By Dylan Stone-Miller

Donating sperm can help individuals and couples fulfill their dreams of having a family. But before deciding to donate, it is important to ask the right questions to ensure that your contributions are used ethically and in accordance with your expectations. Here are critical issues to consider and questions you should ask the sperm bank before agreeing to donate.

What is the family limit and how do you monitor it?

In contrast with other countries, the United States does not regulate the number of families that can be established using a single sperm bank donor. This lack of regulation raises concerns about the creation of large sibling groups (think 25, 50, 100, 200, or more offspring) as the result of many families using the same donor. 

Without guidance, you might unknowingly sign a contract with the sperm bank that leads to more biological children than you intended or envisioned. Large sibling groups from the same donor can be emotionally overwhelming for both donor conceived people and for donors.

It is essential to inquire about the sperm bank’s family limit policies and how the policy is enforced, especially because some banks do not require parents to report live births.

What countries do you distribute sperm to?

Many sperm banks operate internationally, meaning your genetic material could be used by families in multiple countries. Before donating, you should inquire about the geographical distribution of your sperm. Additionally, you should ask whether the sperm bank’s family limit (see above) applies worldwide or whether they have a different family limit per country.

Should you decide to embrace your role as a donor and meet the donor conceived people who reach out to you in the future, having many families established in different countries can greatly complicate the logistics of these connections.

What are my responsibilities to the donor conceived children?

While there are no legal or financial responsibilities for sperm donors who donate through sperm banks, it is valuable to understand the expectations of donor conceived individuals. Many donor conceived people seek some form of contact or relationship with their parents’ donor, who is the donor conceived person’s genetic parent. 

It is important to understand that anonymity is no longer realistic or truly possible, and all donors should expect that they will be identified at some point, whether when the donor conceived person turns 18 or even before. Thus, knowing what your donor conceived offspring might expect of you can help you make a more informed decision about donating. Refer to the We Are Donor Conceived 2020 Survey to learn more.

You should ask the sperm bank what information will be released to the donor conceived person and their family, when that information will be released, how it will be released, and whether the bank facilitates contact.

What resources, education, and counseling do you provide for donors and prospective parents?

Ask the sperm bank what resources and education are provided for donors and for prospective parents. Both donors and prospective parents should be required to meet with a qualified mental health professional who can ensure that all parties have the appropriate motivations, expectations, and an understanding of the long term implications of third-party gamete donations.

Donors should also keep in mind that in the United States, unlike in adoption, there is no mandated screening process for prospective parents through third-party gamete donation. Discovering that a child born from your donation is or was in an unsafe home could be incredibly distressing. 

What are the specific ASRM guidelines you follow?

While the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) establishes non-binding guidelines that many sperm banks claim to follow, research by U.S. Donor Conceived Council in 2022 shows that many banks fail to comply with the guidelines.

It is essential to seek clarification from the sperm bank regarding the specific guidelines they do and do not follow.

How can I ensure families have access to my updated medical history?

It is important for a sperm bank to have a streamlined process for updating your medical history so that any relevant health information can easily be passed on to the families and donor conceived individuals. This is crucial for the ongoing health and well-being of the children born from your donations, particularly as you age and more hereditary health concerns arise. Without access to updated medical history, donor conceived individuals could face delayed diagnoses in emergencies, potentially endangering their lives. 

While the sperm bank may tell you they make it easy to report updated health information, they are financially incentivized not to have you report any health concerns, and many have historically made it an hours-, days-, or weeks-long process just for a donor to report a health concern. Consult with former donors about the process, or seek other online tools to ensure your updated health information reaches your biological children and their families. 


When posing these questions to the sperm bank, consider that they may have practiced responses, often designed to reassure donors while glossing over complex ethical issues. It’s advisable to seek information from experts who are employed outside of the sperm bank to obtain a more balanced perspective. 

Donors should be fully informed of the potential long-term implications of their donations, both for themselves and the people born as a result. By asking the right questions, you can help ensure that your decision to donate is made with a clear understanding of the ethical and moral landscape and of your own personal beliefs and expectations.

Dylan Stone-Miller is a former sperm donor and a software engineer. He serves as the director of sperm donor resources and content for USDCC. Since the recipient parents of his genetic material found him online, Dylan has traveled the world to connect with them and their children.

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