Sperm Donors 101

Sperm Donors 101

Ready to become a parent while single or in a non-heterosexual relationship? Well, you might be interested in a sperm donor. Across Canada, this option is becoming more popular among single women and queer couples. Some are even seeking out sperm without the help of a clinic and using apps to connect with donors willing to give their sample. However, many experts caution against this because of potential health and safety risks. If you’re looking to go the traditional route, through an approved sperm bank, then here’s what you should know.

The price tag

The cost of sperm and insemination (the process of conceiving using donated sperm) is different in each province. But one thing is consistent across the country: sperm must be purchased from a sperm bank. In Canada, it is illegal to buy sperm from an individual. The price of the sperm itself can be up to $1,000 or more for one vial; however, there are other fees that can add up, like mandatory counselling sessions with a clinic, handling, shipping and preparation. At one Vancouver location, the total cost after the sperm is purchased is $920. In Ottawa, diagnostic tests and consultations are covered by the government at one fertility centre, but the cost of buying sperm directly can range from $750 to $1,200 per vial.

The process

Once you’ve gone through all the steps—chosen a fertility clinic, secured the sperm, and set a date for the insemination—the actual process takes around 15 minutes. The most common procedure is called intrauterine insemination (often referred to as IUI), which uses a catheter to place the sperm inside your uterus during ovulation. Afterward, you may have some light spotting or cramps. It is recommended to wait at least two weeks after the procedure before taking a pregnancy test. It is also possible that you might need more than one procedure.

“The doctor suggested that I lie there for an hour. I did the exact same thing the next day. It costs a bit more money [about $500 per insemination in Canada], but my doctor thinks there’s more success if you do it two days in a row,” wrote Andrea Karr about her own experience in Canadian Living. “I found out that I was pregnant five or six days later via ultrasound. I was lucky. Some women have to go through six or seven cycles.”

Why more people are becoming parents on their own

For a multitude of reasons, sperm donors are in high demand in North America. Some women are worried about their age being a factor, while others are in queer relationships or don’t have or want a male partner. 

"I realized that I couldn't take the risk of having to wait two or three years," Myriam Steinberg told CBC News, after going through a breakup. "It's been a major roller coaster."

Other’s explained that they weren’t thinking about having children in their 20s and 30s. But when they reached their 40s, they didn’t want to feel like they were missing out.

“Life just happens, the years go by and you don’t really think,” Claris Harbon told Global News. “What have I done? Why did I wait? Why didn’t I think of it? All my friends have kids going to university.”

If you’re thinking about embarking on your own pregnancy journey, start by doing some research and talk to your health care provider. Find out what your options are based on your unique needs, your province, what the government will cover, the cost of the clinic you pick, as well as what kind of mental health care you may want. Having  a support system, both before, during and after pregnancy is imperative to a healthy parent, and therefore a healthy baby. 

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