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GLOSSARY

Sperm bank

A sperm bank (also known as "semen bank" or "cryobank") is a facility which preserves, stores, and may buy and sell sperm samples. Couples who trying to conceive may purchase donor semen from a sperm bank to use during artificial insemination. People that sell their semen to a sperm bank are known as sperm donors. Some people may also choose to store their semen in a cryobank for their own future use.

What is a sperm bank?

Sperm banks collect, freeze, and store sperm that can later be used to conceive a child. They may be used either by individuals who want to preserve their sperm for later use or by donors who allow their sperm to be used by others seeking to become pregnant.

Sperm banking vs. sperm donation

Sperm banking usually refers to storing and preserving sperm for your own future use, also known as sperm freezing or cryopreservation. It’s a good option for individuals who need medical treatments, such as chemotherapy, gender-affirming hormone therapy, or vasectomy, that can cause infertility, or for anyone who may have kids later in life.

Sperm donation involves sperm donors who provide sperm for third parties. These may be a single person who wants to have a child, an LGBTQ couple, or a couple experiencing infertility, among other examples. Sperm donors can be known or anonymous donors; known donors may be a friend or relative of the non-birthing parent in a couple.

Donors who donate anonymously through a sperm bank or agency are typically paid for the sperm they provide. The process involves conducting a medical screening of the donor (required by the FDA), performing a semen analysis, then quarantining the semen for six months and testing the donor again after that period.

 

Between 2015 and 2017, an estimated 440,000 women in the US used donor sperm to try to conceive.

Sperm bank and male fertility

Storing frozen sperm in a sperm bank can preserve male fertility. This may be helpful if:

  • you’re taking medications or undergoing a medical procedure that could impact your fertility, such as vasectomy, chemotherapy, gender-affirming hormone therapy, and testosterone replacement therapy
  • you want to have children later in life, when your sperm quality may have declined due to age
  • you have a high-risk job, or one where you’re exposed to factors that could affect your fertility

Sperm may still be used even after being frozen for decades.

Sperm banking before fertility treatments

It’s also recommended that people undergoing fertility treatments such as IVF or IUI bank some sperm as a backup during their treatment cycles, especially if they’re experiencing male-factor infertility. This ensures that some sperm will be available on the day of the IVF or IUI procedure, even if the male patient was not able to produce a fresh sample or their fresh sample did not contain as many healthy sperm.

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