Couples with difficulty conceiving have turned to sperm banks for assistance for decades, and discounts at one company aim to make help more affordable during tough economic times. 

Xytex International is offering a discount on sperm from “select donors” for between $250 to $350 per vial, compared with $385 to $485 per vial from regular donors, according to the company’s web site.  While these “select donors” have passed the same comprehensive health, intelligence and personality screenings as other donors, they have a high volume of sperm at the bank that’s ready to go.

Payment plans through CareCredit, a subsidiary of General Electric Consumer Finance (Stock Quote: GE), are available for patients in the U.S., including a three-month interest-free plan with if you spend $300. Extended payment plans are also available for orders of $1,500 or more, with monthly payments starting at $41.

“It appears that Xytex may be responsive to changes in perceived or actual disposable income,” notes Kirk Allison, health economics expert and director of the University of Minnesota Program in Human Rights and Health. “This may translate into fewer persons initiating services since the economic downturn.”

Xytex is also offering free umbilical cord blood banking for families with a child diagnosed with a disease like leukemia or lymphoma, which may be treated by potent stem cells from the umbilical cord.  The cord blood is collected minutes after birth, is frozen and can be used at any time. 

“The program covers all cord blood banking services, including enrollment, a specially designed collection kit for the physician’s use, processing of the collected cord blood sample, as well as up to 10 years’ storage and transportation fees,” according to a company press release. 

For prospective parents who don’t qualify for the free Xytex cord blood banking, another banking center, Viacord, offers monthly payment plans for collection and processing fees, including an interest-free six-month payment plan and a 48-month payment plan in which your initial payment isn’t due until four months after your baby is born.  And if you pay up front for annual storage fees at a regular rate of $125 a year for 25 years, you can save up to $825.

“I don’t know whether this implies anything [about the economy],” says Eleanor Nicoll, spokeswoman for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, “But people might be needing assistance a lot more now.”