Why is the minimum height to donate sperm 5'10?

Most sperm banks have a minimum height requirement of 5’10”, though some have a slightly lower cutoff of 5’9”. And no, it’s not because donors under 5’10” are short-sighted. You might be surprised to learn that the majority of sperm banks use artificial insemination (AI), or artificial insemination with donor sperm (AID), as opposed to in vitro fertilization (IVF). In IVF, sperm is directly injected into an egg. In AI/AID, a sperm sample is placed into a woman’s uterus (through her cervix) with the hope that it will swim up to her eggs and fertilize them.

In order to do its job effectively, sperm has to be able to travel through a woman’s body. And unfortunately, shorter people’s sperm tends to swim more slowly than taller people’s sperm. That’s why sperm banks are looking at height as a potential proxy for swimming speed. In other words, they’re using height to predict how well a donor’s sperm will perform.

Topic Index
  1. What is a sperm bank and how do they choose donors?
  2. How are potential donors screened?
  3. Why is the minimum weight to donate sperm 145 lbs?
  4. Who can become a sperm donor?
  5. Should you still donate if you don’t meet the requirements?

What is a sperm bank and how do they choose donors?

A sperm bank is a facility that collects, processes, and stores sperm for artificial insemination or IVF. They screen donors for health reasons, as well as for their racial and ethnic backgrounds, and their genetic traits. Sperm banks want to make sure their specimens are a good match for the people who will use the sperm.

When you’re applying to become a donor, the facility will ask you a number of questions about your health and family history. They’re looking for medical conditions that could be passed on to offspring as well as genetic mutations (especially ones that are rare). They’ll also test your semen to make sure it’s of good quality.

How are potential donors screened?

Blood tests: Potential donors are required to submit blood samples for a host of diseases. Most importantly, donors are screened for HIV, hepatitis B and C, syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia.

Medical history and family history: Sperm banks want to know your medical history: any major illnesses, surgeries, or significant injuries, as well as any prescriptions you’re currently taking. They also want to know about your family history. They don’t want any genetic diseases showing up in their specimens.

Why is the minimum weight to donate sperm 145 lbs?

If there was a single measurement that could predict swimming speed, it would be the donor’s body weight. But sperm banks aren’t looking at weight per se. They’re looking at Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. Sperm banks want donors with a lower BMI because overweight men tend to have poorer sperm quality.

To be clear, the minimum weight requirement is not a fat shaming campaign. It’s a screening tool to select for donors with less body fat, which tends to produce better sperm quality.

Who can become a sperm donor?

If you meet the above criteria and you’re ready to get screened, there are a couple more things you should know. First, you must be between the ages of 18 and 39. After 40, a man’s sperm quality tends to decline. And second, you must be willing to provide samples anonymously. This means that you cannot retain any control over how your sperm is used. Your samples will be sent to a sperm bank and then they’ll be distributed to couples who request your genetic information.

Keep in mind that the screening process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, so be prepared to wait. And it’s a good idea to keep up with all of your physical check-ups, especially if you’re being screened for blood-borne diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B and C, syphilis, and gonorrhea.

Should you still donate if you don’t meet the requirements?

If you’re short (or shortish), or overweight, or if you have any genetic mutations, the answer is yes. You can still help couples conceive — even if you don’t meet the sperm bank’s requirements. Many sperm banks have a “general” category for donors who don’t meet their specific guidelines. These donors are often paid less, but they’re still very much in demand.

That said, if you do have a particularly rare mutation, you might want to steer clear of the general categories. You don’t want to accidentally pass on a genetic mutation that affects a large number of people. Whether you meet the sperm bank’s requirements or not, you should always discuss your decision to be a donor with your partner.

Being a sperm donor is an amazing act of selflessness. It involves a lot of sacrifice and very little benefit to the donor. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the requirements before taking the plunge.

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