If you are considering donating sperm but have some questions about what it's like to be a sperm donor, this interview provides insight from the perspective of one donor who has helped a small number of hopeful parents conceive through sperm donation. The donor interviewed below shares the good, the bad, and the questionable about directed sperm donation in the United States and the role of sperm donors in the lives of their donor conceived children.
DISCLAIMER: The sole purpose of this article is to share the experience of one donor from his point of view. The views expressed herein belong exclusively to the donor interviewed and are not reflective of the opinion or advice of Oleaga Law LLC. This article is not intended to provide legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship with Oleaga Law LLC. Donor's legal name and identity shall remain confidential. All photographs are stock images and not representations of the sperm donor interviewed.
Sperm Donor Shares What It's Like to be a Sperm Donor.
Here to answer all your questions about sperm donation.
Q: What led you to become a sperm donor?
A: As odd as this may sound, I was watching a comedy television show and there was a character who had several donor children (to whom he was a sort of uncle figure), resulting from his non-clinical donations to lesbian couples. This is what introduced me to the fact that being a sperm donor could be possible and done absent to the very anonymous nature of providing clinical donations at a sperm bank.
[Note: "Non-clinical" donations refers to sperm donations that occur outside a fertility clinic or medical setting. Some states permit non-clinical sperm donations and other states require the oversight of a medical professional. The specifics of your donation arrangement are important. Please speak with an assisted reproduction lawyer licensed in your state before moving forward with any sperm donation arrangement.]
Q: Once you decided to help other families by being a sperm donor, what made you choose to donate to Intended Parents directly as opposed to donating to a sperm bank?
A: I favor being able to get to know people and having agency over deciding if we are a good match. The intended parents are afforded this same benefit by getting to know me. I do not discriminate in these decisions, but want to have meaningful assurances that the intended parents have the means to care for their child(ren), raising them in a supportive environment, and that they have the resources to provide their child with a healthy and loving childhood. I find that many of the intended parents that I have helped really enjoy getting to know me, especially as it relates to what physical characteristics and character qualities their child may have as they grow up.
[Note: Donors can be "non-identified" or "directed." Non-identified donors do not share their identity with the intended parents. As true anonymity is becoming a fallacy with the invention and improvement of at-home DNA testing, "non-identified" is a more accurate term than "anonymous". Directed donors share their identities at the outset of the sperm donation arrangement. Directed donors are sometimes friends or acquaintances of Intended Parents, but may also meet Intended Parents through a matching program or other means.]
Q: How did you meet the first Intended Parents you donated sperm to?
A: We met, corresponded, and ultimately agreed to meet through a mobile app called "Just a Baby." This is a commonly used app or online resource for people seeking sperm donors, egg donors, embryo donors, and surrogates. The app is eerily similar to a dating app such as Tinder or Bumble and I have reservations about how the company manages their app and user base. Many of the intended parents (also referred to as "recipients" in the donor community) that I have helped have reported encounters with scammers or predatory men who represent themselves as ethical donors, but ultimately seek to exploit intended parents for money or sex. I feel that the company operating this app does very little to mitigate harm and exploitation, which seems to be common.
Alternatively (and a bit off-topic from the original question), there are many Facebook groups catering to people seeking sperm donors. I have connected with and assisted intended parents from several of these groups. A great amount of predation and exploitation occurs towards intended parents in these groups, and they are often managed by some of the more predatory "donors" in the community. I was banned from several of these Facebook groups for speaking out against the frequent misogynistic, exploitative, and predatory behavior that occurred on a regular basis. It is important to note that most (but not all) intended parents are seeking to conceive through artificial insemination (AI). Many, if not most, non-clinical sperm donors will only provide sperm via sexual intercourse, or natural insemination (NI), and they will sometimes not be up-front about this fact when they begin corresponding with an intended parent.
NOTE: Each state has a unique framework of legislation surrounding assisted reproduction and sperm donation. It is imperative to receive legal advice from an assisted reproduction lawyer at the outset of any sperm donation arrangement. Consequences of DIY sperm donation agreements can be catastrophic for donors, intended parents, and donor conceived children. In addition to state legislation and relevant caselaw, sperm donor screening and eligibility guidelines are promulgated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Association of Tissue Banks, and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).
Q: What did the medical screening process for sperm donation entail?
A: As for me, I take this topic very seriously and like being able to provide the intended parents with strong assurances that I have been thoroughly screened. I provide intended parents with recent, full panel STD test results (including CMV test results), genetic disease marker testing results, and semen analysis results. I also provide verbal or written information on my medical history and any family medical history that may be relevant. Thankfully, there are no significant personal or family hereditary concerns to report (such as major mental health problems, diabetes, cancer, etc.). As for the intended parents, I encourage that they undertake genetic testing and meet with their healthcare provider before trying to conceive. I like to see that the intended parents are taking their journey towards being a parent as seriously and with as much responsibility as I apply to being a donor.
Q: Did you ever have doubts or second thoughts about donating sperm?
There have been some hiccups along the way, but nothing that has dissuaded me from wanting to continue helping people. I waited about three years before (recently) sharing the news with my parents that I have been a sperm donor. My father was not very understanding and my mother was kind of sad and melancholy about it. Thankfully, I have been able to talk more with my mother about it and she likes that I am donating to help people build families and that I am doing it in an ethical and responsible way. I may try to broach the topic at some point again in the future with my father, but for now, it isn't something that he would be comfortable with re-addressing. I understand that sharing this with my parents likely evokes a sense of sadness relating to the question of, "I have grandchildren out there somewhere that I may never meet?" That is one of the core reasons why I waited so long to reveal this to them.
Q: What motivates you to help other people in this way?
I really enjoy being able to be a part of something so positive, impactful, and life-changing. I have never earned any money relating to being a sperm donor. I only say this because I am sometimes asked about how much money I have earned doing this, by some people who just assume that I am paid for my donations. It is just nice to know that I am doing something positive for people in need and I hope that it will bring people happiness that will endure throughout their lives.
Q: Were any of the Intended Parents successful in having a child or children? Have you met him/her/them? How involved are you in their lives?
A: Yes, quite a few. I am in no way donating with the frequency of some of the sperm donors who are active in the United States (some of whom have 2x, 5x, or 10x as many donor-conceived children as me). I have met about half of my donor-conceived children in person and have varying degrees of contact (depending on individual comfort levels) with the parents and their children. This ranges from very little to no contact/updates, to meeting the child in person and having their parents being comfortable with me being a sort of close family friend or uncle figure in the child's life as they grow up. I created a private Facebook group for all of the people who have had children with me as their donor. This enables them to decide if they want to know other parents who have children that are genetic half-siblings. It has been amazing to see a small community grow out of this. I would say that about half of the people that I have helped are actively communicating with one another and/or meeting in person and encouraging connections and friendships between their children.
Q: Is your relationship with the Intended Parents you donated to what you hoped it would be?
A: I entered into becoming a donor with no expectations about how much or how little I might develop a relationship with the intended parents. I suppose that I was concerned about feeling disappointed if I had this expectation and it not coming to fruition. I have been pleasantly surprised with how many people have sought a friendship with me. I am looking forward to seeing how this grows along with the children as they get older.
Q: What do you think is the most common misconception about sperm donation?
A: When I share with someone that I am a sperm donor, they almost all assume that I donated at a sperm bank and that there is no contact with or knowledge of the people who have had resulting children. It definitely catches people by surprise when I share the circumstances of how I have operated as a donor and the amount of contact that I have with some of the people that I have helped become parents.
Q: Is your significant other supportive? Does she have concerns?
A: My girlfriend is supportive and has even met some of the children when they have visited. I made sure to disclose that I am a sperm donor early on in our relationship. I wouldn't want to hide that fact and end up hurting my significant other down the road by delaying this disclosure - if they ultimately ended up being uncomfortable with it.
Q: What has been the most fulfilling part of being a donor?
A: It may sound predictable and corny, but I just really enjoy knowing that I am helping people in this way. I am really excited to see the children grow up and I hope that I am able to be known to some of them. Also, (and again somewhat unrelated to the question) a lot of emphasis in the communities discussing matters related to donors and intended parents have very little to do with the considerations of the children. We often think of babies when we think of donors and intended parents, but it is very important to remember that these babies will grow into adults who may struggle with their identity as a donor-conceived person. I try to learn as much as I can about how I may be able to connect with my donor-conceived children. Especially those who may only learn about me when they become older (which is the preference of some of the parents that I have helped.) I recently joined a Facebook group that is for donor-conceived people and it has been very valuable to hear them share their perspectives, including the good and the bad about living with their identities of being donor-conceived.
Q: Will you continue to be a sperm donor?
A: I have been slowing down with taking on new people. It gives me more time to grow my relationship with my girlfriend and reduces the stress of managing what can be a surprisingly complex donor schedule (which accounts for abstinence to build up my sperm count and scheduling the sometimes unpredictable ovulation dates of the people that I help). I also don't want to put too many genetic half-siblings out there in the world, especially if there is a possibility that they may not all know who their half-siblings are. At present, I am helping a few intended parents and am open to assisting the people whom I have already assisted, if they want my help, so that they can have genetically related siblings.
This interview does not constitute legal advice. If you are considering donating sperm to a friend, family member, acquaintance, or sperm bank, please seek legal guidance from an experienced assisted reproduction attorney in your state. If you are an intended parent pursuing a sperm donation arrangement with a sperm donor, whether non-identified or directed, please consult with an experienced assisted reproduction attorney.
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