Choosing a Sperm Donor: Navigating the world of Donor Banks

choosing a sperm donor
Is my donor Bradley Cooper?! Read on to find out…..

Deciding on a sperm donor has been one of the things that people I know have been most fascinated about, and I understand why! It’s not a conversation that comes up that often in anyone’s day to day life, and I get it, there’s so many questions you want to know the answers to.

To respect the privacy of my son, I won’t get into intricate details on the donor I chose, but I will explain the overview, and tell you as much as I feel is okay.

In a previous blog post, I talked about when I was in my early thirties and the thought of a donor didn’t sit right with me as I thought I would always look at my child and wonder who the other half of them comes from. Well let me tell you, you should never say never in any situation in life, because when that might be your only option, you find a way to accept these things and roll with it. That’s not to say it’s an easy process.

I knew that Cryos International donor bank, based in Denmark, was the largest bank in the world. So I started there. You create an account, and just like that you have access to men’s profiles with varying degrees of information. Some men want to remain completely anonymous, which means there will be no photos of them, and only very basic information such as height, weight, hair colour etc. Other men are more willing to offer up details on themselves, which means as well as the height/weight stats, you’ll find out their favourite childhood memory, occupation, favourite food, where they’ve travelled to, details on their family including height, weight, eye colour etc, and you also get to hear the donor’s voice as they read out a short letter.

I wanted as many details as possible! You can set your preferences, for example if you were looking for a donor with blue eyes, brown hair, weighing between 70 – 95 kg, with a height between 5ft 10 – 6ft 2, and they were of German ethnicity, you can choose those options. It’s extremely detailed! There is also the option to pay a 3 month subscription fee to get access to adult photos. Not everyone uploads these, but many do.

So what was my plan of attack? As well as Cryos, I looked on other donor banks including those in USA, which do provide a wealth of info on their donors, but I found that every extra bit of information you wanted seemed to cost more money, so I eventually gave up on searching there. I never entertained the idea of using a UK donor bank, as there is a real shortage of donors in this country, and the information given is extremely basic with no photos of the donor provided. I also searched the European Sperm Bank, another large and popular site, and SellmerDiers based in Denmark.

Choosing the donor you feel comfortable with will be based on different factors for every woman. Some will prioritise education, others will prioritise looks and height. I scrolled those sites for daaaaaaays, and it really becomes quite tedious. Early 2020 I had a short list, and decided to pay 250 euros to see adult photos. My priorities were things like height and weight, their age – I didn’t want a student donor as I felt they were more likely to be donating for the money, rather than someone who was older and more likely donating to help women. I looked at their occupation, answers to their specific questions, and I’m not gonna lie, I judged them on their looks. If they had adult photos and I knew I would never be interested in being chatted up by them in a bar, I moved on. Shallow? Maybe. Do I care? No. I was paying out a mountain of cash for this decision!

I had a couple of friends I shared these donor profiles with, and when I was at work nannying, I would go through these profiles with the mum I worked for who is also a dear friend to me. It was helpful to get their feedback, and also not share these profiles with anyone else, as everyone will always have a different opinion, and I think that could make you very confused on who to choose. I had two on a short list, but I wasn’t 100% convinced, it was more a case of ‘these are the best two available’.

But then covid took over the world, the IVF clinic I chose shut down, along with everything else in the UK, so the whole process was put on pause. By the time the clinic reopened, my 3 month access to adult photos had expired, and I wasn’t prepared to pay out another 250 euros.

This time around I found some profiles that I hadn’t seen before, and as I scrolled through the website for the gazillionth time one day, I came across a profile that really sat right with me. The donor is married, with two children, has a really great job, and his answers to everything were brilliant. I could see three photos of him as a baby and a toddler, and he was very cute. They are also required to do an emotional intelligence test, and he scored very high on this. The clinic also write their own review on each potential donor, and it really was the best review I’d read on anyone. And the bonus part, the clinic wrote ‘He has a striking resemblance to Bradley Cooper’, I meaaaaaan, you can’t go wrong with that! Hah!

A quick check of the donor profile with my trusted few, who all agreed he sounded great, and my decision was made. I placed my order (makes it sound like I was getting a pizza from Uber Eats!), and that was that. You’re then sent a tracking link, and can watch all the updates as the sperm is flown from Denmark to your UK IVF clinic in either a dry ice container or a nitrogen tank.

Whilst I don’t want to get into exact specifics of cost on this IVF journey, I also understand it’s important for women considering this to have some idea of what the financial side of things looks like. Factors that will determine the price are things like a quota reservation, which is a payment you make if the country you reside in only allow a certain amount of women to become pregnant by a specific donor, shipping costs and your choice of shipping ie dry ice or nitrogen, whether you’ve chosen an anonymous or ID release donor (the child can make contact at 18 years old, I chose this option), the sperm quality, the amount of sperm straws you’ll need, one straw is used for each IVF egg collection, and a whole other bunch of options.

I was having 3 egg collections so this drove the price up, and it was slightly over £3,000. Not a cheap process. And this is why many women opt for a different route, and use apps to find donors that are willing to help for free, or have a friend donate. The cost of IVF and all the parts that go with it is crazy, and it does frustrate me that all the money that was spent would’ve been a huge head start to mine and Hudson’s life, but what can you do!

Another little piece of info that I’m sure you’ll find fascinating: There are websites and private Facebook groups that those with donor conceived children can sign up to so they can potentially find donor siblings, aka Diblings. I am signed up to these groups, and I do know that Hudson has some diblings in Europe, however the parents have never replied to my message, so I have no details, but it’s a weird and wonderful feeling to know this.

Having a baby via donor has meant a lot of emotions and thoughts to process. I was so focused on honouring his Danish side that it actually worked against me and I found it hard to ‘connect’ to the idea that this baby was also 50% me. I did deal with anxiety and stress in the beginning of my pregnancy over this and eventually found that stepping back and letting things be with the Danish side of things, helped me connect better to the idea that this baby IS mine.

So there we go, I hope this gives you some overview of the process, and as always, I welcome messages and emails if you have any specific questions.

Annmaree x

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