Using a Sperm Bank Long Distance – Know What to Expect

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Written By Jess

Queer & Trans Parent Advocate | Blogger | Community Host

This blog post covers what to expect when using a sperm bank long distance. It also provides a view into the monthly cycle of trying-to-conceive.

But I’ll start with a personal tale.

Story – Getting Sperm Delivered by Mail

It wasn’t everyday that I got sperm delivered in the mail.

The UPS truck barrelled down a winding country road. The kind of rural road with no paint on it to show the lanes. Which was fine as far as this truck was concerned – it wasn’t staying in any lanes.

It turned after a cattle farm, and flew up the hill past a tiny old Baptist church.

I could hear the truck coming up the road. I was expecting this delivery. And hoping that it would arrive before I left for work in the afternoon.

I went outside to meet the driver. It was always the same driver. And she always drove entirely too fast.

She bounced out of the truck, clipboard in hand. 

“Now you know I’ve got questions,” she said.

That stopped me in my tracks. I was not prepared for questions. 

“Oh?”, I managed to say, as innocently as possible. 

This was the first time that I had received sperm by mail. 

I had assumed there would be some discretion about the sender. 

I was wrong about that.

From the passenger side, a man (a driver in training, I suppose) who looked very uncomfortable climbed down from the cab and came around to the back of the truck.

He lifted the back door, revealing a mountain of boxes. And sticking out like a bright sore thumb, what looked like a miniature Dalek.

Yes, I mean like a Dalek from Doctor Who.

That was my package.

The driver approached me with the clipboard. And I could clearly see “The Sperm Bank of California” on the delivery slip.

Time stood still.

I really wasn’t sure of my best move. 

I just wanted the mini Dalek safely inside my house.

Then I could rest my conscience that it had arrived, and go to work.

So I waited.

She took a deep breath, gazing at the surrounding farmland.

“Now, I’ve gotta know – just how many cows is this for?” 


After I brought the mini Dalek inside and spent a couple minutes just staring at it. I moved it to the bedroom and draped it with a sarong. 

It came with an envelope containing paperwork. Included was confirmation of what was in the tank: the number of vials, the donor number and motility counts. Plus info on additional ordering. And tips for at home insemination.

Deep breath in. Deep breath out.

This was the beginning of the window of possibility.

This sperm would be used for a self insemination (at home insemination), aka ICI. I wrote this guide on that whole process.


What to Expect When Shipping Sperm Long Distance

Ok, story time is over. Now let’s dive into what to know when using a sperm bank long distance.

When sperm is shipped from a sperm bank, the frozen vials are stored in a special tank. The tank is filled with liquid nitrogen. That keeps the vials frozen for at least a full week. Which is really useful if you are purchasing sperm from across the country.

It’s also useful if you have a general window of when you will try to conceive, but won’t have the exact date until it literally is “the time”. Which is how it goes if you aren’t using fertility drugs to affect cycle changes.

The nitrogen tank itself needs to be protected before it’s transported vast distances. The tank goes inside of another container (the one that looks like a Dalek), which protects it from bumps and scuffs during shipping.

**It always felt a little sci-fi to me to open up the strange containers. But it’s the best way to protect those teeny tiny swimmers on their long journey.

What people may not think about until they’re actually trying-to-conceive is the more macro cyclical process (what your month looks like).

Monthly Overview – Trying to Conceive

This overview can apply to self-insemination or IUI performed in a home setting. Some of these tips may also be helpful if you’re using a fertility clinic or going through IVF.

Insemination Prep

The sperm needs to be delivered before ovulation happens, but only a few days before. The vials can stay frozen in the nitrogen tank for 1 – 2 weeks. They are usually shipped overnight or with 2 day shipping, so you’ll have the better part of a week left with enough liquid nitrogen to keep everything frozen solid.

We usually had the tank delivered on day 10 of my wife’s monthly cycle. The sperm would be good in the tank until at least day 17. Which spanned the time in which ovulation would normally occur.

Insemination Window

Usually it was between day 13 and 16 when we did the insemination. 

Over time, after failed attempts, more research and more support, we got better at tracking ovulation and timing the attempts.

The Two Week Wait

Then there’s the roughly two week wait to see if conception was successful, which may feel like the longest two weeks of your life.

If you get your period, it will likely be a huge let down.

Then you only have a few days to decide if you want to order more sperm for the next cycle, in order to receive another tank before ovulation occurs again.

Mental Load

When you’re trying to conceive, the emotional weight of the process is intense. That sounds obvious, but it really cannot be understated.

My best suggestion to maintain your mental health – take time to find ways to add fun, possibly some romance (at the very least a little humor) to break up the seriousness of TTC.

Going through the process of choosing a donor, ordering sperm, and waiting for it to arrive is stressful. You will likely be questioning if your body is ready, if your mind is ready, if your partner is ready. There will be a lot of mental gymnastics.

Create a Soothing Environment

One of the disadvantages of conceiving with artificial insemination is that the setting is often clinical, sterile and completely unromantic.

So if you’re doing insemination at home, you can take advantage of using your own space. 

A few suggestions:

  • Have a nice meal ahead of time.
  • Make the space comfortable. 
  • Take 20 minutes and pick up the bedroom. Address your senses:
    • Put on some music. 
    • Bring in some chocolate, flowers, or anything else you (and your partner) enjoy.
    • Make sure it smells nice.
    • Do your best with the lighting.
    • If you have piles of clutter, throw a sheet over them.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. But it’s really nice if it’s nice.

And if you aren’t feeling romantic, be gracious with yourself. This is a big deal. It can be challenging to feel romantic under stress. 

If you can use this time to connect with yourself (or your partner) in whatever way feels good, do it. Especially after you’ve done the insemination and are then in the two week wait.

Self-Care Tips When Trying-To-Conceive

Healthy distractions can be key to good mental health while you’re waiting to see if conception was successful. I wrote another article on tips to prepare for parenthood – but while you’re here:

A few ideas:

  • Cook foods that are comforting, or discover new recipes.
  • Watch funny movies.
  • Spend time with people you enjoy.
  • Get out in nature.

Whatever floats your boat!

Self-love is a skill. If you need more practice and are on the journey of TTC, now is the time to hone it.

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