What "Shopping" At A Sperm Bank Is Really Like — According To Experts

Illustration by Ly Ngo
If you think choosing a sperm donor is about as easy as narrowing down blue eyes or brown, you are way off. There are often pages upon pages of donor options, and it can be easy to get overwhelmed by choice — this is your future child, after all.
And not only is there a near paralyzing amount of choice involved, but the process can be long and expensive, and loaded with medical jargon that can feel exclusionary. All that can breed misinformation and confusion. Let's un-confuse it all, shall we?
First, the basics. Donor insemination is a procedure in which sperm is inserted in a woman’s vagina in the hopes of getting her pregnant. Where does this sperm come from? Some people choose to use semen from a partner or a friend, while others purchase it by the vial from a sperm bank.
The New York Times says that the number of babies born using donor insemination is increasing, and cites one estimate of between 30,000 to 60,000 births per year that used sperm donors. The reason for that imprecise range is that, while people who've used donor sperm are asked to report if they have successful pregnancies, only 20 to 40% of them do, according to Wendy Kramer, founder of the Donor Sibling Registry, speaking to The Times.
Ready to get started? Instead of diving head first to a website full of eligible sperm, arm yourself with info straight from the source: We spoke to representatives from sperm banks and fertility clinics in the U.S. and Canada, the director of a support group for women looking to have children on their own, and fertility doctors. Read on for their thoughts and tips on visiting a sperm bank.