If you want to have children ASAP and there's no Mr. Right in sight, how can you get pregnant on your own? You could ask a trusted friend to donate sperm, but unless he wants to be in the picture for the child's whole life, it could complicate matters for you, him, and the child (though many women have made this work). You certainly don't want to go out one night and try to "get lucky" -- this puts you at risk for STDs, including HIV, and you have no idea about the medical history of the individual. "The best, safest way to get pregnant on your own is to use donated sperm from a commercial sperm bank," says Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, in New York City.
While an anonymous donor may seem odd at first, you at least know you're getting sperm that has been screened for certain diseases and genetic abnormalities. "All of the 25 commercial sperm banks in the U.S. are regulated by the FDA and adhere to certain standards," says Donna Ridder, chair of the Reproductive Council for the American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB). This means donors from these banks have been screened for high-risk activities and tested for viruses like HIV and Hepatitis B and C; it also guarantees that the anonymous donor has provided a medical and family history. For an additional screening process, ask if a sperm bank has AATB accreditation. "Four sperm banks are accredited by the AATB, which means they adhere to yet another set of standards," says Ridder. For example, the AATB requires that donors provide a three-generation medical history, so you will know about any inherited diseases going back three generations.
The screening can also ensure that men who have a family history of certain conditions are disqualified from becoming donors -- if, for instance, their father or grandfather had a heart attack before age 40, or anyone in their family had a cleft palate. A good starting point? Getting a recommendation from your doctor or the fertility clinic you're working with. "Some fertility doctors and clinics prefer to only work with certain sperm banks whose criteria meets their standards or with whom they've had good pregnancy outcomes," says Ridder. Other things to look for: A low percentage of donor acceptance. "Anything above an acceptance rate of 10 percent would be a red flag," says Ridder. No matter how you go about making that baby, know that you're about to embark on an amazing journey.
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