Author: London Sperm Bank
Upon the very mention of the word ‘sperm bank’ there are many who might have a little giggle to themselves. Yet for all the amusing fantasies we conjure in our heads when hearing ‘sperm bank’, not many people have ventured inside and found out what one is really like!
Sperm banks are at the heart of sperm donation: a cause that actively helps many who are struggling to start their own families. Yet the banking of one’s ‘seed’ and the processes involved are not common knowledge to much of society, and because of their position in the shade of the public eye, sperm banks tend to paint a picture of uncomfortably clinical places; pristine white walled laboratories where scary scientists harvest your essence to further their experiments!
Okay, so maybe I watch a bit too much sci-fi, so my imagination tends to run a little wilder than most, but surely that’s not too far off right?
Speculation simply wasn’t good enough, so I went to Harley Street to visit the London Sperm Bank and see if I could get an insight into what the sperm bank and its staff get up to on a regular basis.
As I walked in, the staff at the London Sperm Bank were amused by my first impressions on entering the bank. I found that the white walls are actually painted all sorts of zany colours, there was a sofa, a television, and no scary scientists at all. It’s completely relaxed - a far cry from what I imagined.
Perhaps because of my obvious bewilderment, the lovely ladies at the LSB were more than happy to answer a few questions and enlighten me with information from their own experiences:
Me: This is all undiscovered ground for me, so please excuse the bluntness but: what do you guys get up to in here?
LSB Team: Well here at the front desk we take care of the donors themselves. We meet them, invite them to sit down, have a hot drink, and generally make themselves at home whilst we chat a little about the programme.
Me: Sounds lovely! And to think I even felt a little nervous when I came here – I’m not even donating!
LSB Team: Well nerves are quite common amongst the donors, so it’s good to be talkative and answer any questions they might ask – it helps put the nerves at ease. It’s important to us and the donor that they’re relaxed and comfortable with what they’ll be doing whilst they’re here.
Me: You know, I’ve always been curious to find out what the inside of a donation room is like. Any details you can spare?
LSB Team: Of course! We recently renovated all of the donation rooms so they now have TVs, DVDs and videos to help the guys along. It’s certainly a lot more interactive than magazines! We’re particularly proud of our Africa and Asia themed rooms; those are normally the donor’s favourites.
Me: It’s surprisingly creative down here, I must say. I’m certain the donors appreciate the update to their – how shall I say – ‘inspirational material’. But what about the donors themselves? Is there a stereotypical ‘sperm donor persona’ amongst the guys you’ve met?
LSB Team: Not particularly. We get guys from all walks of life coming through the door. Some are quite cocky and confident, but we think that’s to hide a bit of nerves. Other times you can get guys who are very honest about how nervous they are and some who are a bit shy about the whole thing. We’re used to all sorts of reactions though, so nobody should feel pressured or nervous – we don’t bite!
Me: Do their reactions change as they go through the process?
LSB Team: Almost certainly. Generally, the guys get a lot more relaxed around us after a while. As they progress through the programme their thoughts tend to switch from their own feelings to the feelings of the patients they’re helping, and the end result. For some, circumstances around donating can change. This is quite normal though, and we offer routine donor counselling for those who are feeling anxious around donating and their contribution in the bigger picture.
Me: That’s something I certainly didn’t consider. It’s good to know you offer support to everyone. But how does being at the sperm bank affect you? When you tell your friends you work here, what’s their reaction like?
LSB Team: Everyone is normally pretty surprised, but in a good way. Most of the time people like to crack a few jokes, but really they’re more interested in what our day-to-day is like, or if we have any stories - a bit like you I suppose!
Me: Very true! Do you have any amusing or bizarre experiences you can recall at LSB?
LSB Team: The thing that surprises everyone is how ordinary it is here. Although it was amusing when one time the fire alarm went off during opening hours. It was funny to see the staff and all the donors awkwardly stood outside together when we realised it was only a drill! At least they saw the funny side too.
Me: It sounds like you’ve built a great community here.
LSB Team: Yeah! It’s really amazing to see more people getting involved in the programme than ever before. It’s not just the number of donors that has increased, but the people coming forward have actually done their homework – they’re really aware of their responsibilities and why they are donating. You’d think such altruism would be rare these days, but it’s more common than ever.
Me: That must be a really satisfying feeling for you.
LSB Team: Don’t get us wrong, days are not always perfect, but when a call comes through from someone saying that they are due to give birth in a month or two; it makes it all worth it. Knowing you’ve helped create such happiness in someone else’s life is incredibly fulfilling.
I’m happy to say that my time spent at the London Sperm Bank has dismantled my preconceptions entirely. Personally, I think it’s great that sperm banks focus so greatly on the donors themselves; it makes sperm donation feel like a much more accessible avenue for men to legitimately explore.
My experience with the team at LSB has certainly got me thinking: is sperm donation something I would consider in the near future? For now at least, the veil on what goes on inside this sperm bank has been lifted, but if you’re curious about what it means to be a donor or want to know more about sperm donation in general, you can get more information and testimonials from donors themselves below.