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All About the Seattle Sperm Bank by Sharon LaMothe

Posted Jan 10 2011 10:00am
A common shipping container
You would think that with my long history, over 11 years, in the Assisted Reproductive Technology world I would have visited a sperm bank by now. I mean, I have been invited into surgical units and witnessed egg retrievals, I have been invited into labs and watched eggs being fertilized in a number of ways, I have been present at MANY embryo transfers, and had the privilege to behold the miracle of birth via surrogacy more times then I can remember, so you would think that I would have knocked on the door of one or two sperm banks by now!
The Seattle Sperm Bank located near the University of Washington, which is the American division of the European Sperm Bank  based in Denmark. Gary Olsem and one of the lab technicians, Christina, was kind enough to invite me to tour the bank and then answered some very pressing questions that I had collected from Facebook and current clients.

I started my tour with Christina whom I had met previously at the ASRM conference that was held in Denver in October of this year. I was brought into a room that had a few tanks in it and instantly started asking questions! They were a lot bigger then I though but had guessed correctly that this was what the sperm was shipped in. So here are the shipping facts: People purchase usually 2-3 vials at a time but the same container can hold 10-25 vials. (not that you would want to order that many and in a moment I will tell you why!) Shipping to the East Coast is $150.00 2 day FedEX and that includes the return trip. There is a $50.00 extra fee for over night. I actually asked if many people need over night shipping and Gary told me that I would be surprised at how many women called needing their shipment yesterday. "Don't they PLAN ahead?" "Apparently not." These containers will keep the sperm frozen for up to 3 weeks and NO, you can not take them out of the container and pop them into your freezer at home. That would be just a waste of money.

New Sperm Samples
The men on the Seattle Sperm Banks long list of eligible donors are between the ages of 18 and 39. Really the 18 year olds are few and far between (to my delight) however no donor is required to have a psychological evaluation. None. Why is this? Apparently because the procedure is no where near as in depth as that of your egg donor. (However it's not only about procedure but that is for another blog). There are 3 hoops that these gentlemen have to jump through. The first is the initial screening and meeting which includes a free sperm analyst and most of those don't make the first cut. Not that they are infertile themselves but if their sperm doesn't freeze well or make the thaw then its just not worth it to take the risk. Some may have some very real male factor infertility and they are told what the issues are and are referred to a mental health professional at that point. So basically these men have had a free semen analyst and it ends there. No, they did not get paid yet.

The second hoop is a meeting that ends with yet another semen sample and a full education of how the program works. This is also unpaid and requires more forms, questionnaires and paper work. FDA guidelines are followed to the T.
Storage Containers
The third hoop and last meeting before becoming a "real sperm donor". An Audio Interview is done, a personality test is taken, baby photos are shared, and Blood work is required, STD testing, a sperm deposit that will be kept in storage and this is also when money exchanges hands. How much money you may ask? $40.00. Yes...that is Forty Dollars, American. And another $20.00 in about six months once everything is cleared. So how much can you actually make being a sperm donor? Well, through the Seattle Sperm Bank you are allowed to 'help' 25 families and you can donate up to 3x per week. (Although most just donate once per month.)

Speaking of 'helping families' 25 donations seems like a large number but lets remember that there are no regulations and although the ASRM has guidelines on egg donation of only 6 donations per donor there are no guidelines for sperm donors. (and if there are, they are incredibly hard to find compared to egg donor compensation and donation guidelines which pop up at the touch of a button...) I asked if there were any thoughts to how many families in one location that would could be helped by a single donor and found that it depends on location. If you live in the UK then it would be 10 donations for the entire United Kingdom. Australia, 5 donations and so on. So it seems that each country has its own thoughts on the matter.
A frozen 'cane' with vial of sperm

Lets get down to the nitty much does it cost to start your family using sperm from the Seattle Sperm Bank is quite reasonable. Depending on how you are going to do it....IUI (Intrauterine Inseminations) through your clinic the cost is $490.00 per vial (washed sperm) and for at home inseminations its $390.00 ICI (unwashed sperm) and that includes the cost of the insemination kit! Most people order 2-3 vials at a time. So lets see, if you are ordering 3 vials, and live on the east coast AND are doing in home inseminations then the cost would be $1320.00 which would include your shipping and handling charges. Now remember, there are no guarantees that this is going to work the 1st round. (or the 2nd or the 5th) Would it be cheaper to go to a clinic and do IUI under a Reproductive Endocrinologists care? In the long run, perhaps so. You would be paying for IUI's at the clinic however you would be monitored and if medications were needed then you would find that out and, believe it or not, a RE knows what he/she is doing! Plus, timing is everything!
One frozen vial on a 'cane'

Just for the fun of it I asked about directed donation and how much it would cost to store sperm. The storage fees are $75.00 per month and $350 per year. Not to bad if you don't have to wait long.

Remember when I stated that these containers could hold up to 25 vials? I wanted to mention that you do NOT want to order any more sperm then you can use in a cycle unless you have a place to store it near your home. Remember that the containers only keep the sperm frozen at the ideal temperature for up to 3 weeks....after that all bets are off. Or you could have a party and the SSB will ship several different donors sperm in one container and you can share the cost.

I wanted to thank Gary Olsem for all of his time and Christina for answering my endless questions.

If any of my readers would like more information please contactGary Olsem
Seattle Sperm Bank LLC
4915 25th Avenue NE, Suite 204
Seattle WA 98105
Ph: (206) 588 1484
Fax: (206) 588 1485
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