NEW ORLEANS — There aren’t enough sperm donors of diverse backgrounds for diverse recipients, and the racial breakdown of donors doesn’t match the U.S. male population as a whole, an analysis of sperm banks showed.
Asian and biracial men are overrepresented in sperm banks, while Black and Hispanic men are underrepresented, reported Cassie Hobbs, MD, of the Women & Infants Hospital and the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, during a poster presentation at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine annual meeting.
In total, Hobbs and colleagues analyzed data from 1,503 sperm donors from 18 different sperm banks, and found the following:
- Asian people make up 5.9% of the U.S. population, but 18.6% of sperm donors and 10.2% of sperm donor recipients
- Black people: 11.3% of population, 2.8% of sperm donors, 13.0% of sperm donor recipients
- Hispanic: 17.4% of population, 5.9% of sperm donors, 7.0% of sperm donor recipients
- Two or more races: 1.4% of population, 11.6% of sperm donors, 1.7% of sperm donor recipients
- White: 63.1% of population, 61.0% of sperm donors, 67.7% of sperm donor recipients
“People who identify as racial or ethnic minorities, they often describe having a difficult time finding sperm donors that are concordant with their races,” Hobbs said, adding that this inspired her to investigate further.
“We need either targeted recruitment or some type of education, so that we can decrease this disparity and really make third-party reproduction accessible and equitable for all,” she added.
Torie Plowden, MD, MPH, a reproductive endocrinology and fertility physician who moderated the session, told MedPage Today that the data Hobbs presented weren’t necessarily surprising, but were “consistent with what we’re seeing in our patients and what we know.”
“It’s important to do more research and try to understand … how this is [and] why this is, and what we can do to help improve it,” she said.
Co-moderator Ariel Dunn, MD, also a reproductive endocrinology and fertility physician, noted that “it’s a common problem when I’m talking to patients about looking for a donor. It just takes them a longer time to find what they’re looking for, and it’s often Black patients that are wanting a Black donor. If you don’t have as many people to choose from, it can be more difficult to find what you’re looking for.”
Dunn said that she’s had patients who were on years-long waiting lists for donor sperm and eggs. And when intended parents are looking for embryos, which require both donor sperm and egg, the line is even longer.
Hobbs said that more research should look into the motivators and barriers to Black sperm donation. In a Q&A session after her presentation, an audience member asked what types of outreach might help build a larger network of Black sperm donors, to which Hobbs suggested a few strategies: educating Black men about what is and isn’t expected in sperm donation, such as parental rights, as well as outreach in Black spaces, such as historically Black colleges and universities and religious spaces.
For this analysis, Hobbs and colleagues searched “donor sperm bank” and “donor sperm” to find publicly available sperm donor data. She used data from January 2018 through December 2020 from the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology Clinic Outcome Reporting System. Data on adult men in the U.S. came from the Current Population Study (CPS) from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Of the 1,503 sperm donors, median age was 26, median body mass index was 24.3, and a majority had brown hair, black or brown eyes, and a medium or olive skin tone.
Hobbs reported no conflicts of interest. One co-author reported textbook royalties from Springer.
American Society for Reproductive Medicine
Source Reference: Hobbs C, et al “Desperate for donors: An investigation of the racial and ethnic disparities among donor sperm banks in the US” ASRM 2023; P-373.