How to pick a sperm donor

How to Pick a Sperm Donor

If you’ve decided to move forward as a single mom by choice, a lesbian couple or otherwise in need of a sperm donor, there comes a time when you need to pick a sperm donor. For most people they’ve never done anything like it. You’re choosing the person to provide half the genetic material for your kid but faced with a process that can feel weirdly similar to online dating, but for the fact you may never meet this person at all.

If you find yourself sitting in front of your computer, completely overwhelmed and unsure where to start, you are definitely not alone.

That’s why I created this 7-step process to guide you in how to pick a sperm donor. Aside from choosing 2 sperm donors and 1 egg donor throughout my journey to motherhood I’ve helped lots of women pick their donors. I’ve taken everything I’ve learned and synthesized it into this process for you.

Now you don’t have to stay stuck swirling around, wondering how to begin. Follow the steps below and take control of the process.And, I’ve turned this process into a downloadable worksheet. Check it out at the bottom of this post.

Step 1: Clarify Priorities

The first step is to clarify your priorities. If you aren’t clear about what’s important to you in a sperm donor, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of profiles. I’m going to tell you health is your number one priority. After that, it’s up to you.

Then you need to think about what else is important to you such as minimum height, age, eye color, educational background, particular interests, intelligence etc.

My best advice is not to second guess yourself or start to feel guilty about what emerges as your criteria.

Step 2: Carry out Preliminary Search

Now that you have an idea of your priorities, it’s time to do an initial search. As you go through profiles, favorite ones that are intriguing. There’s usually a way to add donors to a “favorites” list. At this point, be generous by tagging a wide range of donors. It’s OK to go on first impressions and dive deeper into the profiles later.

Step 3: Screen for Good Health

At this point, I recommend doing a screen for health conditions. Look only at the family history, genetic testing and other health information, and cut any one who has concerning health issues in their history.

In particular, be on the lookout for patterns. For example, if an uncle, grandfather and brother all had some kind of heart issue, rule the donor out. Look at the ages that illnesses manifested. If a grandfather died of a heart attack at 90 it may be less concerning than a heart attack at 60 or 70.

Be brutal. Don’t get distracted by the other details of the donors. Keep it simple–an unemotional screen for health concerns.

Check out the genetic testing results and don’t be afraid to call the clinic to ask them to explain the results. If you are a carrier for anything, make sure you examine the genetic reports and ask the clinic to help you interpret if necessary.

Step 4: Rank Your Options

This can be when it starts getting fun. Rank your donors in order of preference.

It may feel difficult but the process of ranking forces you to hone in on factors that you can’t keep straight in your head. You have to make judgement calls that stimulate the more unconscious aspects of your brain.

I recommend at least a top five list but at this point you could rank every single donor in your favorites. Or rank the top five and then leave a pool of the remainders.

Step 5: Design Your Unique Methodology

In a previous article I outlined the main approaches people use when picking a sperm donor. Now’s the time to figure out what works for you. I’d think about combining one to two methods from the options laid out below.

1. Spreadsheet maker: Do you love pros and cons? Can you manipulate an Excel spreadsheet in your sleep? Do you like to have all the relevant details laid out on a single page? If so, you might consider making a spreadsheet (if you haven’t already). Play around with the variables and see what resonates.

2. It takes a village: Do you consult your friends and family on major decisions? If so, you can have a lot of fun with this. There are so many ways to involve friends and family in this decision.

Throw a “pick a donor party”–go all out with white boards and Post-its. Ask everyone to present a donor and vote on their favorite or debate them endlessly. Order some yummy food and open some wine.

Many women who’ve done this talk about how incredibly fun and affirming this was for them. It can make you feel supported in this sometimes very lonely process.

I did a much more low-tech version of this by sending many of my closest friends my top three donors (though I did not reveal the ranking) and asking them to rank theirs as well. I was blown away that almost everyone chose the same top two donors as me.

3. Enlist an expert: Do you work best when you have a sounding board to bounce ideas off of? Does it help to have someone reflect back to you what they’re hearing you say? Would you like someone else’s advice but don’t want to call on friends for this intimate decision?

If these sound like you, you might consider using an expert to help you pick a sperm donor. I regularly help women choose their donors and would love to help. You can also check with a therapist that specializes in these conversations to see if they’d be willing to help.

4. Gut instinct: Some people can “feel it in their bones” or notice when something “makes their heart sing.” All of these are expressions about using your gut instinct to tune into the best decision for you.

Many people value the rational mind over the gut instinct. But in actuality, the mind can only keep track of a few variables at a time. When you’re trying to mull over tons of variables that are hard to keep track of, your gut instinct is better at processing the multiple factors and spitting out an overall feeling.

If you know you make some of your best decisions this way, make sure you leave some space for this process. I find that my gut can be heard over the din of my mind’s chatter when I make a concerted effort to relax, connect with nature, meditate or something of that sort.

5. Woo woo: This approach isn’t for everyone. But if it is, you might feel very strongly about incorporating this into your process– though it can look different for everyone.

This approach taps into the metaphysical, spiritual, kind of “out there” idea. Some people feel they need to invite in or attract the spirit of their baby and that doing so will help them find the right donor. Others may feel called to pray for guidance or consult a psychic or medium. Don’t be afraid to call on whatever has helped you in past decisions or feels appropriate for you.

Which of these methods calls to you? What process would you like to use to narrow down your list of donors?

Step: 5 Look for Resonance

By now you may have it narrowed down to two to three donors. This step is a hard one to measure but using your gut can help you narrow down those final few options. Some people refer to this as “resonance” or the “stickiness” of the donor.

Remember, if you were doing this the old fashioned way, you might be in love with the person providing half the genes to your child. It would be someone you were drawn to on many levels. Some believe that tuning into this quality can help choose a donor that has a higher chance of getting you pregnant.

Bearing that in mind, which donor resonates with you most? Some ways to tap into this are to ask if you feel like you could date the donor. Is this someone you’d be attracted to? Or is there an overall sense of “yes” or “no” when you listen with your heart to the profile? Is there one donor who just feels simple or correct?

Step 6: Ask “What Will My Child Think?”

This step is arguably the most important. It should help you confirm the donor you’ve chosen as the right one or narrow your options down to the final choice. When picking a sperm donor, it’s easy to get bogged down in the details that you can’t see straight. It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture–that you’re choosing the man to provide half the genetics of your child, and that your child is going to be curious about this person.

Research has shown that being open and honest about donor origins with your child from the time they are very young, serves your child and minimizes any emotional pain that may come from finding out about their situation late in life. Using an open ID donor who is open to contact with your child once they reach the age of 18 will allow your kid to have some form of contact with their donor, but,no matter what, your child is going to be curious.

So take a moment to ask :

  1. Is anything in the profile too flippant, ingenuine, or otherwise a turn off?
  2. Will you feel proud showing your child the profile?
  3. Do you think the donor will be genuine or a nice guy when your child potentially meets him in the future?

Step 7: Circle Back Through Steps 1-6 As Necessary

Make sure you circle back through the various steps as needed. Once you start actually looking at profiles, your priorities may change so it’s ok to revisit the list of important traits and revamp. And, continuing to rank and re-rank will help you make tough decisions and rule out donors. Or, you may decide you do want to ask friends for their opinions, even though you were initially against it.


Remember throughout the process to be kind to yourself. Picking a sperm donor, no matter what the circumstances, can be difficult, stirring up lots of emotions. Allow yourself to honor those emotions, while also moving forward to pick your donor.

I can tell you from experience that I stressed horribly about picking a donor. It felt like the single most important decision of my life. But now that my son is here, the donor has faded into the background. I have an amazing kid that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I know I got exactly the kid I was meant to have. And everyone I’ve ever talked to who’s picked a donor, says exactly the same thing.

If you’re still stuck on which sperm bank to choose, make sure you download my guide to picking a sperm donor which can be found at the bottom of this page.

If you’re still having trouble narrowing down donors, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. For a limited time, I’m offering two-90 minute sessions for $197. I love to help women pick their sperm donors or sperm banks. I can provide a neutral voice to reflect back what I hear you saying, keep track of details that slipped your attention, and help you clarify what’s important to you. Sometimes you just need to talk it out over and over again, and I’m happy to listen.