How Do Genetics Impact Donor Screening?

When it comes to growing a family, recipients naturally want the best quality donor sperm they can find. It’s about more than just finding a donor whose traits match what they are looking for. Sure, that’s an important part of it, but genetics really ensure that a successful match will be made, while also minimizing the risk of complications in organ, tissue, and blood donations.

This process involves intricate genetic testing and matching to determine compatibility between donors and recipients. Here’s a bit more about what this process involves:

Assess Primary Genetic Factors

First thing to consider are the primary genetic factors, which include ethnicity, hair color and type, eye color, and basically every physical trait that you see on the surface. In the initial genetic screenings, this is what we assess.

Also, since these are the traits that people consider most strongly when looking for a donor, we always offer as much of these details as possible in our donor catalog. This is why we look for donors with a variety of different, physical characteristics. We want you to find exactly what you are looking for!

Autosomal Dominant Genetic Conditions

We also screen donors for Autosomal Dominant Genetic Conditions. If one of our potential donors has one of these conditions, we don’t accept these donors. This gives recipients peace of mind that they won’t be at risk for offspring having certain conditions. These include Huntington’s Disease, Marfan Syndrome, and Achondroplasia.

Autosomal Dominant Genetic Conditions are traits that can be passed down from parent to child. In these cases, a copy of a mutated, or changed gene from one parent can cause the condition. The child has a 50% chance of inheriting this gene and thus, the condition it causes. It is important to note that only one parent needs to have this trait.

Autosomal Recessive Genetic Conditions

We also test for 714 total Autosomal Recessive Genetic Conditions. In this case, both parents need to have the mutated gene for there to be a 25% of the condition appearing in the child.

Because the risks depend on whether both parents have the mutated gene, we don’t turn these donors away. Rather, we make this list available to recipients and encourage them to get their own genetic workup. Pending results of their genetic test, they can have peace of mind knowing that the donor sperm is okay for them.

Some Conditions We Test For

Congenital Anomalies

Also referred to as birth defects, congenital disorders, or congenital malformations, congenital anomalies occur during intrauterine life and can surface during pregnancy, birth, or even later in life. They vary in severity. Here are some examples:

  • Brain/spine: encephalocele, spina bifida, anencephaly
  • Eye: anopthalmia/micropthalmia
  • Heart: septal defect, coarctation, truncus arteriosus, double outlet ventricle, hypoplastic left heart syndrome, interrupted aortic arch, valve atresia or stenosis, Ebstein anomaly, single ventricle, tetralogy of fallot, transposition of arteries
  • Mouth/face: cleft lip or palate
  • GI tract: esophageal atresia or fistula, anal or intestinal atresia
  • Muscle/bone: clubfoot, diaphragmatic hernia, gastroschisis, limb defects, omphalocele


Multifactorial genetic disorders are conditions resulting from the combined influence of multiple genetic and environmental factors. Unlike single-gene disorders caused by mutations in a single gene, these disorders emerge from the interaction of several genes, often alongside lifestyle and environmental factors. Family history of these can increase their likelihood.

Here are some examples:

  • Autism spectrum disorders: (personal or 1st degree relative)
  • Intellectual disability: (personal or 1st degree)
  • Cerebral palsy: (personal) or 1st degree relative without perinatal anoxia
  • ADHD: case by case, consider severity, but recipients should be informed
  • Mental illness: bipolar, schizophrenia, schizoaffective, major depression
  • Medical conditions: requiring lifelong meds, frequent follow-up (diabetes, idiopathic epilepsy, severe hearing loss, vision loss, cardiac conduction abnormalities, asthma, glaucoma, severe hypertension, coronary artery disease, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, chronic kidney disease, cancer susceptibility, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, thyroid diseases, vitiligo)

As you can see, genetics do play a big role in donor screening. We look for certain traits and make that information available in our donor catalog, we turn away potential donors who have any Autosomal Dominant Genetic Conditions, and we test for Autosomal Recessive Genetic Conditions and make that list available. All of this is to make sure recipients have peace of mind as thy are growing their families.


Read More

Cultural Considerations for Using Donor Sperm

What Information is Included in Our Sperm Donor Profiles?

Balancing Incentives and Ethics in Sperm Bank Compensation

How to Select Donor Traits that Are Right for Your Family

Role of Counseling in the Sperm Donation Process

Role of Sperm Banks in Assisted Reproductive Technologies