Women increasingly going online to seek 'free' sperm donors
Published Thursday, December 12, 2013 10:00PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, December 12, 2013 10:51PM EST
When offering payment to sperm donors became illegal in Canada in 2004, fertility clinics saw a big drop in the number of men willing to offer their sperm for free. Canada's largest sperm bank, ReproMed, for example, now has only five Canadian donors left.
But while fewer donors are going to fertility clinics, it seems that hundreds of Canadian men have found a new way to offer their sperm: online.
One of these donors is “D.” He doesn't want his real name used but says he's happy to explain why he wants to help a woman have a baby.
D says when he hit age 45 after one marriage and a handful of failed relationships, he realized he had no prospects of having children with anyone soon. So he decided to become a sperm donor.
"People would say, 'You are out of your mind, forget about it. Get married. Have your own life and have your own children.' Well, I have been looking for a wife for the last 12 years and have been unsuccessful. So this is a different type of way for me to produce some children," he says.
It didn't take long for D to find websites designed for women seeking sperm donors. He posted his profile just a couple of months ago and has been contacted regularly since, mostly by lesbian couples seeking sperm, but also by single women. Married couples with male infertility issues are also using the sites to find sperm donors.
Such websites arrange either "AI" sperm donations -- meaning, artificial insemination -- or "NI" donations, meaning "natural insemination" -- or more bluntly, sex.
In AI situations, women seeking sperm typically meet the men in hotel rooms. The sperm donation is made into a cup in the washroom, which the woman then takes and inserts using a syringe.
Some of the men who offer their sperm want contact with any resulting offspring; others want no contact at all.
D says online sperm donations are the way of the future and are much simpler than going through sperm banks, with all their paperwork and privacy rules. And to him, the big advantage for women is they can avoid huge fees.
"People who have tried to get pregnant by the clinics, they are spending $15,000 or $20,000 and they get fed up. They go online for a guy like myself; we'll do it for free. And they get to meet the person and actually hug them," he says.
One sperm donor who wants to be known only by the name "Doug," says he prefers the online method because it also allows donors like himself to learn more about the women who might raise their children.
"I wanted more control over who was receiving (it). I wanted to make sure that this person or couple would make good parents. I've seen too many bad ones," he says.
Doug says he too worried that he might never become a father in the traditional way and wanted to help someone have a baby with his sperm to be able to have a part of him live on.
"I feel that I have good genes and can help someone else by passing them on. I would like to know that some part of me has continued into the future," he explains.
But some say that women are taking a big risk by meeting strangers online and meeting them in hotel rooms for sperm deposits. Medical experts such as Dr. Alfonso Del Valle, the medical director at ReproMed, say women are also taking a big risk with their health.
"The people who are looking online using donors without appropriate screening risk acquiring diseases that are potentially lethal -- infectious diseases that may risk the wellbeing of the recipients and perhaps the offspring as well," he says.
Health Canada has also issued warnings about using websites advertising the availability of semen.
"There are strict controls in place for obtaining donor semen to protect the health and safety of Canadians and minimize the potential risk of transmitting serious infectious diseases," they warn.
"…Regulations apply to the importation, processing and distribution of donor semen. They require that donor semen must be quarantined for a minimum of six months. Donors must be screened and tested before the donation and six months after, in order to minimize the risk of transmission of infectious diseases," they write.
Then there are the potential problems that can arise when men and women don't have clear understandings about how much contact the sperm donor will be expected to have with any resulting child.
One of the donors CTV News spoke with says he always ensures he has a legal contract drawn up so that he is not asked to provide child support later on. Other donors say they get tested for sexually-transmitted infections regularly and have the paperwork to prove it.
For D, all the worries are overblown.
"Of course sperm banks will try to discourage women from not doing it, saying it's not safe with, you know, crazy guys," he says. "(But) we are just some ordinary guys who want to have some children."
With a report from CTV medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip