheist, but I’ve chosen an Islamic donor).  I did, however, narrow down the selection of sperm donors by education level and opted for a donor with a Master’s degree.  (California Cryobank donors need at least one semester of college experience, they don’t need to have graduated.)

Naturally, I wanted my fertility treatment to result in fertilized embryos (and a pregnancy down the line) so I made sure my chosen sperm donor’s sample had resulted in previous successful pregnancies.  I also looked for a donor with expanded genetic testing (so I could find out if he was a carrier of over 260 recessive conditions) and who was happy for California Cryobank to release their identifying information to my future child when they turn 18.

What is the difference between the different types of sperm donors?

Non-Disclosure Donors have not agreed to any contact with offspring, but have not ruled out possible anonymous interaction in the future.

Open Donors have agreed to a minimum of one communication with any offspring once he or she turns 18.

ID Disclosure Donors have agreed to allow California Cryobank to release their identifying information to any offspring once they turn 18. This information may include: the donor’s full name, donation location, last known address, or email.

Since 2018, all new donors who qualify for the program are ID-Disclosure donors.

Through reading the Donor Personal Essays and Staff Impressions, you can learn more about a sperm donor’s personality.  In an ideal world, I wanted someone creative, good at math and who managed to convey a sense of humor and kindness in his profile.  Yet I felt these weren’t dealbreakers because (as a former teacher) I believe you can teach creativity, nurture talent, develop humor and encourage kindness – something I’ll be doing as a parent.

Cleo and Sam

Lesbian couple, Cleo and Sam went through the process of choosing a sperm donor last year.  Here’s how they picked a sperm donor:

“We were pretty open and relaxed about choosing a sperm donor and it didn’t feel like a hard part of our fertility treatment at all.  We liked the sound of using a European sperm bank as opposed to one in the UK.  We knew that sperm donation is quite popular in Europe so there are lots of donors to choose from.  We found a sperm donor who had brown hair, blue eyes, and was tall – so that they would have similar characteristics to us.

We couldn’t choose the first sperm donor we liked because his sperm motility was too low to meet the minimum requirements of our IVF clinic.  So, moving forwards, we had to filter the donors by sperm motility.

The sperm bank we chose displayed baby photos of many of the donors and we were drawn to the one we ended up selecting.  He looked quirky and full of character.  We really liked that our sperm bank tested donors’ emotional intelligence and various emotional traits and reactions.  Our donor scored very highly across the emotional intelligence indicators which was a big plus for us.  We also looked to see if the donors were generally healthy and the one we chose said he didn’t drink, smoke or do drugs.  He had a good family tree that showed a healthy family.

When we read our sperm donor’s answers to the personality questions, we were pleased he liked animals, helping the planet and that equality was important to him.  He had also written a letter and recorded a voice clip that we could play to our future baby.  We both agreed almost immediately on our donor.”

When choosing a sperm donor for fertility treatment, spend some time thinking about what physical and personal attributes you’re looking for.  If you’re going through fertility treatment as a couple, have open conversations, listen to what one another feels is important in a sperm donor and be prepared to compromise.  It can also be a good idea to narrow the pool of sperm donors down to two – in case you need to change sperm donors.

When you’re ready to take the next step in your fertility treatment and browse California Cryobank’s sperm donors, click here.

Fertility Help Hub readers are granted a free Level 3 Subscription ($250 value) with promo code: RIBBON24

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