The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Only 4 percent of men who want to give sperm actually do

(Elizabeth von Oehsen/The Washington Post, iStock)

Just 4 percent of men who indicate interest in becoming sperm donors typically complete the application process and have sperm samples approved for use in medically assisted reproduction, according to research published in the journal Human Reproduction.

The finding came from an analysis of the donor application process for 11,712 men from the United States and Denmark who had applied to a large international sperm bank.

Fifty-five percent were eliminated early on because they did not return questionnaires, missed appointments or withdrew their application. Others rejected included 17 percent for health reasons (such as infectious or genetic diseases), 12 percent for failing a lifestyle screening and 12 percent for poor sperm quality.

The researchers also found that roughly 40 percent of donor applicants agreed to make their identities available to any children born from their donations. In the United Kingdom, anonymous sperm donation is illegal.

In the United States, Colorado passed such a law last year, which will take effect in 2025. But no other state so far has banned anonymous sperm (or egg) donations. Since 2005, the Food and Drug Administration has banned most gay men from donating sperm, a policy that the agency says is designed to reduce the risk for transmitting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

The use of medically assisted reproductive technology to treat infertility issues has more than doubled in the past decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with in vitro fertilization being the most common.

This article is part of The Post’s “Big Number” series, which takes a brief look at the statistical aspect of health issues. Additional information and relevant research are available through the hyperlinks.

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