Thursday, August 5, 2010

Everything You Never Knew About Frozen Sperm

Since there happens to not be a male member in my little domestic family, the issue of sperm becomes,
well, an issue. There is a whole world of frozen sperm out there that is really pretty fascinating. For instance, it ships Fed Ex, can be frozen for years Austin Powers style, and is incredibly, incredibly expensive for those of us whose households don't have a free flowing supply.

Let's start with the bank, the cryobank. Our particular one is the California Cryobank, one of the most well known and well respected out there. I continue to be so impressed with their professionalism and compassion. We start on their website ( if you're interested in poking around) with a donor search. You can literally see, pick, and screen more about your potential donor, than most of you probably did for your potential spouses. Height, weight, eye color, hair color, skin tone, build, blood type, heritage, occupation, GPA, complete medical history, complete family medical history going back 3 generations and including aunts, uncles, first cousins, and siblings, exposure to chemicals, almost ANYTHING you can imagine. You can purchase a baby picture of the donors, handwriting analysis, facial feature report, audio interview, staff impression, even see which celebrity the staff thinks the donor most resembles. There are anonymous donors, and open donors. The open donors agree to at least one instance of communication after the child is 18. Of course, you pay a little more per sample for open donors.

I am adopted, and possess a freakish amount of personality from my birth parents both of whom I met for the first time at twenty years old. I would be an excellent nature vs. nurture experiment, and let me tell, nature is very, very powerful. It is because of my background that I A) Have chosen an open donor, and B) am very particular about which donors I consider. I would have been furious had there been absolutely no chance for me to meet my birth parents, both of whom I am extremely close with now, and I would never want to deny my child that opportunity. I also have first hand knowledge that no matter how I raise my child, they will have an extremely significant amount of their biological father in them, both in personality, and physical appearance, and I want to be sure I find exactly what I'm looking for. Now, I realize this sounds a little "designer baby" ish, and I can assure you there are moments when you realize you just scratched through that donor because his sister was big boned and his cousin had acne in high school, but for the most part, you  find yourself "attracted" to donors that possess the same attributes you would be looking for in a partner, whatever those personal priorities might be. For me, it's things like intelligence, creativity, athleticism, and a passion for family.

After a certain age, cryobanks "retire" donors. This can create a problem for families that are having a hard time conceiving, or that are attempting multiple children from the same donor. Most banks have a "storage" program for families who want to buy now and squirt later, but that option pretty much depends on financial situation. In our case, we used the very last available vial from our donor last month, to no avail, and had to pick a new donor for the first time since this whole thing started. I was basically "in love" with the last guy, and it was incredibly hard to realize that it wasn't meant to be. I am pleased with our new donor, and hoping we have better luck in the very near future.

Lastly, lets talk price. There are several types of samples, ICI or unwashed, and IUI or washed, are the two most common. ICI samples are samples that have not been pretreated and are suitable for intracervical inseminations. They average $535 for a ONE milliliter vial for an open donor, and about $430 for an anonymous donor. IUI samples are washed before freezing, removing the dead cells, waste material etc, and are suitable for intrauterine inseminations. They are $645 for ONE ml for open donors, and $535 for anonymous donors. Most doctors, couples shoot for two inseminations per cycle, so at minimum two vials per month. Do the math. This doesn't count shipping the 22 lb tank over night both directions, or the extra donor information you might purchase. You can imagine for a couple struggling with fertility for two years how much the costs add up. However, I know when we bring our new baby home, every single cent will have been worth it, but what a struggle in the mean time.

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