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How to support a friend who is using a sperm donor

Thanks to modern science, people have numerous options to build their families. Using a sperm donor is one of those options, perfect for single women who want a family or for couples suffering male infertility. If your friend is one of the people using a sperm donor, there are a lot of things they have to go through before that positive pregnancy test and your support is something they need.

First, let me explain the mechanical process of sperm donation. Not every guy can walk into a sperm bank and deposit their swimmers. In fact, according to Stanford University (study), only about five percent of all applicants meet the criteria to donate sperm initially. Those who are accepted have to go through a rigorous health evaluation and family history documentation before they can donate. This ensures the couple or woman wanting a sperm donation gets the healthiest sperm out there.

For your friend searching for the perfect sperm donor, the process is somewhat similar. She or the couple sits down with the sperm bank to learn about the process for browsing and selecting a sperm donor. Legal issues will be discussed as well as the sperm bank’s policy for forms and documents for both the donor and receiving party. Lastly, they will go over the two forms of insemination, including:

  • Intracervical insemination (ICI) where the semen is placed inside the cervical opening and covers the cervix
  • Intrauterine insemination (IUI) where the semen is inserted through the cervix and placed directly into the uterine cavity

Those are simply the mechanics. Before your friend even walks into a sperm bank, she and/or her partner have a lot of things to reconcile with. If your friend is single, she will have to come to terms with the idea of raising a child on her own, something she probably had not imagined for herself growing up. She will also have worries about how the child will grow up without a father figure.

If your friend is part of a couple, there is much more to think about. There is a mourning period to realize they cannot have a child the traditional way, as well as coming to terms with the fact the child will not be biologically related to the father. They also have to decide if or how they should tell their child their chosen route to parenthood. Both the couple and the single woman have to understand there could be issues in the future with that child wanting to meet his or her donor father.

These fears are enough, but once you get into the sperm bank there are more. The price tag is hefty for sperm donation, not just for the sperm but also for the insemination procedure. The best chance of success rests in women who are 35 and younger without any fertility issues. When this is the case, the success rates can be as high as 60-80 percent. If these factors are not in play for your friend, her chance of success goes down and multiple cycles will most likely be required.

The emotional challenges of sperm donation is where your friend truly needs support. Be there to listen to their worries if they want to talk about the fears and uncertainties they face. If they don’t want to talk about it, be there to make them feel normal! Go out to lunch or see a movie to get their mind off their sperm donation journey.

The hardest part of this process is going to be the moment of the pregnancy test. If the test comes back negative, it is a disheartening moment. Not only does your friend not get to start the adventure of pregnancy, but she also has to pay for another round of insemination. The same with any loss, take your cues from how they are dealing with the news.

Being a supportive listener is the best thing you can do for your friend during this time, as well as any activities you can do with them to take their mind off the process. Understanding what they are going through is the key to being a good friend. Empathy goes a long way and often that is all your friend is looking for.

Bio: Nicole Witt is the creator of Beyond Infertility, a community support site and online magazine geared towards families who have gone through infertility. You can visit the website at She is also the owner of The Adoption Consultancy

Image: Dougal Waters/Getty Images

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