Monday, April 25, 2011

A comparison of sperm banks: Fairfax, Cryolab, and California Cryobank

We were bold and economical in changing sperm banks for this insemination, feeling that a new donor was in order and that a lower-cost option might be in order now, too.
After a little research, we found that there were only a few legit sperm banks out there, each claiming to be the best.

  • Cryogenic Laboratories, based in Minnesota, had a comparison chart, describing itself as the "most affordable."  It also differentiated itself by offering staff-impression audio clips, which is, to me, about the most meaningless advantage a sperm bank can offer.  "Ooh, this employee spoke into a microphone!  You can listen to the unique vocal quality of some random lady."  What?  I don't care about the staff member's intonation.  I just need her to be detailed about the donor, whose voice actually does interest me.  They also have adult photos of some donors, which is actually a pretty big difference, although one with drawbacks.
    • The next bank we looked at was Fairfax Cryobank, which is owned, apparently, by the same parent company as the Cryolab but-- despite having a nearly identical website and nearly identical pros & cons-- does not share a donor or customer database, so you have to go through the form-submitting, account-creating procedures twice.  I have no idea why the two banks don't just get their shit together and merge.  The real difference, as I see it, is that the Cryolab's donor database is full of sweet, Scandinavian farm boys, and it is staffed by unfailingly polite Minnesotan staff members; meanwhile, the Fairfax donors seem a little more worldly and perhaps more qualified in terms of education, while its staff members-- in our experience-- were a little more indifferent.  Then again, one of that town's more glamorous features is the Tastee 29 Diner, so you can see where they wouldn't be the happiest crews.
    • Another bank, which we didn't explore very thoroughly, is Xytex.  I was on the defensive immediately because, when you go to their home page, some polo-shirt-wearing blond lady starts talking to you from the bottom right corner of the screen.  Once you get her to shut up-- if you're someone who likes surprise video attacks, this might be the bank for you, but it was an ugly start for me-- you look up to the top, thinking, "Oh, this is kind of an attractive site," and then you see a big heading: "Enhancing Lives Through Cellular Ingenuity."  Not encouraging.  I'm on board with life-enhancing, but "cellular ingenuity"?  Can't you just say "donors" and "vials" and "becoming a parent" and all those nice things?  You make it sound dirty and science-y.  It also mentions "choice gametes."  Seriously?
    • The California Cryobank was our first sperm-buying home and, from what I can tell, by far the best option.  They have a comparison chart, too (yeah, yeah), and what stands out is that the donors are selected from three of the top five American universities.  Suck it, Fairfax.
      I can say, at the administrative end I represent in this process, that the California Cryobank has the very best customer service, with prompt e-mail responses and unfailingly friendly people.  I can name two staff members offhand-- Shawnbay and La'Trice, whassup!-- and have been kindly guided through traumatic financial and sperm-thawing experiences.
      Goddamn, though: they are expensive.
    What we discovered in the past few days, though, is that there's a reason we were paying so much to the California Cryobank.  It wasn't just their carefully-administered Facebook page, or the cute seasonal sperm cartoons.
    For one, it's e-mail exchanges that take freaking forever:
    Fairfax: "Free shipping with the purchase of two vials"

    Me: "There's no coupon code for the free shipping; will we be reimbursed having been charged a $210 shipping fee with our order?

    Fairfax: "Hello.  I'm confused as to why there would be a reimbursement?"

    Goddamn it.  Get me Shawnbay.

    Very much to our frustration-- to a degree that, left alone in the house, I was infuriated by our lack of hard liquor-- Fairfax didn't offer an Saturday shipping option, even though they use FedEx, just like California Cryobank does.  When I e-mailed to inquire why that was and whether the option existed, I was told that FedEx didn't offer Saturday delivery in all areas, so it would depend on zip code.  Listen, yo, freaking Pizza Hut knows to ask my zip code before allowing me to make an order for delivery, so let's get our shit together, shall we?
    Lo and behold, FedEx does indeed offer Saturday delivery in our area.  Let's do that, I say, and the lady writes back, Whoops, the shipment has already gone out and will be delivered Monday.

    The point where I realize we are working with a truly jacked-up organization is the point where, this morning, I arrive at our clinic to pick up the tank o' sperm and find this:

    You may remember from previous episodes that our tank from California Cryobank looked like this:

    The insemination, jacked-up, worn-out tank aside-- seriously, did this come back from Afghanistan?  What did they do to it?  Do they just have one?-- is done, and I can only hope the sperm itself stand up a little better to comparison. 


    1. Thank you for your thorough and thoughtful comparison of the banks.

    2. I really appreciate yur honesty here because I am reviewing the same sperm banks at the present time and even though Xytex is local.... I think I will look into Cali Cryo! Thaks a million

    3. Thank you!!! Very helpful in making a decision!!!!

    4. very good info here...glad we've gone with NW Cryobank

    5. Thank you very much. We'll be going with California.

    6. Is NW Cryobank legit? I see it's not on your list

      1. Honestly, I don't know! That wasn't one that came up on our radar during the initial search, so I'm not familiar with their reputation. They certainly have a flashy site, but, based on the overwhelming popularity of the California Cryobank, I'm surprised they describe themselves as "a leader in the industry." Taking a cursory look at reviews, this one isn't very positive-- "As far as the customer service, I got scared when I would call their 1800 number just to get a voice mail. I started to think oh my where am I sending my info and money too or worse what type of donors/clinic is this. I'm happy to say that after several attempts to contact a person they actually called me back to answer every question I had." Hmm. After several attempts? I still think CCB is the gold standard for customer service, but we definitely had immediate contact with Fairfax and Cryogenic. You might get a more thorough perspective by emailing the folks at the Donor Sibling Registry, since they've probably encountered every sperm bank at one time or another: Best of luck!

    7. What about donor family history? My wife and I are interested in starting a family and thats a big cconcern of ours. Also what about future contact with donor if a child wants it?

      1. Most sites-- definitely both CCB and Fairfax and Cryolab-- give you a pretty decent family-history breakdown. Some of them just have a big grid where they check off which family member had which disease, if any, and other include it in the full donor profile. It was a major factor for us, so we lost some of our favorite donors when we saw heart disease and addiction issues in their family.
        As for future contact, sites generally distinguish by donor type: if it's "open," then the donor is open to contact from offspring; anonymous means the donor isn't interested in contact. However, even anonymous donors can be contacted by the sperm bank on your behalf, so your kid could reach out to the bank and see if there's any interest on the donor's part. It just depends on what your priority is. We weren't that invested in an open donor, so we didn't want to pay the premium on open-donor sperm. My guess is that our daughter will contact the sperm bank when she's old enough, as well as sign up for the DSR, but it's going to be her choice.

    8. I started my donor search by looking at CA Cryobank, because theirs was one of the brochures I received from my doctor. I decided to look at (and register) with other cryobanks as well, to expand my options for the specific ancestry I desire. The more stuff I find online in my search for other cryobanks, the more I think that I should just stick to CA Cryobank as my only donor resource.

      Thank you for your comparisons.

    9. Thank you so much. I ordered from Xytex (paid $2000 for 3 vials) and the sperm that was "guaranteed" at 25 million motility arrived - one vial was 11 mil, one was 9 million, one was 4. (processed by my doctor) And because I didn't get it all used within the "2 month guarantee" I didn't get shit. Not even a partial refund. Horrific. Going to try California Cryo now... I mean I'm all for laid-back sperm, but lazy is another story.

    10. Wow, so I giggled the whole time! My partner and I are in the process of choosing donors. I have a beautiful and intelligent step-son who was conceived using fairfax but due to its lack of latin donors I was leaning toward California cryo. I have to agree when scanning profiles I felt the ones for California cryo were more in-depth. The only pro I can see with fairfax is that once you use them you get free access to full profiles every few months and they have cheap sperm storage options. I will definitely be sticking with California Cryo.