Sperm Banks Help Grow Your Family, Not Design a Baby

March 20, 2012

Blog written by Fairfax Cryobank Director of Operations Michelle Ottey, PhD.

There has been a lot of talk about designer babies in the media in regard to using donor sperm. The subject of genetically engineered or designer babies will often be mentioned in articles discussing donor selection and assisted reproduction.

This talk is more science fiction than fact because using donor sperm doesn’t allow someone to manipulate genes and create the perfect baby or design the baby of their dreams. The use of donor sperm simply allows women the ability to safely conceive a healthy baby. Being able to select a donor based on his hair color, eye color, ethnicity, education or his interests doesn’t constitute making designer babies and saying so cheapens the emotional experience that many women and couples have when using donor sperm.

Sperm banks are incredibly selective in the screening process, assuring that no donors are a carrier for common genetic disorders and testing all donors for infectious diseases. We start by evaluating the donor’s medical and genetic history and also consider the donor’s Phenotype, which is their observable traits and characteristics. Most sperm banks aim to have a diverse group of donors available so as to appeal to the needs of the various clients. Realistically, not everyone looks like Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt, and, more importantly, not everyone agrees that either of them is the most desirable in terms of appearance. Clients are often trying to match their donor to the appearance or traits of a partner or family member.

Choosing a sperm donor, in some ways, is similar to choosing a partner, and physical appearance is part of that process. We all screen prospective partners by interests, personality and other characteristics that are important to us as individuals. It makes logical sense that when someone is choosing a sperm donor, they would be looking for similar traits that they would look for in a potential partner. You can always choose a sperm donor based on his desirable traits, but you can’t choose the traits your baby will inherit from you or the donor. Using a sperm donor is akin to using the natural process of conception where no genes are manipulated in anyway.

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