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Choosing a Sperm Donor: Known Donor

Updated: May 9

A known donor is anyone who you find without using a sperm bank. They don't necessarily have to be someone you "know" deeply to be considered a known donor.


2 lesbians and their donor sperm donor embrace

If you are just starting out on this process, start here. If you are still decided between the known or anonymous donor route, this article might be helpful.


Reasons to Choose a Known Donor

There are many reasons why people choose a known donor when building their queer family. As more information becomes available from donor conceived people, we know that having access to a donor, as well as to family medical records, is important.


  • Having access to your donor

    • Child can know who the donor is and have them peripherally in their life growing up, have a relationship if they want one

    • Access to medical history (genetic concerns, mental health, drug use) and health status concerns as they come up

    • Donor conceived people have been loud and clear that they want access to their donor

  • Genetic connection

    • Some people ask a member of the family of the non-gestational parent (a cousin, brother, etc) so that the child has a genetic link to both parents

    • Feel a connection to the donor, know who they are and know them more deeply than just an online profile

    • Many banks are unethical and do no actually enforce sibling caps, so having a known donor helps ensure that your child will not have a large group of half siblings (although that is not the case if you find your donor online since that is not regulated either)

  • Cost

    • The cost of sperm has doubled since before the pandemic, with vials costing as much as $2,000 in 2024. Many people turn to know donors because they are cheaper

    • Note that legal fees will come up, so you may want to crunch the numbers if you are on a tight budget

  • Convenience

    • A local donor is able to drop off fresh sperm without too much logistical planning or travel

    • Ability to use fresh semen can increase your chances of conception

    • Can lower the amount of intervention needed during the conception process

    • Allows for the possibility of at-home insemination


How to Find a Know Donor

Many people begin by asking a close person in their life, whether that is a college friend, a sibling of one of the couple, or a friend of a friend. Often the best way to start this process is to cast the net a little wide (friends of friends) and let them know you are searching. It's a no pressure way to find out just how many people in your life are opening to donating.


If someone in your immediate circle isn't an option, there are seemingly infinite places on the internet to look for a known donor, some more creepy than others. Beware of people who say they will only give sperm if you are willing to engage in "natural insemination," aka sex. Also, there are some folks out there who are donating to a large number of couples, and the ethics of intentionally creating large sibling/dibling pools are still being explored. Here are a few options to get you started:



Challenges

The most important thing to consider are the legal implications. Even if you have a great relationship with your donor, you'll want to speak to a lawyer to ensure that their rights are fully terminated. Many people have a donor contract that they sign, but that does not work in all states. For example, if you live in Chicago, Illinois but your donor lives in Arizona you will need to take the laws in both places into account. There are costs associated with this legal work as well. Generally, both you and your donor should have separate legal representation, and you should budget to pay for both.


Some people feel as though they do not know enough people who produce sperm. One possible strategy is to reach out to some of your most trusted people and as them if they know anyone. Some people love the idea of the donor being a close person in their life and others are more uncomfortable with it and afraid it could get messy.

  • If you have a copy of Baby Making For Everybody, there are sample letters available


Logistical challenges often come up as well. For example, if your donor is busy with work or lives far away there may be some concern with timing for your donation/insemination cycles. I've heard of donors that don't want to do genetic testing because they don't want to feel attached to the process. The screening and testing processes (including STI) can feel overwhelming. Donors might also change over time and things could change.


Sometimes non-gestational parents experience additional discomfort with a known donor. They may feel inadequate because they can't contribute with a partner to make a baby or that they don't have the gametes to make a baby with their partner. Or they may feel uncomfortable with choosing someone to be genetically related to their child. They might just feel vulnerable about not being genetically related to their child. These feelings are very real!

  • Get mental health support, see a therapist

  • Join communities that will help you process the feelings


Legal Protections & Boundaries

  • If there is another parent, second parent adoption is a must

  • Engage a skilled mediator and/or therapist to help everyone navigate the boundaries and feelings as they come up and change over time, including the role the donor will play in the child's life

  • Helpful to agree on a time parameter for donations, especially if you ask your donor to make certain lifestyle changes to optimize sperm

  • Both you and your donor have separate legal representation, which ensures that everyone understands fully the process and later on the donor can't say that they didn't understand what they agreed to


Self-insemination

You can do this anywhere that there is privacy, and most people use their home bathroom or a hotel. The cup of for semen does not need to be sterile (mason jar is fine) but it does need to be kept at body temperature so you'll probably want a lid so that you can put it under your arm or in a pocket.

  • For insertion, some people use a regular syringe while others opt for a Mosie Baby syringe. They are more expensive, but do have some helpful features to increase likelihood of success

  • Many people also use a menstrual cup after insemination to keep the sperm in


Using a Far Away Donor

If your sperm donor lives far away, you might consider using a cryobank, rather than traveling for insemination. This is called a Directed Donor Program. There are some additional benefits if you go this route: the cryobank with do a semen analysis for you, as well as genetic screening. The bank can also do testing for infectious diseases, but you can sign a waiver and forgo this if you know your donor well and don't want to wait 6 months. You could also choose to bank vials of your donor's sperm for future children. If your trying to conceive (TTC) journey brings you down the road to IVF, you would already have sperm banked for that process.


There is also a company that helps with overnight shipping of sperm and is cheaper than using a Directed Donor Program. With either of these methods, you will still need legal documentation.


More Resources to Explore

Books:


Podcasts


Websites


There is no right way to build your family. Gather information and then spend some time sitting with it to help you figure out what is right for you. You may need to pivot since fertility is not guaranteed, so try to stay flexible and open to the process shifting over time. Finding a doula and/or support group might also be helpful!



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