People seeking sperm donors may choose between the option of working with a known donor or using a sperm bank and an anonymous donor. In each case, there can be medical and ethical issues to consider. Known donors may be friends or family members of the infertile partner who agree to make a directed donation to facilitate a pregnancy. Sperm banks offer access to specimens from anonymous donors who may meet a wide range of criteria.
At a sperm bank, a listing of available donors is open to members of the public who want to find a sperm donor. Many listings are free to review, although it may be necessary to pay a fee for additional details. The bank tests sperm for common diseases to confirm it is safe for use, and collects demographic statistics for the benefit of customers. Some offer very detailed information to allow people to find a sperm donor who meets very exacting characteristics.
Typically sperm banks have information about the height, weight, and other physical characteristics of their donors, as this may be important for recipients. Some also provide information about hobbies, interests, and careers to help each customer find a sperm donor who matches their requirements. People may want donations from scientists, for example, or from people with a laid back lifestyle. Donors may provide pictures and write essays, in semi-anonymous donation, to allow recipients to learn as much as possible about them.
The degree of anonymity available can be important when people set out to find a sperm donor. Some families may prefer to have a limited amount of information beyond a unique donor number. Others might want more information, or could have an interest in establishing contact. Services that facilitate meetings for directed donation are available in some regions, in which case parents may be able to meet a donor. Policies about contact from donor-conceived children can vary and parents with concerns about this may want to check on this before selecting a final choice.
Directed donation directly from friends or family is another option. This may be preferred in some cases, although it can come with legal and emotional tangles. People who choose to find a sperm donor this way may want to establish a firm contract providing information about the legal boundaries of the relationship before they proceed with donation. Some families may be comfortable providing a child with regular contact with the donor and an open, friendly relationship, for instance, while others might want to keep it confidential. It is also important to discuss medical history and test the sperm for infectious diseases before it is used.