Treatment options

Sperm banking

Sperm donation provides a viable option for infertile and lesbian couples as well as single women. Andreas Späth investigates the realities and issues involved.

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Sperm banking
 
 
 
 

Sperm donor wanted

"Hey, why don't you just ask Andreas to donate some sperm for you? He's nice, quite clever and not entirely ugly," my wife, Sam, recently told our friend, Rachel*, a 30-something single woman with no long-term male partner. On the same day, when discussing this article with journalist Deborah Herd, I blurted out, "You know what, I'll go and donate some sperm myself, just to see what's involved."

The idea of sperm donation seems to have become so commonplace that neither Sam nor I really thought about the implications of our comments. As soon as we’d thought them through, both Sam and I changed our minds.

“I love Rachel but your sperm is kind of mine, too, and I actually feel quite uncomfortable sharing it,” said Sam. "We might still decide to have another child and, if Rachel has one with your sperm, that would be a bit like a part of our family moving into her house. It’s all a bit too weird."

Personally, I don’t have an issue with the practicalities of donating sperm but I can’t get my head around the possibility that it might result in a child – or children – of mine living in my home town, but whom I wouldn’t know from a bar of soap.

Environmentalists argue that, considering the world’s already massive population, the concept of donating sperm should be done away with. In a country like South Africa with a huge orphan population, adoption is clearly the better choice rationally.

Yet, for many women, there is an overwhelming and understandable desire to carry and give birth to their own biological child. "I can see my grandmother in my niece’s eyes and face," explains Rachel, "and I just know that there is a place for people like that in this world."

Literally a lifeline

For most of us, the idea of a sperm bank has been tainted by testosterone-driven American comedies involving horny teenagers and well-thumbed girlie magazines. The reality is more sombre and more medical.

Matthew Wray, a 30-year-old orthopaedic sales rep from Cape Town, donated sperm during a spell on a kibbutz in Israel. “It was common practice there. The Israelis have a relatively small gene pool and kibbutz volunteers are encouraged to donate sperm,” he says.

“It was all very unglamorous and involved a simple questionnaire, a brown paper bag, a plastic vial and a public toilet cubicle in a hospital. Since it was entirely anonymous, I didn’t really think about the implications a lot. It paid about R400 a ‘shot’ and I have friends who financed substantial holiday trips that way.”

Although the financial reward is probably the main motivation for most sperm donors, according to Dr A. D. Esterhuizen, laboratory director at the Medfem Clinic in Bryanston, some of the donors are aware that they are assisting couples to “reach a dream”. “Some of them think of it as an adventure they are embarking on,” he says.

“It was initially purely for the money and nothing else,” concedes Donald van der Merwe*, a banker, who donated sperm in Johannesburg when he was 23.

“As a gay male, I felt that it was not going to be harming anyone and I thought that I could put myself to good use and if I got some really good cash out of it then why not? As time went by and I walked past the pictures of the children who would not have been born without my participation, I began to develop a sense of self-worth in the process.”

For many people who want a child of their own, sperm banks are literally a lifeline. In the United States, some 30 000 babies are born from donor sperm annually and, according to Dr Klaus Wiswedel, of the Cape Fertility Clinic in Newlands, anywhere between 100 and 200 donor sperm pregnancies are achieved every year at his clinic alone.

Five years ago, Riaan*, a 36-year-old East Londoner, thought he had completed his family; he was married with two children and decided to have a vasectomy. Subsequently, he divorced and remarried. Now he and his second wife, Maria*, 26, want a child. Surgery to reverse the vasectomy failed and the quality of Riaan’s sperm proved to be poor. They failed to conceive following 3 cycles of artificial insemination, as well as in-vitro fertilisation.

“We were devastated,” admits Maria. “We took out a loan to pay for the initial procedures and have very little money left to pay for any more. Now we have decided to try artificial insemination with donor sperm. It was a very difficult decision and, at first, Riaan was not keen on the idea but we found a perfectly matched donor and are going ahead. We have spent over R80 000 on this journey and hope that with the aid of the donor sperm we’ll be able to have the child we both want so much.”

Sperm donation in SA

Should potential recipients be worried about the genetic range of the donor sperm available in South Africa? Should they do their sperm shopping overseas? Doctors Wiswedel and Esterhuizen are adamant that local sperm banks are up to international standards. The Medfem Clinic currently has 27 active donors and the Cape Fertility Clinic has between 40 and 50. The variety and the depth of character profiling is as good here as anywhere else, says Dr Esterhuizen, and using South African donor sperm is, of course, much less expensive than importing sperm from overseas.

Anonymous donations

In South Africa, all sperm donations are anonymous. Overseas, it is possible to get an identity-release sperm donation, which allows a child to make contact with his or her father when they are older.

Screening process

The Medfem Clinic has operated a sperm donor bank since 2005. There are also other sperm banks in Cape Town and Pretoria. “Potential donors are interviewed and we conduct a series of blood tests, including HIV and hepatitis B, as well as a full semen analysis. Infection tests are done on a regular basis and donors need to repeat an HIV test every 3 months,” says Dr Esterhuizen.

Dr Wiswedel of the Cape Fertility Clinic emphasises that sperm quality is at a premium. “We don’t just want good sperm, we want superb sperm!” he says. Sperm quality is determined by:

  • Sperm count
  • Mobility
  • Shape
  • Semen volume

Donor profiles and donor rights

Once a donor has been accepted on medical grounds, he is required to complete a detailed donor profile, listing everything from physical characteristics like eye colour and weight to level of education, occupation, hobbies and personal interests. In South Africa, sperm donation is always anonymous and, by law, donors have neither legal rights nor responsibilities with regards to their biological offspring.

A donor has the right to specify to whom he would like to donate his sperm in terms of the recipient’s marital status, religion, sexual preference and ethnicity. Most donors are university students who typically produce a sample once or twice a week.

Remuneration

As commercial trade in human tissue and body parts is against the law in South Africa, donors are not paid for their semen samples, but they receive an honorarium to cover their expenses, usually about R150 per donation.

Once the sperm from an individual donor has resulted in 5 successful pregnancies, the donor is “retired” and all of his remaining stored samples are destroyed.

How to receive donor sperm

South African sperm banks

South African sperm banks, which have to be registered with the Department of Health, only give donor sperm to individuals and couples who are in treatment with gynaecologists.

International sperm banks

Although some international sperm banks, including the Sperm Bank of California, ship frozen semen samples to your doorstep anywhere in the world and provide information on DIY insemination at home, it is illegal to import sperm without a permit and only medical practitioners registered with the Department of Health are officially sanctioned to administer donor sperm to recipients.

Choosing a donor

Dr Esterhuizen points out that recipients “have access to the donor’s physical appearance (eye colour, hair colour, height, weight, hair type, complexion), hobbies, degrees, qualifications and blood group. Donors also complete an extensive family history questionnaire, and this can also be made available to patients.”

Different procedures using donor sperm

  • artificial insemination with donor sperm (AID), in which a semen sample is directly injected into the recipient’s uterine cavity
  • in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), in which eggs are fertilised in the laboratory and viable embryos are then placed into the recipients uterine cavity
  • intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), a type of IVF in which a single donor sperm cell is directly injected into an egg in the laboratory to improve chances of fertilisation.

Who uses donor sperm?

"We have a variety of people making use of our donor sperm," says Dr Esterhuizen of Medfem Clinic, "including many single ladies and same sex couples."

At the Cape Fertility Clinic, Dr Wiswedel estimates that 80% of donor sperm recipients are infertile couples and the remainder are single women and lesbian couples. In South Africa, married couples making use of donor sperm typically sign a consent form that provides for legally shared parental responsibilities and rights for both partners.


South African sperm banks and fertility clinics

Johannesburg

Cape Town

Pretoria

Durban

PLEASE DO NOT CONTACT YOURPARENTING IF YOU'RE INTERESTED IN DONATING SPERM OR RECEIVING A DONATION. ALWAYS USE A REPUTABLE SPERM BANK or FERTILITY CLINIC!

 
 
Disclaimer: The advice on this site is for information purposes only. Please consult your health professional.

Add your comment

Comments - 41 comments

Michelle

Hi,i would like to know how much it cost to buy a sperm and to have the artificial insemination done
Posted on Wed, Jan 8th 2014, 21:02

Mohd Hussain

My sperm count is very low my wife wants a donar sperm I have no child yet
Posted on Sat, Jul 20th 2013, 20:01

gideon

Good day I would like to know where in the capetown region where I can donate sperm and get paid for it..I need a answer asap pls
Posted on Wed, Jul 17th 2013, 13:17

precious

Am 36 years this year at may . My fience past away iam looking the child I have one child at moment its 18 years old now so now am looking for the baby girl I love kids with all of my heart but am looking the sperm donar for colourds because am white in complaction and how much can I spend to do to fall pregnent. Am age is still fall pregnency please help me
Posted on Wed, Jul 3rd 2013, 10:25

elzaan

Hey I'm a 22yr old collge student ...in a same sex relationshp with my amazing girlfriend 4 a year n 7mnths...we've spoken abt our future n hvn children...we hv a 3yr old daughter she is amazing... My girlfrnd gave birth 2 the bundle of joy...I myslf n my girlfriend would love 2 have another addition 2 our family and I would b honoured 2 produce a life...because I'm stil so young I'm worried tht I won't b approved and I would like 2 knw the expenses of the artificial insemenation...being a mom is a dream I would really love 2 become a reality
Posted on Sat, Jun 22nd 2013, 03:16

Lizbeth

Hi,i would like to know how much does it cost to buy a sperm and to have artificial insemination done?Im a single woman of 40yrs and ready to have a baby.i would like to have twins.what procedures to follow and where to go/consult
Posted on Fri, Jun 14th 2013, 21:33

neli

Hi I would to know how much does it cost to receive IVF am having defficulties In concieving, am 30 years and ready to have a baby
Posted on Sun, May 26th 2013, 21:12

Bongani

Hi I'm a guy, 21 of age, based in Durban, who has two kids already (1st born son and 2nd born daughter). I would love to know how do I go about being a sperm doner, where in Durban that I could find assistance.
Posted on Thu, May 23rd 2013, 08:37

marie

Hi.i am intersted in using a sperm doner cause my husband had himself fixed when he was young by his mother and now we got married 3 years ago and we both want to have children,I am now 30 yrs of age and realy want to start a family with my husband.I want do the prosedure at the end of november 2013 but then we would have then only saved R6000-00,we were looking to pay our doner for his help but i wish i knew which docter would beable to help us,we are in klerksdorp and willing to travell to johannesburg for the prosedure and want a white male as a doner.Please if anyone can help please contact me.
Posted on Thu, May 2nd 2013, 09:56

CHANTELLE

Hi,i would like to know how much it cost to buy a sperm and to have the artificial insemination done.Im a single woman about to turn 30 and ready to have a baby.Please explain the possibility and difference on getting sperm for twins and does medical aid cover or is all cash.What are the procedures involved or that one has to go through
Posted on Fri, Apr 12th 2013, 15:06

Tiisetso Mmatladi

Hi,i would like to know how much it cost to buy a sperm and to have the artificial insemination done.Im a single woman about to turn 30 and ready to have a baby.Please explain the possibility and difference on getting sperm for twins and does medical aid cover or is all cash.What are the procedures involved or that one has to go through
Posted on Mon, Mar 25th 2013, 12:05

ThabIle zwane

Hi. I would like to know how much does it cost to buy a sperm,and to have artificial insemination.i am single female who would love to have a baby.i am based in johannesburg.
Posted on Sun, Mar 3rd 2013, 19:29

Shaye

Hi, My partner and I are looking at starting the process of having a baby next year and would like to know the price for artificial insemination and the process of that. Also, we have heard of 'Home Donors', can you advise if this option is safe?
Posted on Fri, Nov 30th 2012, 13:21

maxine

hey, plz help i just want to knw how much wil it cost if u inseminate ur partners sperm via sperm bank.
Posted on Wed, Nov 28th 2012, 00:13

Dan

I want to be a sperm donor but I can't find any sperm bank where I am based which is Johannesburg and Pretoria. Please help!
Posted on Tue, Nov 13th 2012, 23:42

Jono

We are a male gay married couple looking for a mum to help us have a family we stay in Cape Town area
Posted on Sat, Nov 10th 2012, 19:33

Anne van Niekerk-Tromp

Good afternoon. We are a married lesbian couple, looking for a healthy Caucasian donor of sperm. We will ensure that the necessary legal paperwork are in place and the donor will remain ‘anonymous’ in legal definition – thereby have no claim / responsibility toward the child. We are in the Gauteng area.
Posted on Mon, Jun 11th 2012, 13:34

nabasha sasha

have been trying to conceive but its been very hard,how much is it to get a sperm donor in johannesburg, and if these a gyno who can help me with all the test and getting a good donor please help me, I need a baby of my own.
Posted on Tue, Apr 3rd 2012, 20:55

elizabeth

good afternoon i phoned earlier about artificial insemenation . i am a 28yr old female , gave normal birth almost 9 years ago to a very healty boy . my husband can not conceive and we despratly want a baby , please assist us by giving us step by step quide line where to start ? kind regards Elizabeth
Posted on Tue, Apr 3rd 2012, 16:57

tshepo mahlase

we are a couple having difficulty conceiving a child.can we do a sperm doner?
Posted on Mon, Mar 12th 2012, 11:43

Seepe

I am interesed on donating my sperm. How do I go about this?
Posted on Mon, Feb 20th 2012, 23:07

Dolla

Hello, I am looking to receive IVF treatment at Pretoria or Johannesburg and I need donor sperm. How do I contact a sperm bank in Pretoria & Johannesburg? Many thanks
Posted on Thu, Feb 9th 2012, 16:25

john

hi,i would like to bank my sperm as a backup which am ready to be paying for as the case may be..pls can u direct me.
Posted on Wed, Feb 1st 2012, 22:59

Daniel

I would like to know if there's any branch that is functioning in Bloemfontein. I want to store/freeze my sperm for a while or as backup, or by any means donate it.
Posted on Sun, Jan 29th 2012, 08:06

Florence

Hi, how much is it to get a sperm donor in johannesburg, and if these a gyno who can help me with all the test and getting a good donor please help me, I need a baby of my own. Thanks
Posted on Thu, Dec 1st 2011, 16:30

Claire Rodger

Hello, I am looking to receive IVF treatment at CFC in February 2012 and I need donor sperm. How do I contact a sperm bank in Cape Town? Many thanks
Posted on Tue, Nov 15th 2011, 23:59

Sophia

@Donovan, seriously? I would like to think a donor is someone who'd love to give a couple the opportunity to have children of their own. If you want to make easy money quickly, just Google "pyramid scheme" and be on your merry way. This isn't the place for you.
Posted on Sat, Sep 17th 2011, 22:44

Jill

Can anyone please give me the fees in having a baby through a sperm bank in Cape Town? Has anyone done this procedure with Cape Fertility Clinic or any other hospital and what were your experiences and what did you pay? Please help me, Im a single 35 year old woman wanting to have this procedure done, please advise? I need help, thank you! Mail me at: waterbabe75@yahoo.com
Posted on Fri, Sep 9th 2011, 09:50

Donovan

The amount paid to sperm donors is way too low. R150 bucks?? Its not worth it...
Posted on Sun, Sep 4th 2011, 14:48

Dawn

Hi, please can you advise costs for having a baby through a sperm bank? Many thanks
Posted on Sun, Aug 7th 2011, 11:53

Phillip

Hi I want to donate sperm, but I live in Polokwane, is there a clinic close by?
Posted on Mon, Jul 25th 2011, 22:40

Naydeen

Hi,how much is the cost and what are the procedures to receive sperms.
Posted on Mon, Jul 25th 2011, 05:46

Michelle

Hi, We are a lesbian couple living in Cape Town and are seeking a caucasian sperm donor. Please contact me : mick74@rocketmail.com
Posted on Sun, Jul 10th 2011, 23:27

Shaun

I am 26 white male blue eyes dark blond hair 1.85m tall limpopo willing to mate with females looking for a doner no illnes nor decease
Posted on Tue, Jun 21st 2011, 02:58

Sophia

Hi all, we've had a great response to this story, especially from men willing to donate. If you're interested in donating, or receiving a donation, please go through a sperm bank, where high levels of screening, hygiene and proper administration are adhered to. We won't be publishing any more donator's details here. Thanks!
Posted on Mon, May 9th 2011, 11:16

Riette

Hi, I want to know where my husband and I can have some sperm banked/freezed for later use, he has to undergo chemotherapy soon and that might make him infertile and also what are the cost and procedures involved? Riette
Posted on Fri, Jan 14th 2011, 16:03

Andre Kitching

I am willing to donate sperms to couples or single ladies that is battling to have a baby I am also willing to help lesbian couples on certain condition I do not want any finacial gain from this it will be a deed of care and do not want any contact with child nor contribution in raising the child I am a white male blue eyes blond hair blood group O+ and live a very healthy and responsible life I do have to good looking boys
Posted on Thu, Dec 16th 2010, 09:04

Fee

We have been trying ofr years to have a bady, we recently found out that my husband is infertile and it can not be fixed. We are keen to try the sperm donar route, we have been onto the CYROBANK site and there only 4 donars (caucasin) availible. Is there another sperm bank in SA?
Posted on Thu, Oct 28th 2010, 12:29

Tim

Elizabeth, do yourself a favor and your child and make an effort to find a good man and do what the good Lord designed you for.
Posted on Fri, Oct 22nd 2010, 12:59

elizabeth

hi am interesred in getting a sperm donor am a single woman age 25 and working and am independent i will be able to raise the baby.how much will this cost me.
Posted on Thu, Oct 14th 2010, 14:49

Jude

I am interested in donating sperm. How much will I be paid? What kind of documentation is required apart from my passport? My cell phone number is ---------- [not shown - ed]. What is the exact address where I can do the donation? How often in a month do I have to donate? Please let me know asap
Posted on Sat, Oct 9th 2010, 14:59
Poll

What do you feel the guiltiest about as mom?

I feel I don't spend enough quality time with my kids.
I shout at them.
I don't listen to them attentively and am always distracted.
I probably should have breastfed them for longer.
I'm not able to give them more material things.
I'm not organised with scrap books and albums and memory boxes.
My kids are overweight.
My kids watch too much TV.
I feel guilty for sometimes wishing I could just go away and be by myself.
Someone else is looking after my kids while I work.
I don't feel guilty!