Before we asked my brother-in-law to be our donor, we had a meeting with the donor coordinator at our fertility clinic. We learned a little about donor sperm and donor embryos.
When we got home I did my own research about the regulations, specifically about FDA regulations about known donor sperm. The major areas of regulation are:
– quarantine period
– communicable disease testing
– genetic testing
– psychological evaluation
– FDA registered facilities
The rules for sperm donation are very similar for anonymous donors and known donors, but there is one major difference that is critical. That rule is about the sperm quarantine period.
I’ll start with that rule because knowing it might help you get started on building your family 6 months sooner!
The FDA does NOT require the 6 month quarantine for sperm from a known donor (also called a directed donor). They only require “7 day testing” which is blood testing for communicable diseases like HIV within 7 days of semen donation. If the results come back all clear, then the sperm can be used immediately.
For random donors the FDA requires a six month quarantine of the sperm. More specifically, they require the donor to have blood testing for communicable diseases like HIV within 7 days of donation, then a quarantine of the donation for 6 months (sitting frozen in a tank at the clinic laboratory), and then retesting the donor’s blood at the 6 month mark for communicable diseases. If the results of both sets of blood work are all clear, then the frozen sperm can be removed from quarantine and shipped to you. When you’re shopping for sperm at a sperm bank all of these steps have already been completed and you don’t have to wait.
Even though the FDA doesn’t require the 6 month quarantine for directed donors, the ASRM (American Society of Reproductive Medicine) recommends it. Each clinic can set their own policies and procedures for directed donor sperm (the FDA requires each clinic to write their own set of these rules) for whether to follow the FDA minimum guidelines for 7 day testing or to follow the ASRM recommendation of 6 month quarantine, or to choose something in between.
If you’re at all worried about transmission of HIV or other STDs from your donor, you should have a frank conversation with them. Ask about prior testing, sexual lifestyle, dangerous conditions in their workplace (ex. police officers come in contact with people from all walks of life), etc. If you’re still not satisfied but you don’t want to wait 6 more months, it is generally accepted that IVF w/ ICSI can be done with virtually no chance of transmission of HIV from donor to mother. You should discuss this with your doctor.
Communicable Disease Testing
The FDA requires all donors, anonymous and directed, to be tested for the following:
– HIV 1 and 2
– Hepatitis B and C
– Treponema pallidum (syphilis)
– Human T-lymphotropic virus, type I and II
– Chlamydia trachomatis
– Neisseria gonorrhea
The FDA doesn’t require ANY genetic testing at all for either directed donors or random donors. They are only concerned about communicable diseases. Depending on your genetic heritage, your clinic might require or highly recommend some genetic testing of you or your directed donor before proceeding. When choosing sperm from an anonymous donor at a sperm bank, the testing will be done already.
The FDA does not require a psychological evaluation for the donor or the recipient, they only care about communicable diseases. However, the ASRM recommends a psychological evaluation for both anonymous and directed sperm donors. They do not specify that an evaluation is recommended for the recipient couple, but I personally highly recommend it.
FDA Registered Clinic
In order to do the testing above, collect the sperm, freeze it, and then ship it to you, a clinic MUST be registered with the FDA to perform each individual step.
If you’re wondering what steps your clinic is registered to perform, the FDA has a handy search tool you can use to find out. We used this tool to find a clinic near my brother-in-law that was more convenient than traveling to a sperm bank to get all of this done. The bonus is that it is MUCH less expensive ($1,300 vs $4,000!) to use his local clinic instead of the sperm bank in California.
The steps are:
1. Screen – asking donor questions about lifestyle, medical history, etc. to determine if he has risk factors for communicable diseases
2. Test – testing donor blood samples for communicable diseases
3. Recover – collecting the semen
4. Process – testing of the semen or freezing it
5. Label – identification of the samples to prevent mix-ups
6. Store – controlling storage areas and storage conditions like temperature
7. Package – shipping containers must be designed to prevent contamination of the tissue
8. Distribute – determining when tissue should be able to be shipped, required shipping environment, etc.
I have done a fair amount of research on the FDA regulations. I’m not an expert by any means, but if you’re having trouble navigating the waters or you’re just starting, I’ll be happy to help you any way I can. Just leave a comment with your questions!
For your reference, here are several links to look at for more information.
Complete FDA regulations
Regulations in easy to read format of Q&A
California Cryobank Directed Donor Information
Fairfax Cryobank Directed Donor Information
Xytex Directed Donor Information
ASRM Donor Guidelines
Search for FDA registered clinic