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Considering Your Reproductive Health When Using a Known Sperm Donor to Conceive

By: Virginia Frank

Published On: Jun 26, 2024

Considering Your Reproductive Health When Using a Known Sperm Donor to Conceive

By Isabelle Bryan

When looking to start a family, there are a variety of methods for you to consider outside of natural conception. These include adoption as well as assisted conception options such as artificial insemination. But for potential parents who choose the latter, there is another big decision ahead of you—choosing a sperm donor. And while an anonymous donor may seem like the obvious choice, you also have the option of a known donor. That is, a friend, family member, or other individual you have a relationship with. 

At Surrogacy Choices, we understand how complex this decision can be. After all, known donation has the potential to impact your relationship with the donor for better or worse. Before you can move forward with confidence, you need to understand known donation and its potential benefits and challenges. As such, our agency is here to help provide you with a foundational understanding of this process. 

Understanding Sperm Donation and Surrogacy 

A sperm donor is a man who voluntarily provides semen in order to help potential parents conceive a child. This may be done for a variety of reasons. For example, infertility, single individuals wishing to become parents, or same-sex couples looking to conceive. This donor sperm can be utilized in a variety of ways, including artificial insemination and in-vitro fertilization. The recipient can vary as well. That is, if you do not want to—or are unable to—carry the child, you can work with a surrogate mother

The surrogacy process can look one of two ways—gestational or traditional. In the first, both the egg and sperm come from the intended parents or donors. The gestational carrier carries the child, but has no genetic relation. In the second, only the sperm comes from a donor, and the surrogate is the biological mother. 

Whether you choose artificial insemination or surrogacy, you will still likely need to choose a sperm donor. And when you do so, you can utilize an anonymous donor or a known donor. 

Working With a Known Sperm Donor Versus an Unknown Sperm Donor as an Intended Parent

Anonymous and known donors are relatively easily defined. An anonymous sperm donor is an individual found through an agency or sperm bank. Donor profiles will likely be provided to help you make your choice. However, it is unlikely that you will have any actual contact with them. 

Other pros and cons may include:

  • Anonymity means they may be less likely to try to gain parental rights or involve themselves in your family life
  • Your child will likely be equally unable to contact them. As such, even if they have two parents, your child may always feel that something is missing. They may have questions about their biological father that cannot be answered. 
  • If you are married, only one parent will be genetically related to your child
  • The cost of an anonymous donor may be much higher, depending on the process

A known donor, on the other hand, is a friend, family member, or other acquaintance. As such, you may have a more in-depth understanding of their personality, health, and history. Other pros and cons may include:

  • If the donor is a family member, both parents can be genetically related to the child
  • Your child may be able to contact and build a relationship with them 
  • Legal and personal disputes may arise regarding parenting rights and decisions. Sperm donation agreements may assist with this. 
  • Known donation may benefit the connection between you and the donor, or it may hurt it. For example, the donor may feel guilty if the artificial insemination does not work, which could strain your relationship. 

The Importance of Medical Screenings for Sperm Donors During the Surrogacy Process

Whether using an anonymous or known sperm donor, it is important to ensure the completion of a medical screening. This will likely include:

  • Acquiring the donor’s medical, mental health, and/or genetic history
  • Testing for various genetic conditions and infectious diseases
  • Physical and psychological examinations
  • A semen quality analysis

These screenings are meant to keep both you and your child as healthy as possible. They can also help you understand whether or not your chosen donor is a good candidate. As such, it is important to make sure these screenings are completed with a reputable clinic. 

According to Virginia Frank: Adoption & Surrogacy Attorney, sperm donors and potential parents have few limitations in regard to medical clinics. Any clinic that accepts known donors should be able to complete their medical clearance, though the screening is often out-of-pocket. It is important to note, however, that some medical clinics may recommend donors go to a sperm donor clinic specifically. Some states even house large sperm donation agencies always looking for potential parents and known donors. Using these clinics and agencies is not only not required, but may make the process more expensive, stressful, and time-intensive. Of course, if a medical office owns a separate sperm donor clinic, this may be on purpose. Taking the time to do some research can help you find medical clinics that do not attempt or require this. 

Establishing Expectations With Your Sperm Donor as an Intended Parent

Before going to a clinic, potential parents should speak with an attorney in order to discuss relevant state laws. That is, regulations regarding sperm donor agreements as well as intrauterine insemination and in-vitro fertilization procedures. If your state’s known donor laws are unfavorable, you may want to work with a clinic in another state. Following this conversation, a known sperm donor agreement should be created. Both the donor and potential parent should have independent representation and counsel when writing this contract.

While a sperm donor agreement is not required, it serves as legal protection and guidance for both parties. When making it, you and your donor should discuss topics including:

  • Medical tests and screenings to be completed by the donor 
  • Any activities the donor should avoid engaging in for a period of time prior to the donation. For example, the use of drugs.
  • Parental rights and the level of involvement the donor wants in their child’s life
  • Financial compensation for the donor
  • Donation frequency 
  • Risk, conflict, and legal dispute resolutions

Working With a Known Sperm Donor During and Outside of the Surrogacy Process

Choosing a known donor may be easier in some ways but more difficult in others. Trouble conceiving, arguments regarding parenting rights and decisions, and financial disputes could all create rifts in your relationship. However, unlike in anonymous sperm donation, your child may get the chance to know their biological father. And, equally so, the donor may have the chance to know their child. 

In the end, it all comes down to making the best choice for you and your future child. Choosing a sperm donor is an intensely personal decision, and one only you can make. If you feel like you are stuck and need someone to talk to, consider reaching out to our agency. We may be able to assist you in working through your questions and concerns. And for those thinking about working with a surrogate, take a look at Virginia Frank’s surrogacy FAQ

Virginia Frank, Adoption & Surrogacy Attorney

Virginia L. Frank is an international surrogacy attorney who helps individuals and couples complete their family through surrogacy....Learn More


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