Five important questions about donor selection and having a donor-conceived child
1. Would you like an open, anonymous plus or an anonymous donor?
It is entirely up to you. No decision is better than another one, even if there appears to be an increasing number of women—particularly in Denmark—who are opting for open donors. Our advice is that in the majority of cases whatever feels right for you and your partner will be best for your child. The important thing therefore is to consider the options available to you and decide on that basis.
When we ask single women and lesbian couples about their decision, we can see that most of them choose open donors, particularly in Denmark, where there is a lot of openness about different types of families. It is also to do with the fact that women do not want to restrict the child. Some single women might say: “As I can’t give my child a father, at least I can use an open donor.” We’re also finding that more heterosexual couples are choosing open donors than before due to an increased openness generally in society.
Others choose an anonymous plus or an anonymous donor, because they want to take responsibility for the child (choose on the child’s behalf) and thus not just pass on/hand over a possible decision to the child regarding finding out more later in life.
Nowadays, there is also another essential issue that has significance regarding the choice of a donor. Because what does choosing an open donor mean? An open donor is a broad term. The law does not state that the child is entitled to meet the donor on turning 18, but that the child is entitled to know the donor’s identity. This raises another question: What does identity cover? Is it a name, an address or just information about him? We don’t know as the sperm banks offer something different.
We have had open donation since 2007 in Denmark. That means that the oldest donor-conceived child has not yet reached 18. Therefore, we don’t know how the sperm banks will handle this issue. For some people, it is therefore more attractive to select an anonymous plus or an anonymous donor, simply because it is much easier to explain this to the child. The answer is not: “We’ll have to see what you can find out when you are 18”. If an anonymous plus or an anonymous donor is chosen, then we currently know exactly what information the child will get.
In some cultures (particularly abroad), having a donor-conceived child is frowned on. For that reason, we meet some women and couples who select an anonymous donor because they do not want to give either the child or anyone else details about how the child was conceived.
2. What will you decide yourself, and what will you leave up to the clinic?
One important thing you should consider is: What will you decide yourself? For some people it is really important to be involved in every decision. Some people want a donor with blond hair and blue eyes. Other people are more concerned about having a donor that shares their values, outlook on life and interests. While some people don’t want to have any influence on this decision.
However, most people have one or more things on their wish list, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. It is important to emphasise though that we cannot give any guarantees. Even if the donor has blue eyes, the clinic will never be able to guarantee that the child will also have blue eyes, etc.
If the only thing you want is a child with blond hair and blue eyes, then the clinic can select a donor with these features for you. If we are selecting a donor for you, we will not have any more information that you. We do not know the donor; it is the only the sperm banks who deal with donors.
3. What will you do if it transpires that the donor has a hereditary disorder?
We all have genetic abnormalities. This also applies to a donor. Even though the donor will have been screened and tested for several different disorders, naturally we cannot give any guarantees. But generally, the child is better off than most naturally-conceived children, because the donor is screened and tested. In many cases, the donor will typically have previously donated sperm for other children, and we would be informed if, for example, he was in quarantine while investigations were taking place to see if the reported malformation or disorder in a child could be attributed to the donor.
4. Are you keen to have more than one child?
We’re often asked: “How much donor sperm should I buy?” It is really difficult to advise you about as we can’t know this. However, an important question to consider early in the process is the possibility of having full siblings: “If everything goes well, will you have more than one child? If so, is it important for you to have the same donor?” This, naturally, will have a bearing on the amount you should buy/reserve at the present time, and applies to open, anonymous plus and anonymous donors.
5. When will you tell your child that they were conceived via a donor?
What have you actually thought about saying to the child? When will you tell your child? How will you tell your child? When choosing to have a donor-conceived child, we recommend that you think about the child’s story right from the start.
We find that some people take things as they come, other plan what they’re going to say while others like to write a diary from when they first start to consider the process up until they’re holding a baby in their arms. The diary can later become a gift for the child.
The advantage for lesbian and single women is that the child will certainly ask when they are ready to get an answer. A two-year-old might say: “Where’s my father?” Here it’s just a matter of being ready. When the child is five years old, he/she may ask again. We have met others who tell the children everything from when they’re infants.
And don’t forget … a donor-conceived child is a much longed-for child. They were longed-for way before they were conceived. It’s an option. Their mother has wanted them, as has their co-mother or father. And they were wanted by the donor. It’s a big gift, including being told this later in life!