Shipping Sperm: How to Prep, Pack, and Ship the Donation

Shipping Sperm: How to Prep, Pack, and Ship the Donation
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This is meant to be a Step-by-Step description of how to prep and pack and then ship a sperm donation to a recipient in another city. Shipping is an effective method of sperm donation, though not quite as effective as fresh AI.  It's a good option for a recipient when good local donors aren't available, or if she prefers a donor who happens to be.

As strange as this method may sound, many KDR recipients have had success with this method, sometimes in just a few attempts.  So if you're having trouble finding a good local donor, then maybe this method is worth serious consideration.

Step 1: The Donation Kit

Donation kits are available from a few online companies, including:
Baby Dust Delivery 
Donor Home Delivery
Zavos Diagnostic Laboritories
Northwest Cryo


The kit shown in the photos is from Baby Dust, their Deluxe Donor Kit, which comes with 4 vials of TYB.

On the left is a stack of softcups and a syringe, which the recipient can use for inseminating when the shipped donation arrives. On the right is an ice pack to keep the donation cool, and some vials of TEST Yolk Buffer (TYB for short). Everything will be packed into the styrofoam shipping container at the back, which will keep the temperature low during the trip, so the sperm survive the trip ready to do their job.

This kit is meant to be used for up to four inseminations. The donor uses one TYB vial each time, and then ships the container overnight to the recipient. She inseminates, and then mails the empty container back to the donor for the next attempt, unless she succeeds and doesn't need to try again! Each time he ships, he pulls another TYB vial out of his freezer, and prepares the next donation with it.

Test Yolk Buffer

First let's talk about what you cannot do.  If you are thinking of taking sperm and putting it in a test tube to ship by itself, there is no chance of it arriving viable. Sperm will not live more than a few hours without a special sperm extender. 

The real secret to shipping sperm is the use of TYB, or Test Yolk Buffer.  TYB is a sperm extender that feeds the sperm a nutrient rich egg yolk that is actually an extraction from chicken eggs.  Normally, excretions within the woman's body during ovulation feeds the sperm a similar yolk-like substance, helping them survive and achieve the goal of fertilization.  This only occurs right before and during ovulation; during the rest of a woman's cycle her body is inhospitable to sperm and they die quickly.

The TYB also includes a low level antibiotic to prevent bacterial growth.  This antibiotic is usually Gentamicin, which some woman may have an allergic reaction to.

**Women who are allergic to drugs in the Penecillin famiily should always consult a physician before using shipped sperm, as they may have an allergic reaction to TYB

Here's a close-up of the TYB vials:

TYB vials

Step 2: Prepare the Donation

First, the donor puts a TYB vial into a cup of lukewarm water and lets it thaw out. That takes just a few minutes. While that's going on, he collects his sperm in a clean, dry container, such as a small glass jar. Next, he adds the TYB to the sperm, and gently swirls the mixture until it's combined. The last step is to carefully pour the mixture back into the vial, and screw the lid on tight.

Here is a vial filled with milk, so you get an idea of what the real thing would look like:

Full vial

Step 3: Pack the Kit

At this point, this description diverges a bit from the instructions in the babydust kit. Instead of wrapping the vial in a grocery bag, this method uses cut foam blocks, which provide better temperature control and better protection.

First, secure the vial in a foam ring. This is 1" thick foam layer cut by hand to fit the shipping container and the vial.

ship sperm

Next, add isolating layers of thinner foam (1/8" thick) above and below the vial.

ship sperm

The holes in the isolating layers allow cool air to move around the vial, to keep the temperature nice and stable, and the thin layers above and below the vial keep it from touching the ice packs directly, so there's no risk of the sperm freezing.

Here's the stack of cold packs (U-Line S-7361) and foam, ready to go into the shipping container:

packed kit

One ice pack above, and one below. And then into the container it goes:

packed kit

Almost done! Next Step is to put the lid on, and tape it shut:

packed kit

All set to ship!

Step 4: Ship It!

In order for Fedex to accept the package - it is live sperm after all - it needs to be in a clinical pak over-wrap. This is a special plastic bag with lots of warnings all over it.  Here's the container in the clinical pak:

clinic pack

The donor can now take the package to the local FedEx depot and ship it to the recipient. Often the recipient will have set up her own account with Fedex online, and will provide the account number to the donor to use (this way she is covering the cost of shipment).  

The sperm will last for at least 24 hours in the TYB, but it's best for the recipient to get her hands on the package as quickly as possible and inseminate right away.

Recipients who live in a big city can probably get Fedex delivery to their door in the morning, before 10:30am. Those who live in smaller towns or outside a city might not get delivery service until the afternoon, so for them it's best to pick up the package in the morning at a local Fedex depot and save a few hours of waiting. The donor can specify "hold at Fedex location" in the shipping paperwork, if he and the recipient have worked that out ahead of time.

Step 5: Insemination

When the recipient gets home (or someplace private) with the package, she's almost ready to do the insemination.

First, she opens the package and takes the vial out. It's still really cold, so the next step is to gently warm it up. Handle the vial carefully (those sperm have been on a long trip and they're cranky). Hold it in a hand, or under an arm or someplace warm until it's at body temperature, maybe 10 minutes or so.

Then the recipient pours the liquid into a clean, dry cup, and pulls it into the syringe from there. Next she lies down and very slowly inserts the liquid into herself, taking 10-15 seconds or so to empty the syringe.

At this point, if she's comfortable, the recipient can keep laying down for 30 minutes or so with her bum propped up on a pillow, or she can insert a softcup, which will keep the liquid inside her while she gets up and back to normal life.

There's a great description of how to do home insemination here: How To Inseminate At Home

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Even More Nervous Now!!!

This article is very helpful for a new recipient like myself. But now I am discouraged to do this. Sperm has to be sent over night and has to be used within 24 hours, which to me isn't long enough, but something I cannot change. I am just wondering what if I am not home to receive the package because I have a class or I go pick up the package and I am not in a place to lay down and inseminate myself?! I'm feeling discouraged now :(

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Great FAQ which I find myself referring recips to.

Couple more tips:

1. Wrap the outside of the styrofoam shipper with aluminium foil, shiny side facing out (this forms a radiative heat barrier), then brown parcel wrap (the keep the foil from getting torn).

2. This system doesn't use a water buffer. If you do use the standard water buffer that comes with the kit, you have to make sure water doesn't get into the vial. Put some cling wrap over the top before you screw on the lid.

3. Ambient temperatures will affect the temperature inside the shipper. You probably need the two ice packs to ship to Texas, you should be able to get buy with one small ice pack shipping in the winter. Too cold will kill sperm. Too hot will too. Keep it around 50F.

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(Updated: September 17, 2013)
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Preloaded syringe?

Excellent step by step instructions that really helps you visualize the process. This is the process and kit that I will be using with my recipients.

YVR I was just curious if anyone has considered the donor pre-loading the syringe before shipping. I have seen pre-loaded syringes that get shipped with a small removable plug that twists off. You would probably want to tape the plunger in place, but it would have the distinct advantage of eliminating air. This might mean less oxidative stress for the swimmers and maybe less trauma when the package is being thrown around by the shippers. Also cleaner and more convenient for the recipient.

Any thoughts?

-------Followup September 17
One of the systems that allows the syringe tips to be replaced is called the Luer lock, and there are plastic 10cc syringes with the Luer Lock system. It would be a matter of having the plug tip on for shipping and including the delivery tip for the recipient. I made the suggestion to and they are looking into it.

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Very Detailed

Me and my wife are doing the shipped method really soon in two weks with donor todd and this really help give us a visual of everything!! Thanks Great job:))))))

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Loved it!

This article is extremely helpful for both donors and recipients alike. GIves us a clear and simple idea of how the process works. And its straight to the point. Loved it!

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