Women desperate to have children are being lured into unprotected sex as part of a growing industry of black-market sperm donation.
An increasing number of would-be parents are turning to a Facebook group where men offer to donate their sperm for little or no charge – but these often come with demands. Many only agree to ‘natural insemination’ – sex – or ‘partial insemination’, where the man masturbates and penetrates the woman just before ejaculation.
For women who refuse sex, the alternative can be just as humiliating and unsafe, with some meeting in parking lots, hotels or even Starbucks bathrooms to exchange samples. Experts say unregulated sperm donation raises the risk of STIs, which could leave a woman infertile or with an unviable pregnancy.
In 2017, Stacii Nicole, 32, and her wife joined what is now the largest sperm donation group in the US, Sperm Donation USA. At that time, it had around 5,000 members. Now, it has almost 24,000.
Ms Nicole and her wife were about to embark on their fertility journey using a sperm bank, but when one of their close friends conceived using the Facebook group, they decided to give it a shot and save money.
Once the Kentucky couple found someone willing to do artificial insemination (AI), the couple called their donor when Ms Nicole had a positive ovulation test.
They made the four-hour trip from Kentucky to Ohio to meet the donor and his wife in a casino parking lot to receive their first sperm donation.
Ms Nicole said: ‘We met in Ohio at a casino, which I would never encourage anyone to do.
‘He basically put his donation in a cup and handed it to us… it was very weird’.
She said: ‘His wife was very nice but I’m not even sure how they got the donation. We know they were in the car, but I don’t know if her saliva might have gotten on it.
‘It was very rushed. It was not professional at all’, she said.
Ms Nicole’s partner inserted the sample into her with a syringe.
‘I laid my seat all the way back with my legs up [for the four-hour drive back to Kentucky].
‘No one would have known this was happening in the car next to them while driving’.
The process did not result in a pregnancy and the couple decided to use a different donor from New York who came with glowing reviews from other members of the Facebook group. And this donor shipped his sperm in the mail.