Anonymous Sperm Donors

Deciding to use a sperm donor can be one of the hardest decisions ever made by a couple affected by male factor infertility. Obviously, only the mother is going to be the biological parent of any child produced from the donation. (Of course, if the couple is using a donated egg too, then neither parent will have a biological connection to their child).

Donated sperm can be used in a number of assisted reproduction procedures including IUI (intrauterine insemination) and IVF (in-vitro fertilization). IVF is more likely to be used in cases in which both partners are suffering from reduced fertility. Once the decision has been made, the couple then has to choose whether to take sperm from a known or an anonymous donor.

Known Donors

A known donor is usually a relative or a friend of the couple. Some couples prefer to know the history and identity of their child's biological father. Known donors can deposit their sperm at a sperm bank, which will screen the sample for diseases, and then use it to inseminate the woman. Other couples go for a "do-it-yourself" insemination in the privacy of their own homes, but the risk of infection from using untested sperm can make this option unappealing. Also, a lot of men have trouble dealing with the fact that the father of their child is actually their best friend or their brother, which makes the idea of anonymous sperm donation more attractive.

Anonymous Donors

Anonymous sperm donors deposit their sperm at a sperm bank, where the samples are thoroughly tested for transmittable diseases before being used in any insemination or fertilization procedures. Many anonymous donors receive payment for their donations and, as a result, the number of men donating to sperm banks in the United States has increased since the global economic crisis began.

Laws governing the information available to couples about their sperm donor vary from country to country. In the USA, you can usually find out about the sperm donor's height, weight, race, skin color, eye color and hair color. Regulations do vary between states, and even between private fertility clinics, many of whom set their own standards.

Because the testing of sperm donations costs sperm banks and fertility clinics a lot of money, sperm from the same man may be given to several couples. This means that any child resulting from an anonymous sperm donation potentially has several siblings whom he or she may never meet. Most clinics impose a limit on the number of different families that can use sperm from the same donor. However, if you've used a certain donor's sperm for your first child, you'll often be given the choice to use the same man's sperm to produce your second child - this means that your children will be biological siblings. It's not always possible for a clinic to guarantee that you'll get access to the same donor's sperm second time around.

Telling Your Kids

Parents who've conceived children through anonymous sperm donation disagree as to whether or not children should be told about where they come from, and at what age it's appropriate to have this conversation. It's probably best to answer questions honestly and simply as soon as your child becomes curious.

Particularly in cases where a lot of your friends and family know about the sperm donation, it's important to be upfront with him or her to avoid having someone else spilling the beans.

Many clinics will provide the identification number or even the name of a sperm donor to his biological children when they turn 18. This is something that both donors and infertile couples need to take into consideration. In fact, an estimated 1 in 3 children fathered in this way eventually decide that they want to know their biological father's identity.

People who discover only as adults that they were fathered through sperm donation may experience an identity crisis. This is another argument in favor of being honest with your child from the very beginning.

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