Saturday, 15 August 2015

Picking the goods - Distributors & Banks

Once we decided we wanted to go with a bank, we had to make some further choices.

My blood test showed that I was CMV+, which means I was not restricted in by my donor's status (CMV+ means I can have either a positive or negative donor; if I was CMV- I would need to find a negative donor).

We also decided it was important that our child be able to contact his/her donor after age 18. Open ID sperm is slightly more expensive than non-open ID sperm and there is a smaller selection, but those appears to us to be the only downsides for a huge potential benefit. Aion is adopted and will have a much harder time finding her birth parents, should she choose to do so. This was part of our decision-making process. In addition, since we had the ability to give the child a choice later in life, we felt it was important not to make that choice for him/her.

Our clinic accepts shipments from only three sources: ReproMed, CanAmCryo, and Outreach. Confusingly, these are distributors rather than sperm banks. The distributors can ship sperm from a variety of banks.

The reason for this restriction is because of Health Canada restrictions. There is sperm out there that people in other countries can use, but clinics in Canada must use "Canadian Compliant" sperm. They get to regulate this because sperm falls under the purview of the Food and Drugs Act. Kinda funny, but it serves a good purpose. One of the requirements is that sperm must be stored for 180 days after collection, and then the donor must be tested again to ensure that he remains transmissible disease-free, because some infectious diseases can be found in bodily fluids long before a test would detect them. (This is one of the reasons we chose to go with a bank, as we discuss in an earlier post.) If you're a big nerd like me and interested in the requirements for Canadian Compliant sperm, check out this link.

We checked out all three distributors.

We did not find Outreach's homepage very user-friendly. There is a lot of text and the fact they call themselves a "health clinic" is confusing. Located in the middle of a line of links is one called 'donor listings'. Clicking on that leads you to this image:
We didn't have any prior knowledge of the particular banks so chose to 'Search ALL'. That leads to a list of Canadian Compliant donors that you can scroll through (10 or 20 at time from the current selection of 779 donors), search or filter based on bank, certain physical and genetic features, religion, CMV status and whether the donor is an 'Open ID' donor. Then you can click on the 'profile' to be directed to the bank's website where you are supposed to be able to obtain more information about the donor.

There was a script on the list page that my computer did not like. I got an annoying pop-up requesting that I make a choice about what to do about the script and the pages seemed to load very very slowly.

The information available about Outreach donors depends on the bank. CLI has a substantial amount of information available for free but one must pay for more extensive information such as photos. ESB has no additional information available without writing to Outreach and buying an extended profile. The FFX link leads you to the homepage for FairFax, a bank, where you have to re-search by donor number.

I found the Outreach interface to be clunky and frustrating. We did not spend very much time looking at the site.

ReproMed at least highlights its 'Sperm Bank' button in a different colour at the top of the page. Clicking on it and through the dropdown menu to 'Donor semen catalogues' leads you to a page with a list that looks similar to that from Outreach, but without the ability to filter or search. There were only 52 listings to scroll through on the one page. You can download a 'Donor Portfolio' for free or log in and purchase 90 days' access to the extended information for $67.80.

I was not impressed with ReproMed's lack of selection and found the information available in the donor profiles a bit limited. ReproMed's samples are the least expensive available though.

Finally, CanAm Cryo. It opens on a graphical search tool where you can search from among 349 current donors. It displays 20 listings per page in the same type of list as on the other sites. You can view a bit more extended information on the CanAm site than on Outreach, but similar to Outreach, you have to click through to the bank's site (and perhaps long in and pay) for more extensive inforamation.

I liked CanAm's user interface the best of the three. But I will admit: they are all AWFUL. I hate how the pictures are hidden and expensive. I hate how people are reduced to basic characteristics. I hate how the physical is emphasized way more than the personal/medical. I hate the lists and the four billion clicks. There are so many more and better ways of looking for sperm. I guess I expected something more like petfinder, or online dating, where the picture is important and so is the temperment information and it's not just a long page of text. I think an even better way of doing it would be to select the most important MEDICAL or TEMPERMENTAL items that concern you, then flip through photos tinder-style until you stop on someone you want to learn more about.

Eventually we ended up just searching on the Xytex (bank) site for Canadian-Compliant specimens, then ordered by number from CanAm Cryo. We liked the amount of information available on Xytex, and found a donor there that worked for us. It was also the most expensive choice we could have made. Typical for me.

  1. Create one or more fake email addresses to use for trial accounts. On Xytex one can view extended profiles for free for 24 hours on a new account. We have already made about 5 fake accounts.
  2. Think about how the physical features of the donor would interact with the genetics of the person providing the egg. I have a strong nose. We wanted to avoid donors with strong noses so the kid wouldn't have a comically embarassing nose. 
  3. Don't forget the lubrication. This is a creepy, weird process. It is partially genetic engineering (creepy with super-discriminatory undertones), partially traumatic (even though I'm not sleeping with them, I'm still learning an awful lot about these men and it's quite creepy particularly because they're all jailbait...), partially a really hard compromise (turns out Aion and I have really different taste in men!) and, I found, not even remotely fun. It took alcohol.
  4. Take your time. We had to do this over several weeks because we found it quite intense. Which leads to...
  5. Leave enough time for your order. My clinic wants the sperm to be at the clinic prior to Cycle Day 1. And it's not like you can just order online and they will ship the next day. They're pretty quick, but CanAm still needed to confirm availability, process my payment, confirm everything with me by phone, and then ship overnight. That took a few days.
  6. Have your payment ready. I didn't do the math in my head (clearly self-preservation) so when it came time to order I was not at all prepared to shell out the nearly $5K for my 5 samples. That was more money than I could put on my credit card all at once. CanAm says they take PayPal but I could not make that work. They don't take Debit or Debit VISA. And so when I finally arranged for an e-transfer from my bank, my bank stopped payment and called me, assuming the transaction was fraudulent. It made for a gongshow of a morning while I was trying to sort all that out, particularly because I didn't abide by tip #5 and was convinced that the delays would mean I would miss this cycle.
  7. Don't buy the extended profile or pictures until you are actually pregnant. I have not paid for any information about my donor yet. I will, for my child, if I get pregnant. But if I don't get pregnant with this sperm, I don't need overpriced pictures of some random dude.

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