Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Dear Diary,

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from the London Sperm Bank reminding me to come in weekly so it doesn't feel like I am "forever abstaining".

Too late, I started donating a few months ago and according to my count I'm just over one third of the way through the programme. A quick calculation suggests that I may be finished in November.  Oh no wait I have holidays too, so make that December.  Ugh.

The whole donor thing isn't as easy as the guys in my sports club think it is: they imagine I just lock myself in a room, browse some porn, orgasm and collect the money.  Then buy them all beer...  


The biggest impact being a donor has is on my solo-sex-life. I constantly have to think about scheduling: if I masturbate now what impact will this have on my going to the London Sperm Bank?  You see you don't have to abstain completely for the duration of the programme but it's a no-no for 72 hours before you come in to see the jar.  So if I want to visit the clinic on a Friday that means nothing on Wed or Thu.  And if I slip up and do something on a Wed, then I have to start again and essentially write that week off. 

Then there are all the tests.  First off you have to get past the initial screening (apparently only 1 in 10 do so).  Then you have STI screening and genetic blood tests done.  Then your DNA is sequenced to make sure you're not going to produce children with genetic malformations.  And I've just made an appointment with a doctor for a physical check-over and discussion of any family issues that may suggest my sperm would be undesirable.  And after all these checks they quarantine your produce for a year.  Just in case.  

So it's not all sunshine and fun.  It's definitely not something that should be entered into lightly: it impacts your daily life to a certain extent and then there's the fact that you're actually creating children who could come and ask you out for a beer in 18 years time to get to know you.

And yet it's all for a good cause, which makes it totally worthwhile.  Attached to the email I mentioned earlier were a series of thank you cards from mothers/parents, with photos of beautiful children that they wouldn't have been able to have without the (*cough*) hard work and dedication of donors like me.  Looking at those photos reminds me of the look my brother and his wife have on their faces when they look at their son.  Even writing that sentence I well up with happiness for my brother that they finally got the child they'd been trying so hard for, as I remember the pain they went through with miscarriages and the stacks of books with titles like 'Conceiving for Dummies' (I'm not sure if that actually exists but I would be willing to bet it does).  My brother even gave up booze for a year as his wife had read somewhere that it would strengthen up his little swimmers (you don't know my brother but he likes his booze so the fact that he gave it up shows how desperate he got).

In the end my brother managed to conceive naturally but I know other couples who haven't been able to.  Not to mention all the lesbian friends I have who don't have the “right” body parts to allow for natural fertilisation.

So yes being a donor interferes with my life a bit but the benefits outweigh the downsides.  I just need to think of the happiness I'll bring others by allowing them to have children.  And really when you think about it, is not masturbating for a few days that much of a pain?  It's certainly less of a bother than the marathon I'm running next year to raise funds for a blood cancer charity I'm also a donor with-26 miles of hell (plus all the training!) vs. abstaining for 72 hours prior to each donation.  Not really much of a comparison.

Meanwhile I need to figure out how I can schedule going to the clinic bi-weekly.  I'm sure my boss thinks I have something seriously wrong with me given the number of 'Doctor' appointments I have in my diary!

Post written by London Sperm Bank Donor 

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Be a hero, become a donor!

In the UK, there is a huge demand for donor sperm, and this has lead to some patients having to go on very long waiting lists.  The London Sperm Bank has grown to become one of the largest sperm banks in the UK and thanks to our donors we have successfully created 1,661 families through our parent clinic The London Women’s Clinic.

To our patients, donors are heroes because, without their help their beautiful family unit would not exist.  Sperm donation is a vital part of a long journey that some women must take in order to have a family.

At The London Sperm Bank we are pleased to have a growing number of men coming forward from a variety of different backgrounds.  Besides their desire to do something selfless and to help with the national shortage of sperm donors, these men tell us that they have chosen to come forward for a range of different reasons. Here are just a few:

  1. To pass on genes: Almost as an insurance policy, the knowledge that although not procreating themselves, genetic preservation seems like a satisfactory alternative.
  2. A safer alternative to co-parenting: As a HFEA licensed sperm bank we are governed and regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.  This means that issues such as legal parenthood of a child is safeguarded by the law, thus donors never have parental, legal or parental obligations.
  3. To put a smile on people’s faces: Some donors have been lucky to have procreated themselves and like the thought of giving someone else the joy they felt when they became a father.

There are many more reasons for becoming a donor, with each reason unique to the individual.  It makes the recruitment process all the more fun for us!

The initial process is fairly simple, fill out an enquiry form on our website or call us on 020 7563 4305 to register an interest.

The basic requirements for sperm donation are as follows:

  • Aged 18-41
  • Healthy and free from infection
  • A family history free of hereditary disease
  • Agree to make up to 25 donations over a period of 3-6 months

The initial screening tests to join the program will be completed within the first two visits to the clinic and consists of a semen analysis and a blood and urine test.  All visits to and from the clinic are reimbursed at £35 to cover any out of pocket expenses incurred. 

Pass on your genes and make this year the year you choose to be someone’s hero.  Make this year count.  

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Goodbye LSB. There will always be a piece of my heart devoted to you...

Hello. I'm not really one for engaging in more work than I have to, so I put this blog off for as long as I possibly could.  Although optional, in spite of myself I felt duty-bound to write something, because truth be told, donating sperm at the LSB has been one of the most enjoyable, ego-boosting, bizarre (in a good way) and hopefully worth-while things that I have done. And I'm proud to share that with the world.

As I write this, my last donation is already a week or two behind me. It was an emotional affair. Toyin and Natalie were just on their way out to Sainsbury's as I was coming down the stairs. "Oh hi!" they said, "we're just on our way out to Sainsbury's." I was dismayed. Not having Toyin or Natalie there for my last donation would be like not having your friends and family there to wave you goodbye as you prepare to launch into space! (by "there" I don't mean actually in the room with me, obviously). Trying to stop my bottom lip from quivering I replied, "Oh right... You know this is my last donation right?" The appreciation of what that meant was immediately apparent to them both, and they assured me that they would be very quick in procuring lunch and would make it back in time to say goodbye to me. That genuinely meant a lot to me, and I beamed. "Do you want anything from the shop?" Natalie asked me. "A Snickers maybe?" I replied meekly.

Toyin and Natalie and Amber (who I didn't see as much but who is also lovely) and the rest of the LSB staff (you know who you are) are all brilliant! They are affable, interesting, helpful, warm, generous (my Snickers is testament to that) well-informed professionals, and it is to them that I dedicate this blog. Do watch out for Toyin though, for as well as being all those things she is also bonkers.

My story is one of metamorphosis. When I entertained the idea of becoming a donor, after spying an advert for the London Sperm Bank on the tube, my motivation for wanting to get involved was at first puerile, then selfish. But as I began to understand more about how much of an impact my donations might have on people's lives, the puerility dropped away. In its place there slowly grew a belief that I was actually doing something really worthwhile. Something that could be of benefit to a stranger and help make their dream of bringing a life into this world a reality. It was and remains a warm, fuzzy feeling. I did for a while wrestle with thoughts and feelings that I was recklessly helping to bring more lives into this already over-populated world (yes, I am one of those people) but then I asked myself how many unwanted pregnancies and births there are in this country alone, every year, every month, every day. All the children created as a result of sperm donation are wanted, perhaps desperately, and will be loved, no doubt madly. What more is there to say?

On top of that, you get paid to do something that I've been doing for pleasure and at will for the past nineteen years or thereabouts. And it's also a massive ego-booster: I got told after my "interview donation" that only one in ten guys have what it takes to make the grade... Read this blog and weep boys. What else... it's incredibly educational and informative. For example, it wasn't until joining the program that I learned that the sperm you are producing at any given time is the result of whatever you were doing three months ago. Wow. And, best of all, at least for me, you get to pass on and ensure the survival of your genes. Without even having to take anyone out on a date! But seriously, I know that everyone's situation is different, and that people's motivations for wanting to donate will be different too but for me, that has probably been the biggest and best thing about it all. I'm 29 now and I'd love to have children of my own someday but in lots of ways that possibility has never seemed more improbable. To know that in all likelihood my sperm will be used to create a human being that is 50% me (on a purely genetic level) is simply unbelievable and incredible. I can't describe how happy it makes me feel. Totally selfish but there you go. It would be cool to meet some of these people that I've helped make someday...

So as you can see, from where I'm sitting it's all win-win-win. Now that it's over, there is a void. I was a donor for almost a year and in that year the LSB, its staff and the act of donating itself became part of the fabric of my life. It is nice to be able to masturbate whenever I want, with better porn, in less clinical surroundings but I will miss it all. Like I say, the people who work there are awesome. You get to masturbate. You get remuneration . You get to help create life. You get to help people. And when it's all done, you get a Snickers.

Thank you, and good night.

Blog entry written by a LSB donor,  Support Worker 

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Dear Diary....The Programme, from start to finish

As I prepare to conclude my participation in the programme, I thrust my mind back to the outset and the reasons I joined.  These thoughts summarise why I have to profess my pride in having run the course and hopefully helped some very willing and able parents to have a child/children of their own.  The benefits brought to many thousands of caring parents whom require fertility treatment must make the LSB’s programme both incredibly worthwhile and, in my own experience, very personally beneficial in finding out more about the people we are and the great gifts we possess.

Dear friends of my mother have recently had their first child, a beautiful daughter; counted as a great blessing which they had for years feared would never arrive.  They had exhausted a great deal of savings to attempt three cycles of fertility treatment.  Having seen their disaffection – though maintained desire – it brought home to me how lucky many of us are; to have full virility.  Quite saddening to me is the fact that many of us, either by choice, misfortune or orientation might never be in a position to have a child.   Educated friends, increasingly, do not want to bring children into the modern society; feeling a general dissuasion toward the world we live in.  Some are incredibly fertile but either have not the luck or the confidence to meet somebody.   Others simply are not inclined towards children, towards traditional conception and so forth. 

Personally, having a very faithful; thence fatalistic background, I had to search my conscience to find comfort in engaging in the programme.  Aspects of my religious upbringing make the process quite uncomfortable and therefore what I have done for the good of others does not conform to what I would say are the rubrics of my personal ethics.  Or, should I say, what were my personal ethics.  Fortunately for me, I have benefited from different educative schools and I took a utilitarian viewpoint when weighing-up the decision to donate.  I would describe myself as a straight, reasonably-conservative and old-fashioned, young man with traditional views on bringing children into the world: mother and father, 2.4 children, nice family home.   What I had to do; or more-so, decided to do – was to look at the situation objectively. 

The modern world allows us all to thoroughly enjoy our differences; in ethnicity, creed, culture and many other areas.  There are no longer the outmoded restrictions and discriminations regarding sexuality, gender, colour, physical ability and such.  So my mindset of the typical family is rather narrow; though I am proud of who I am – there are many other people who are incredibly capable of bringing-up children.  For instance, I have two girl-friends and two male friends whom are enjoying same-sex relationships, are brilliant with children, hold steady jobs and own their own properties.  There can be no right, objectively, to say that they are any less able to raise children than a heterosexual couple.  With a great deal of young people in this country falling pregnant in adolescence, latching-on to Government-backed support to raise their children; it can be no less socially acceptable to help those whom have the means to raise healthy and happy children.  Rather than turn this into an anthropological or socio-demographic debate (or any other highfalutin’ terminology one might seek to use) I shall shut away my full rationale and personal soul-searching regarding donation.  Needless to say, however, the crux of the matter is that the benefits to society as a whole must be seen to be good.

Having overcome my initial inhibitions, I have to say that I am greatly pleased with the decision to join the programme.  In my earnest opinion, there must be hundreds of thousands of men, in London alone, whom can painlessly (quite the opposite, rather) help innumerable potential parents.  The people whom utilise fertility treatments are both screened – rather scrutinised – and, more importantly, incredibly devoted to the notion of parenthood.   In our modern day, where genuine affection and love for other people appears less and less evident; this behaviour should be greatly encouraged.  

What grates at me a little is that the LSB programme is so logical.  Most men, since puberty, have somehow engaged in masturbation, often by desire; more pressingly by necessity.  This is a fact which is irrefutable and perhaps ought not be such a cause of shame as it often is for the young, particularly.  Irrespectively, the programme gives men an outlet for this, covers expenses and aids other people.  Therefore, this is the most enjoyable vocation any man is ever likely to find!  As such, you could sum-up the programme as a way of – genuinely – doing a huge service for other people, whilst taking care of a natural process and, perhaps, earning a little cash for the fun of it.

My final point is the personal mental and health and fitness benefits that the programme brings.  Going through the initial tests is a little bit of an ego boost.  Ascertaining virility can give the confidence a lift.  Then there are the tests; a little blood, some urine & a physical examination.  At the end of this, there is room to appreciate the lack of illness, disease, infection. 

The flipside of the tests is that it has decreased my desire to sleep-around; particularly to be far more careful in future.  Those of us on the programme are very fortunate and gambling that away in a game of chance with a stranger no longer appeals greatly.  Combining that with my aforementioned reasons of wanting to help those whom cannot have children, it really has given me an increased awareness not only of the great tool I have in my body; but also the genuine sanctity attached to raising children; and family love – irrespective of what the components are of that family.

This is not a deliberately persuasive piece for the LSB.  I am not a sycophant, perhaps an idealist; more-so a realist.  There are many people affected by fertility problems: many people have the ability to help these people via a simple process which costs nothing yet gives an awful lot to the donor.  Entered into for the right reasons, this is as rewarding to the donor as the recipient.

Article written by a London Sperm Bank Donor:  A Business Owner  living and working in London

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Dear Diary.....'Tis the end of an era....

"Wait, this can't be right.  This can't be your last donation..." but apparently it was.  

I felt a bit sad leaving the London Sperm Bank for the last time today.  The squeezing in of trips across London between client meetings; the regular abstinence; the planning around 'if I do something now then I'll not be able to donate on Friday dammit'. It had all become part of life and now it's over.

To celebrate the occasion I decided to upload a photo of my last donation in its BIOHAZARD bag to Facebook and tag it at the London Sperm Bank.  Then I adjusted the privacy settings to 'Close friends only' but quickly reverted that as almost everyone I'm friends with on Facebook knows what I've been getting up to.....

Looking back through my Facebook timeline I'm amazed at how much I've done in the six months I've been donating: I've changed jobs, become an uncle twice over, been to far too many parties, given up booze, been on 13 holidays visiting 22 cities and travelling over 30,000 miles, run over 1,000 KM and... donated ~80ml of ejaculate.

The donation part doesn't seem that impressive when compared to the other things in my life but when a friend just asked me if I was pleased I'd done it, it was very easy to reply with an affirmative.  It might not be as important saving lives, as I do by being a blood and stem cell donor, but the creation of life is almost there.  And I keep reminding myself of the adorable lesbian couple in the London Women's Clinic that I saw when I went for my medical check-up.

This probably won't be my last entry but for now it's good bye from me.
Blog written by a London Sperm Bank Donor working in the City.


Friday, 8 March 2013

Dear Diary......

When you donate at the London Sperm Bank there's a bit of paperwork that needs to be done before you get down to the deed.  On this paperwork are the results from all your previous donations, with column headings such as 'Post-thaw motility' and 'Post-thaw progression'.  Not knowing exactly what these are and being bored at work I decided to Google them...

As is the way with reading things on the 'net, I ended up going down a rabbit hole and my browser history was filled with too many titles with 'sperm' in it.  I had to clear it.

I did eventually learn all I needed to learn (and a bit more about bovine IVF) but it just raised more questions in my head.  Specifically: how on earth do you settle on a particular vial of sperm without taking it our for dinner, living with it for a few years and seeing it at its worst after a particularly heavy night out with the boys?

The London Sperm Bank (in association with the London Women's Clinic) was the first UK donation clinic to have an online brochure style website detailing the personal qualities of its sperm donors.  It details things like our hobbies, occupation and a lovely little blurb from Toyin on our personality.  And you can search by height, education, religion, etc. as well.  

This must be a huge step up from the completely anonymous profiles that people were previously presented with but given the difficulty I have in finding a partner on online dating websites, where I'm given a plethora of photos, stats and sales pitches, I still feel sorry for the people who have to choose based on this information!

The US sperm banks tackle this problem a different way.  Some of them advertise as only accepting donations from lawyers, bankers, doctors and other 'high grade professions'.  Others only accept donors from top-rated universities and from students in the top percentile of their classes.  Others brag that "less than 0.05 percent of the men that inquire about being a donor go on to become donors".  Plus rather than being anonymous some of the sperm banks are willing to sell you photos of a donor when he was a baby, as this is 'helpful for those who have concerns about how their child might look'.  Or how about a photo of the donor when he's an adult?  Sure thing buddy that'll be $$$!

This sounds awful!  I can just image some high powered business lady in NYC sitting in her immaculate suit and Big Hair trying to decide between Chad, the 6'4" blond ex-A&F-model-now-lawyer, or Brad, the 6'3" Wall St CEO with Amazing Teeth and ohmyjustlookathowcutehisbabyphotois...

It doesn't get any better with the Sperm Stats: I found a US discussion forum with women who are complaining that they're being offered sperm with only 80% post-thaw motility and with post-thaw sperm counts of only 45 million (which is significantly above what my searches suggest is a pre-freeze 'normal male').  But I suppose if you're demanding perfection, you expect perfect sperm too!  How else would you be able brag to your lady friends over lunch about the IVF you're going through: 'Oh that's nothing, my sperm was 99.999% motile and had a count of 1.7 BILLION!  Plus he's 8' tall and has an IQ in the top 0.0001% of the population! Mwahahaha'.

So maybe less is more when it comes to sperm donation.  Choosing a donor based on personality rather than looks and income is certainly much more hand-wavingly-British.  And anyway, the sperm is only half of the equation: there's still the egg to consider.

Post written by A London Sperm Bank Donor,  A City Professional

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Dear Diary......

Apparently the human brain ignores the majority of information it receives to prevent information overload. But once something becomes "important", suddenly there are brown cars everywhere you look.  I'm finding the same with being a sperm donor. I don't think fertility and other associated topics were ever really discussed around me. And now….well, everyone seemingly has a story.
I went to visit my brother and his family over the weekend. Over dinner my sister-in-law piped up with "M and S are pregnant".

"Oh that's great!" I gushed, "They’ve been trying for years right? Glad it finally happened - they'll be amazing parents".

Now it turns out that in fact they hadn’t been trying for years and that was just something they'd been telling my mum to keep her off their backs. We'd all just accepted the lie and assumed that M had chemically castrated himself through over use of hair removal cream in places it shouldn't be used...

However, it wasn't all good news: "Poor A and M are still trying though. It's been two years now and they haven't had any luck."

It transpires that A and M had been tested, and are independently fertile and on that basis should be able to conceive.  But apparently some people aren't compatible (immune responses or somewhat) and no matter how much they try things just aren't going to work out.  They've seemingly tried everything; A has even given up wheat (and beer) as it was suggested that it may help but to no avail.

This was new to me.  My running list of Reasons People Need Sperm Donors included things like lesbian couples, single women, cancer, etc but at no point did I think that two people who are supposedly in full working order would need a third party to step in.  And it's sounding likely that they are indeed going to involve a donor.

So my weekend away with my brother and his family ended up not only being a wonderful weekend, but also reasserting once more that I was doing a good thing by donating. And if A and M do end up using a donor I'll be looking very closely at their child to check for similarities...

Blog entry written by a current Sperm Donor  and IT Consultant in  the city 

Friday, 4 January 2013

A Sperm Party?

Masturbation is normally a solitary activity, unless you're gay or have an understanding girlfriend. But not tonight...

I'm on the tube on the way home from the first ever London Sperm Bank donor Christmas party and, I feel, it was a huge success. Hangovers not withstanding of course! There was a large turnout of both donors and London Sperm Bank & London Women's Clinic staff at a pub local to the LSB, and it ran well over its allotted time, with Toyin leaving a group of 'hard core' donors and staff behind when she headed "home". 

Being a sperm donor was a solitary activity until tonight.  Sure I met Toyin, Natalie and, occasionally, Amber, but it generally didn't involve any other donors.  So it was nice to meet others who have been, or are going through, the process, each of whom has their own reason for becoming a donor and who has their own story to tell about their donation journey. 

All in all tonight was enjoyable: I had a few beers, chatted to quite a few people and had the obligatory junk food dinner on the way home.  But as with all of my previous trips to do donations, I came away from the experience with my mind whiring.  Talking to the donors was interesting but really their stories were variations of my own.  The staff, however, were fascinating.

All of the staff were interesting, from their funny stories about donors, to the reasons why they did their jobs.  But I found chatting to a lady whose job it is to help the recipients of our donations through the process the most interesting.  She turned up late, complained about having to catch up with the others, and then proceeded to tell me, over the better part of a bottle of wine, about the lives of the ladies (and couples) who we donors help to enrich.

I wrote before about a lesbian couple I stalked through the halls of the London Women's Clinic, and how great I felt about how some day a similar couple would be recipients of one of my donations.  And what this lady, between mouthfuls of wine, told me once again validated this feeling: from stories of same sex couples who've deliberated long and hard about wanting to accept donor sperm, to straight couples who have tried everything else, to single women who, for whatever reason, don't have a partner and need the help of a donor.

People of all walks of life need the help of sperm donors and it's a wonderful feeling to know I'll be helping them.

The feeling of community tonight was overwhelming: lab staff recognised donors; Toyin announced everyone as they arrived (by name not by donor number); there were hugs; jokes about Natalie having to inspect the provided LSB porn; discussions of where people were going on holiday; etc.  It was like a work Christmas party, but with people who have given up their time to enrich the lives of others, rather than staff bitching about their boss and complaining about the drinks budget.

And a highlight was a donor being told that there'd been confirmation today that he'd had a live birth of twins: everyone gave him a cheer and he left the pub with a huge smile on his face.

That'll be me soon hopefully.  Meanwhile I have the warm glow of knowing I'm helping others.  Well, maybe once the hangover has gone.

Written by a London Sperm Bank Donor