So, you have made the decision to have a child on your own, and now need to figure out where to start and how to find a sperm donor. This article cover the 'need to know' facts about getting pregnant with a sperm donor.
How to find a sperm donor and then conceive
There are 3 ways to find a sperm donor:
- Someone you know – friend, partner of a friend
- Someone you “know” – met through a friend of a friend, on an online donor-recipient matching group or website
- Fertility Clinic Donor (CRSD)
There are 4 ways to be able to conceive with a donor:
- Home insemination
- Donor Intrauterine Insemination (IUI/DI)
- Donor In Vitro Fertilisation (D-IVF)
Each of these options comes with pros and cons, risks and benefits, so let’s explore the options in more detail to help with decision making.
Someone you know
If you plan to get pregnant with a sperm donor you might decide to approach a friend, partner of a friend or an ex-partner (depending on the relationship with them). Alternatively, they may know you are planning to conceive with a donor, and offer to be a donor for you. Options for conception include all the above listed.
Pros to having a pre-existing relationship with your potential donor include, being able to have the person in your child’s life from the start, and to be able to build a relationship with them from the very beginning.
Cons to having a pre-existing relationship with your potential donor may include, the person wanting more of a role than you are comfortable with (e.g., wishing to co-parent) or overstepping boundaries established. There may also be limits to knowing if they have donated to other recipients, or their wish donate to others, and some potential donors may not be willing to engage in pre-screening for genetic carrier status, or infection status.
Someone you have recently met
More people who get pregnant with a sperm donor meet potential donors through friends, or through online donor linking groups (social media etc.). There are many groups created online with the single purpose of linking potential recipients with potential donors.
If you make the decision to connect with a potential donor through a group, or through a friend or family member the options for conception include all the above listed.
Pros to a newly established known donor relationship, are similar to those of a pre-establish relationship, it provides an opportunity to be able to build a relationship between your child and their donor from the very start, and provide your child, with information of family background and information about the donor.
Cons to a newly established known donor relationship, again are largely like those listed above for long term established relationship, including not knowing how many other families they have donated to, overstepping boundaries or relationship lines, and not wishing to complete pre-screening for carrier or infectious disease.
Further concerns which may arise include not being able to obtain a clear history of mental and physical health, family background or overt deceit from the potential donor around this.
And, while rare, there has been cased of potential donors met through online systems pressuring women to engage in “natural insemination” (i.e., intercourse) or being assaulted at meet-ups
Fertility Clinic Donor (CRSD)
Another way to get pregnant with a sperm donor is through a fertility clinic. It is known as a clinic recruited sperm donor (CRSD).
These men have actively come to a fertility clinic either in response to advertising they have seen for donors, or through work of mouth through friends or family who may have used a donor and they are wanting to have an impact on another family. Some men also choose to donate, as they may have needed an egg donor to have their own children.
Pros to donors through a clinic, is they have been thoroughly screened for genetic carrier status and infectious disease, sperm has completed quarantine periods. The men who have donated have complete formalised counselling with a registered ANZICA Fertility Counsellor, and there are strict family limits in place (maximum of 5-10 families depending on the state), and when accessing CRSD all information is held at a central data base and point, increasing oversight.
Cons to CRSD is they remain de-identified until your child reaches the age of 18, or unless you both agree to disclosure by mutual consent prior to this time. Information provided by the clinic, indicates the medical history of the person and their family, but can often be limited on what their personality and values in life are.
Home-based versus clinic conception
If you have decided to proceed with a home-based conception, it is beneficial to consider having some form of contract written out about the role the donor will or won’t have in a child’s life. While there are limitations to this within the legal system, it provides a framework for how you plan to navigate moving forward.
It is also worth investing in health screening for both parties prior to commencing, and reducing risks where you possibly can. With regards to home-based insemination and conception, clinic donors are not a choice.
If you make the decision to come to a clinic, you can either request to access a CRSD, or you can undertake treatment with a known donor.
However you proceed, you will need to complete 2 sessions of counselling with the clinics ANZICA Fertility Counsellor. These sessions are to review supports, plans for treatment, concerns around mental health, and provide you with education regarding the donor registers and system in your state or territory. If you use a CRSD, they will also have had 2 sessions of counselling.
If you know your donor, they will also complete 2 sessions of counselling, and you will complete a third session where you are both present, to discuss navigation of the future, boundaries and ensure you are both on a similar page with regards to contact, support and planning for support of children (and the resulting adults!).
Counselling is not there to “rule you in or out” of treatment, but a space to discuss and reflect on moving forward with treatment as a single woman using donor sperm, whether you know your donor or not.
If you use a known donor through a clinic, once they have provided their sperm, it will need to be quarantined for 3 months prior to being able to commence your treatment cycles.
All donor conceived births are registered with the clinic, the state donor registers, and notifications through to the local birth deaths and marriages for notation on the birth certificate.
Facts and considerations before using a donor
- Donors are NOT paid – they are provided with compensation, typically around $35 per sample provided to a clinic
- It is ILLEGAL to pay a donor for their sperm
- CRSD are all screened
- If you come through a clinic with a known donor, they will be screened for genetic carrier status and infectious disease – as the recipient this is pain by you
- ALL parties in a donor arrangement will need to complete counselling for treatment through a clinic
- If you are not using a clinic, seeking legal advice from a lawyer experienced in donor law is strongly encouraged to ensure you understand the legal implications of donor conception, and consider drawing up a contract (these also have limitations) see https://sarahjefford.com/ for more information on this
- If you are unsure about how to proceed, and what is going to be best in your circumstances, do consider speaking to a mental health professional independently with regards to your choices or options and help you make an informed decision.
- Ensure whoever you speak with is registered as a mental health professional with the Australian and New Zealand Infertility Counsellors Association (ANZICA)
In conclusion: Getting pregnant with a sperm donor
Embarking on the journey to parenthood with a sperm donor is a significant decision that requires careful consideration and planning. Armed with the need-to-know facts outlined in this article, prospective parents can navigate this process with confidence and awareness.
Understanding the legal and medical aspects of sperm donation, along with the emotional and ethical dimensions, is crucial. Equally important is selecting a reputable sperm bank or donor, as well as seeking professional guidance when necessary. Open and honest communication between partners, if applicable, and a support network can alleviate some of the challenges that may arise during this unique path to parenthood.
Ultimately, the decision to use a sperm donor is a personal one, and each journey is as distinct as the individuals embarking on it.
With the right information and support, prospective parents can embark on this exciting and meaningful adventure with the knowledge and resources needed to make informed choices and create the loving family they desire.
Further reading: Support for going through pregnancy alone.