Children by Donor Insemination
Share Your Story —Tell us about yourself and we may post it anonymously so others can gain from your experience.
Read a blog from someone who is donor conceived. Justin Clark as read on The Daily Beast.
As a child or adult conceived with the use of donor sperm, you may have many questions. We would like to help you answer some of them by sharing some of the details about how our sperm bank selects donors, offers donor sperm to women and couples, and handles requests for more information about donors.
We have been around a long time-- since 1986-- and have observed many changes over the years. In the early days before sperm banks were available, it was not unusual for a doctor to offer fresh semen from a donor he selected on behalf of an infertile couple. Information on the donor was often kept secret and little was known about his medical or personal history. The use of donor sperm today is very different. Sperm banks make every effort to select healthy, educated donors who share many health-related and personal details about themselves. Our sperm bank will receive some 200 applications for each donor we ultimately select. It is more difficult to become a sperm donor than it is to be accepted into Harvard! If you want to read about the way we screen donors, go to the web page about Donor Screening. You’ll see that the donors undergo many blood tests, semen tests and also answer many questions about their family social and health history.
The typical family who uses donor sperm is changing. Originally donor insemination was offered exclusively to married couples who were experiencing infertility. Today, infertile couples are still helped by donor sperm but other types of families are as well. Single women are increasingly choosing to have children on their own with the help of donor sperm. Same sex couples are, too. Where 20 years ago it was easier to keep the donor sperm story a secret, it is now much more obvious when a father is not around while a child is growing up. Children born from donor sperm are learning about the circumstances of their conception in ever increasing numbers. We estimate that now about 4,000 to 5,000 children a year are born in the US as the result of anonymous donor insemination.
In 2005, Fairfax Cryobank started a new program call the ID Option program in which new donors agree to release identifying information. We created this special category of donors because of the increased interest by families to have this option available. Identifying information, such as donor name and address, is shared only with the children who were conceived by an Fairfax Cryobank ID Option Donor, whose mother registered their birth with our sperm bank and who then go on to request the information themselves when they reach the age of 18 or older. About 20% of our current donor list is ID Option. The other 80% are donors that have chosen to remain anonymous. Before 2005, all our donors were anonymous. The first children eligible for this ID Option information will reach the age of 18 in 2023.
Today, we ask all new donors if they want to be known. If they agree, they become an ID Option donor. If they decline, they will remain anonymous. All donors who began donating prior to 2005 signed an agreement with us in which we agreed to keep their identifying information private. Many families were created with the understanding that their specific donor would be anonymous forever, and they very much want this information to stay private. We have very specific understandings with donors and families that we will protect the information of not only the donor’s identity but also the identity of the families who used that sperm donor. Our policy is that once a donor is designated as an anonymous donor his status cannot be changed, e.g. from an anonymous donor to an ID Option donor. Therefore, for our anonymous donors, we are not mediating contact between families and their donors.
There is a considerable amount of information we do have on our donors, both anonymous and ID Option, that is extremely valuable in learning about the donor as a person rather than a cold statistic. Donors today have audio interviews recorded, childhood photos, some have adult photos, and all have detailed medical and personal histories. Their ethnicity, talents, interests, and even their favorite color and song are presented. Donors who are no longer donating also have information saved. (See more about donor information at this web page about Donor Information.) In addition, half siblings who are interested are able to connect with each other via various sites third parties set up for this purpose on the web. Although the donor may be unknown, half siblings often find shared traits that they determine are likely from their biological fathers. This discovery of sibling relationships, along with the extensive information already available on the donor, may help some children as they seek to learn more about their genetic heritage.
You may have questions about your donor’s motivations to be in our program. Typically donors are college students or recent graduates who have an interest in helping others. Some are married and may even have children of their own. They do receive some compensation (usually about $500 a month) for their time and effort. They must visit the laboratory on average one to two times a week for at least 6 months to donate sperm and agree to take dozens of blood draws over the course of their commitment. In addition, they must have regular physical examinations and agree to several face-to-face interviews with our staff. Donors are selected because they have shown us that they are dependable, responsible, trustworthy people. We do not inform donors if pregnancies result from the use of their sperm. Donors often move on to other life events and stop donating after about 6 months to a year in the program, although some continue longer.
Donor sperm from one donor usually results in several pregnancies over many years. Some families store units from the same donor in order to have biologically full siblings, so the age range of all the children from the same donor may be considerable. You can read more about our Limitations on Donor Births . But since donor sperm is shipped all over the US and several other countries, the donor usually sells out before he reaches our distribution limit. It is highly unlikely you would ever meet another one of your half siblings randomly, (i.e., someone who was conceived with the exact same donor).
If you have other questions or comments, we encourage you to Share Your Story with us. We may post your comments on this page without your name attached as they may be helpful for others.
We are gratified and proud that we have been participating in helping families have wanted children for over twenty years. We hope you have been able to address some of your concerns. Thank you for visiting Fairfax Cryobank.
A story from a mother about her child's view on being donor-conceived:
My daughter, Monica, is applying to colleges. Like her older brother, she will soon be going out into the world. Where has the time gone? Wasn’t it just yesterday that we received a diagnosis of severe male factor infertility and we were faced with making the decision as to how our family would be built?
When we began our infertility journey and joined RESOLVE in 1983, our focus was on pregnancy and babies. We could not even imagine this far ahead in time, when our children would be making decisions about college. But we did have fears about the future.
We choose donor insemination (DI) to build our family, and much later continued our family building efforts through donor egg and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Although a support group helped ease some of the isolation we felt, we didn’t know anyone who had taken this same route to parenthood. We had no idea what the future might hold. What if our child someday resented how s/he had been conceived? What if s/he grew into an unhappy adult with psychological issues?
‘Mom, can you proofread my college essay before I send it out?” Monica asked me, bringing me back to reality. “The application said to write 250 words or less on the theme, tell us about the world you come from,” she continued, offering me her seat in front of the computer. With her standing beside me, I began reading:
“The world I come from is ordinary, comfortable and stable. I have two normal parents and I’m cushioned between two brothers, one younger, one older. On the outside we are a traditional American family. When I talk about family, I always refer to them as normal, loving people who are always there for me. I often forget, however, that we are not ordinary.
Our family is different because both our parents had infertility issues. My brothers and I were all conceived with the use of donor gametes. Although my brothers and I were born with the aid of donors, it doesn’t matter. In fact I rarely think about it and it always seems to slip my mind.
While others may be solely dependent on external validation, I have learned that life is not just about how you appear on the outside and how people view you. I have grown up open-minded. I believe that I am less critical and judgmental than other people because I know that things on the outside are not always what they seem. I understand that things that are different should not be feared and deserve acceptance that ordinary situations receive.”
“What do you think?” she asked eagerly.
“It’s fabulous. It’s wonderful how open and positive you are,” I said, blinking back tears.
“Why shouldn’t I be?” she asked.
“Some individuals conceived using donor gametes have issues,” I told her.
“Why would they have issues?” she wanted to know.
When we began our journey to create a family over two decades ago, we were told by the medical community not to reveal the method of conception to any resulting children. This advice was accepted by 95% of couples utilizing DI at the time. I found this recommendation odd, considering the history of disclosure in the adoption community and the negative consequences of withholding information. But DI was way behind the social advances and acceptance of adoption, and still is. There was never any doubt that we would tell our children from the beginning, though we proceeded with some trepidation. There was no one to guide us. We felt like trailblazers.
As our children grew, stories began cropping up in newspapers, magazines and online bulletin boards featuring troubled donor-conceived individuals. Monica knew nothing of these negative views of donor conception, because I had tried to shield her, cutting out and disposing of these articles so she and her brothers wouldn’t read them. I hoped that those stories represented a vocal minority and assumed that individuals who didn’t have an issue with how they were conceived would have no need to talk to the media. Even if they did, well-adjusted and content individuals wouldn’t make for very dramatic or sensational journalism.
Now that I read Monica’s essay, I finally realized that I could let go of the fears. There was nothing to shield her from anymore.
“Why would someone have issues because of how they were conceived?” Monica asked me again.
“Some people don’t view things the way you do, honey,” I said.
Monica looked puzzled, and then shrugged her shoulders.
I now understand that her perception of her conception history was a mirror of how I viewed my infertility experience. We both saw it as something that enriched our lives.
Our children are a gift, created from a gift, and as they venture away from home, they are our gift to the world.
The author is a RESOLVE member and volunteer.