Women Hunt for Free Sperm Online. Yes, Times Are that Hard

Meet Trent. He's one of many guys giving away sperm online for free. (via Trentdonor.org)Meet Trent. He's one of many guys giving away sperm online for free. (via Trentdonor.org)
The price of sperm is going up. On average, donor banks charge $2000 for a sample. Add that to the cost of IVF treatments and you're looking at spending seven figures on getting pregnant with no guarantee of results. So women in need of a man's special formula are turning to the internet where free donor banks have set up headquarters. On Friday, "20/20" will feature a woman who turned to the free stuff after spending $70,000 in failed pregnancy attempts. As you might imagine, her experience isn't as clinical as a bank where money's exchanged.

On sites like Known Donor Registry, it's up to donors disclose medical reports, family histories and personal profiles. Background checks are at the expense of the recipient. Unlike official sperm banks where donors remain anonymous, these candidates also have the option to have contact with the child as a co-parent or family friend, or to have their future spawn contact them once they turn 18. Then there's Trent Arsenault, founder of trentdonor.org. The mid-30's tech executive has donated his sperm to over 300 recipients through his site, and fertilized at least 17 women at no cost. It seems like a lot for zero compensation, but some guys get satisfaction in other ways.

"Many of the men say they do it out of altruism, but some also talk unabashedly of kinky sex and spreading their gene pool," writes The Daily Beast's Tony Dokoupil, who investigated the growing phenomenon recently.

Some sites allow you the option to do "natural" insemination with your donor, essentially turning the service into an online dating site. And a kinky one at that. Married men looking for discrete one night stands gravitate to these channels. Others come to the table with unique fertility fetishes.

But some people are in it for the chance to buck the muddled health-care system and provide alternatives for same-sex couples and single women who aren't able to conceive. Trent sees his work as a donation to a communities in need, according to his website.

For those who decide to go the artificial insemination route, the swapping of potions can still seem seedy. Dokoupil recounts the story of one woman whose donor did his duty in a Starbucks bathroom while she waited outside poised to attach his spoils to her cervix minutes later.

This strategy isn't always the most successful. One of the more popular online sites, Free Sperm Donor Register (now Know Donor Registry), claims about 2,000 members since it launched last year. So far they've only had about 12 pregnancies on record and no live births yet. It's not a perfect system, but neither is the standard donor registry-blamed for missing important health information and even overusing popular donors at the risk of creating incestuous communities.

It's not easy to have a baby these days, and it's only getting harder. While free sperm banks are attempting to make the process more accessible it adds new complications. For starters, is it a good idea to make a baby with a total stranger you just met online?

Watch a sneak peak from Friday's 20/20

The donor with 150 kids
World's biggest sperm bank turning down redheads?
When sperm donors keep secrets