Environmental Effects on Sperm

Blog written by CLI Director of Operations Michelle Ottey, PhD.

Spermatogenesis is the process through which immature germinal stem cells are differentiated into mature sperm. This process is incredibly involved and takes approximately 60 days.*

Due to the complexity of each step in this process, sperm are highly susceptible to external influences, such as hormonal changes, environmental effects or toxic exposure.

Normal colds and flus can have a significant effect on the quality of a sperm sample. Sperm donors’ samples are screened at each production date to assess, at a minimum: volume, count, motility and the overall quality, which includes looking at the number of non-sperm cells present in the sample.

We see healthy men as sperm donors who have exceptionally high sperm sample quality — meeting parameters well above what the World Health Organization describes as healthy. When these sperm donors catch a bad cold or suffer from a bad flu, particularly when a fever is involved, we see an immediate and lasting effect on their sperm sample.

An immediate effect is that we will see decreased volume from the dehydration that often accompanies illness, as well as an increased number of round cells, or immune cells, in the semen sample. If the donor has a high and persistent fever, we will see sperm counts and motilities that are lower than normal for some time.

We do not allow sperm donors to donate while they are ill or taking prescription or over-the-counter cold medicines. We obviously want our sperm donors to produce the highest possible quality sperm samples for our patients. This means that, from time to time, our guys get a vacation from donating. But they are always happy to return and have us tell them that their sperm samples are in tip-top shape again.

*Handbook of Andrology April 1995, by the American Society of Andrology

CLI Blog small

Posted in Donor Sperm, Pregnancy | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Who Gets the Sperm?

Blog written by CLI Director of Operations, Michelle Ottey, PhD.

Not all sperm donors are alike. When screening for sperm donors, sperm banks are looking for a good, diverse, representative group of men who will appeal to our patients.

The staff meets the prospective sperm donors and works with them through the screening process. At our labs we do in person medical and program interviews with the prospective donors. It is during these interviews that we really start to get to know the men and they open up to us.

Most of the interview consists of reviewing the program requirements, reviewing their medical histories, clarifying health history and the overview of the process. We always allow time for the prospective sperm donors to ask us questions, which range from, “What do you mean when you say I have a great specimen?” to “Who gets the sperm?”

The processing questions are easy and straightforward. The more thoughtful questions often lead to interesting conversation with the men. I was once asked about who the recipients were, and what followed was a long and sympathetic conversation about medical and social infertility. I spoke to the prospective sperm donor — we’ll call him B — about our patients. I told him that we serve a very diverse group of men and women, including heterosexual couples who are facing medical infertility, single women who are ready to become mothers, and same-sex couples who want to build families through donor insemination.

B looked very invested in the information and considered it carefully before responding to me. He told me that he started the process thinking it would be an easy way to earn some extra money, but as he screened and learned more he became more invested in the process. He shared that doing this sperm donor program was more than he expected, in a very good way. He was so happy to know that all different kinds of families could result from his donating.

We have had sperm donors ask about the recipients many times, and each time we have had a positive experience after telling them about all of our diverse patients.

CLI Blog small

Posted in About CLI, Becoming a sperm donor, Donor Sperm | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How Much Sperm Is Enough?

Blog written by Michelle Ottey, PhD, CLI Director of Operations

So often in life we are told that more is better. Sometimes there is a sufficient number or size, but because of the “bigger is better” philosophy we overlook this.

Who hasn’t gotten the large popcorn for only 75 cents more at the movies, even though the medium would have been more than enough?

This applies to sperm donation, too. Sperm banks offer donor sperm with variable volumes, cell counts and motilities. These variables are dependent on the sperm bank and the prep type (IUI, ICI, IVF).

The decision of what is in the vial must be made with careful consideration for the needs of the patient to achieve pregnancy. Studies have demonstrated that when it comes to pregnancy rates, more sperm is not necessarily better. There is an observed plateau in pregnancy rates once the number of sperm in an insemination dose reaches 10 million. (Van Voorhis et al, 2001) & (Cressman et al, 1996).

The bottom line in terms of count is that increasing sperm numbers beyond 10 million per dose does not have an appreciable impact on pregnancy rates.

CLI Blog small

Posted in Donor Sperm, Pregnancy | Tagged , | Leave a comment

What Makes a Donor Special?

Blog written by CLI Staff SS

For those looking for the ideal donor, it is about finding that special emotional connection. Once you filter the entire list on ‘must have’ criteria, the short list still offers many options that require further consideration. The process can take weeks. Perhaps the childhood photo provides that connection.

Or perhaps is the way a donor presents his personal views in his essay or audio interview that lets you make your final decision. Our audio interview questions give exceptional insight: Describe a moment of epiphany? Which of your characteristics would you like to see flourish and which wither? What is the most special gift you have ever received? What is something nice you could do for someone you love?

What you know about your donor is often highly personal and defining. And if your child ever asks, ‘Why did you choose this donor?’ You can say with conviction that there was this special ‘something’ about him that made him the perfect choice.

CLI Blog small

Posted in CLI Family Forums, Donor Sperm, Pregnancy | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Family Forums – How to Connect with Siblings

Cyrogenic Laboratories, Inc now offers a place for clients to discuss donor sperm related topics. This forum is a creation from your suggestions and requests to connect with parents of half-siblings. The discussion board is a very friendly and welcoming place for single mothers, same sex couples, and couples with fertility issues. No matter where you are in the insemination process, we encourage you to visit either or both forums for fantastic information and stories from others in similar situations. The topics range from where to start when considering using donor sperm to donor conceived children’s tenth birthday parties.

When you visit the forum for the first time, you must create a user name and password in order to post to the board. In order to keep the discussion board free from spam and advertising, all initial posts will be reviewed by the Moderator before becoming visible on the forum. Future posts in the public discussion boards will be posted immediately so you can actively engage in topics.

There is also a private donor forum area that serves as a sibling registry for CLI. This area is restricted to clients who have purchased donor sperm and would like to get updated information about their child’s donor and possibly connect with half-siblings. It is also a great place to share pictures of your child in a more private setting if you wish.

We hope you are interested in visiting this forum and joining in on the conversations posted online. The donor sperm community is very supportive and we hope you enjoy this opportunity to interact with each other.

Please visit and feel free to join the CLI Family Forum.

CLI Blog small

Posted in CLI Family Forums, Pregnancy | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Consult your Lawyer

Blog written by Michelle Ottey, PhD, Laboratory Director 

This morning, I had an alert that there was another article with the headline, “… sperm donor must pay child support…” The headline is misleading in that it is not a sperm donor from a sperm bank, but rather a man who donated sperm to friends outside of a clinic or sperm bank setting.

Over the years there have been more and more headlines like this from major news sources. In this case it was a man who responded to a Craig’s List ad. In his state, Kansas, to be a sperm donor without legal obligation , the collection and procedures must happen under the care of a physician. Parentage laws vary from state to state. A legal agreement signed by the recipient intended parents and the known sperm donor may not be enough to establish that the known sperm donor is legally relinquishing his parental rights and obligations.

When you work with a sperm bank, this is not a concern. The sperm donors sign a donor agreement with the sperm bank that states clearly that they relinquish parental rights. When purchasing donor sperm through a sperm bank, you will be working with your physician who will perform the insemination in the office. If considering an at home insemination , you will need physician sign off stating that you are under their supervision, this may protect you legally, but you should know the laws in your state before proceeding.

Through surveys we know that a large percentage of our recipient population consider using a known donor, but that less than 5% of them pursue this through inseminations. This is a wonderful option for some people and leads to wonderful families being created. If you are interested in using a known donor, it is recommended that you work with a sperm bank or clinic that offers Directed Donation services . Some clinics require that you present a statement from your lawyer proving that you have legal agreements in place that clearly outline the intentions and responsibilities of all parties, others do not require this but strongly recommend working with a lawyer.

CLI Blog smallRegardless of which kind of sperm donor you use, your family building journey should be protected. Be aware of the laws in your state and how they could affect the methods used.

Posted in Client Depositor Sperm Banking, Donor Sperm, Pregnancy | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Donor Sperm for Couples experiencing Male Infertility

Blog written by Michelle Ottey, PhD, Laboratory Director 

The CDC website lists data from a 2002 National Survey of Family Growth. They found that 7.5% of sexually experienced men under the age of 45 have visited a fertility doctor. These men visited a fertility doctor, presumably, due to an inability to conceive. Eighteen percent were diagnosed with a male-related infertility problem, including sperm or semen problems (14%) and varicocele (6%). A varicocele is a condition that causes a man’s testicular veins to be enlarged, which leads to the testes overheating. When this occurs sperm morphology (shape) and motility can be affected.

Male infertility is not often discussed, and can be a challenging emotional hurdle to a couple who is trying to start or add to their family. Male infertility is caused by numerous factors such as medical conditions, medications, lifestyle choices involving alcohol, drug use, smoking, and environment. All of these factors can lead to low sperm counts, poor motility, and below average morphology scores.

If a couple is having trouble conceiving, a semen analysis is the easiest method used to test fertility. The male partner will produce a semen specimen via self-masturbation and that specimen will be analyzed for count, motility, grade, morphology, and overall appearance. It is recommended that a minimum of two semen analyses be completed before drawing any conclusions about overall fertility or additional testing. The following is a chart representing the World Health Organization’s Standards for semen parameters.

Semen Parameter WHO 2010 Standard
Liquefaction 20-60 minutes the coagulated semen should liquefy
General Appearance The color and viscosity will be observed: the semen should not be red or pink which would indicate the presence of red blood cells
Volume The volume or amount of semen should be 1.5 mL or more
pH 7.2 or lower is considered normal
Count Greater than 40 million cells/mL
Motility Is presented as a percent; you will see a simple motility which should be 50% or greater
Vitality If a sample has a low motility, a viability stain should be done to determine if the sperm are dead or only immotile.

CLI Blog smallIf the male partner’s specimen cannot be used to achieve pregnancy, the couple has the option of working with a sperm bank to purchase donor sperm for insemination.
Couples are able to search through the available donors on the sperm bank’s donor search to identify the perfect donor match for them. They can look for donors with similar ethnic origins to the male partner, similar physical features, etc. There are hundreds of sperm donors available through commercial sperm banks which allows for a diverse group of couples the ability to find a good match.

Posted in Donor Sperm, Pregnancy | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Is Donor Sperm Safe?

Blog written by Michelle Ottey, PhD, Laboratory Director 

One of the questions I am asked most frequently is, “Is the donor sperm safe?” Women want to ensure that the sperm sample being used for their insemination is safe and will not put them or their potential child at risk.

Donor sperm purchased from a sperm bank has been tested for infectious diseases, and the donors have had some level of genetic testing. Sperm banks are regulated by the FDA which requires the following testing:

  • Serological testing: HIV-1, 2, Hepatitis B surface antigen and core antibody, Hepatitis C antibody, Cytomegalovirus (CMV) antibody, Syphilis (RPR), and HTLV I/II antibody
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing: HIV 1, HCV, Chlamydia, and Gonococcus

All sperm banks must do that basic level of testing to maintain their FDA certification. Some of us choose to go above and beyond this basic level of testing and provide additional PCR testing for HIV2, HTLV I/II, CMV, HSV 1 and 2, and HPV.

Donor sperm is required to be placed in quarantine, not released, until there has been post testing. Every sample must remain in quarantine for a minimum of 180 days. The testing of the sperm donors after the quarantine period must be non-reactive to release the donor sperm from quarantine.

CLI BlogAlong with the actual testing, sperm donors undergo physical examinations to ensure they do not exhibit any symptoms of infectious disease, as well as frequent screening questionnaires about their general health and well-being. Donors are very well looked after while they are actively donating in the sperm donor program.

The goal of all sperm banks is to provide safe donor sperm for their recipients.

Posted in Donor Sperm, Working at a sperm bank | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Sperm Donor Myths

I have written before about the myths and misconceptions of sperm donation; everything from men thinking they can just walk in and donate one time to sperm counts differing week to week. There are still many myths and misconceptions out there, so I thought now would be a good time to debunk a few more.

Myth: One ejaculate is one vial of sperm. OR One ejaculate is 15 vials of sperm.

Truth: This is completely dependent on the quality and fresh analysis of the ejaculate in question. The sperm count and motility/progression determine how the sample will be processed and how many vials will result. Because our current Specimen Quality Standard is to have 10 million TMC sperm cells/vial we do some math that determines the total number of vials that can be made from the ejaculate. Sometimes this is 1 vial, sometimes it is 10. The average number of vials/ejaculate is around 4-5 depending on the prep type.

Myth: Donors donate 2-3 times a week, sometimes for years at a time.

Truth: Our Cryobank works with our sperm donors to determine the optimal number of abstinence hours for them to produce the best quality sample. The majority of our donors produce once a week. Our program requires the donors to donate for a period of 6 months though many of them stay in the program a bit longer.

Myth: You can assume that every vial equals a pregnancy.

Truth: On average it takes up to 4 inseminations to achieve pregnancy, similar to the success rates of traditional fertilization. Depending on the procedure and the prep type of the donor sperm sample, this can be 4-8 vials.

Myths: Sperm Banks are unregulated and do whatever they want to do to make money.

Truth: Sperm Banks are highly regulated by the FDA and various other state governments. Many sperm banks are also AATB accredited and all follow the guidelines of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM.) Sperm Banks also have internal policies that are developed and followed to meet the needs of the donors, the recipients, and the offspring. These internal policies cover everything from the number of vials that are produced for each donor and the number of Family Units for each donor.  Cryogenic Laboratories, Inc. developed a policy in 2008 that limits the number of Family Units for each donor to 25. We rely on pregnancy and birth reporting to track this, as well as limiting the number of vials that a donor produces. We monitor these numbers monthly.


Posted in Donor Sperm | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Beginner’s Guide to Infertility

If you are just getting started on your journey with infertility, please use this great resource from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) on Assisted Reproductive Technologies. This guide will walk you through the details of IVF insemination, egg retrieval process, success rate statistics, and common terminology you will encounter along the way.

CLI Blog smallAnd if you are just starting the donor sperm process, you will love the step by step guide countdown to trying to conceive.

Posted in About CLI, Donor Sperm | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment