“The best kind of parent you can be is to lead by example.” –Drew Barrymore
I had started doing my research and wasn’t really excited to jump into the donor cyber world. I mean online dating was bad enough, but the sperm bank world needs a 21st-century makeover and facelift if I ever saw one. I learned there are specific industry names for the types of sperm donors and are classified into five types each with its own legal, financial and regulatory distinctions:
- Known Donor: Someone you know who is willing to give his sperm for home insemination only.
- Directed Donor: Someone you know who is willing to give sperm for clinic insemination.
- Co-parenting Donor: Someone you know who is willing to assume parenting responsibilities (usually financial and logistical).
- Open Identity Donor: A sperm bank donor who is willing to be contacted when child reach a certain age (typically age 18).
- Anonymous Donor: A sperm bank donor who wants to remain anonymous and can never be contacted by the child or offspring.
Although regulation and language of the sperm bank industry are surprisingly loose or open for interpretation, the FDA does require banks to adhere to protocols to prevent disease transmission. All sperm bank donors, including Open Identity Donors, must be tested for sexually transmitted diseases, quarantine samples for six months, pass physical exam including screening for genetic illnesses, and provide personal and family medical history to screen for hereditary diseases (note: these are verbal intakes requiring no paperwork support and rely on the honesty of the donor).
At the end of the day, Sperm Banks are businesses and are trying to sell you sperm. One example of bad business practice would be this case where several families, including Angela Collins and Beth Hanson from Canada, have recently brought suit and allegations against sperm bank, Xytex for fraud and negligent misrepresentation, but has not been proven in court. Sperm Donor 9623 — James Christian “Chris” Aggeles, who is a 39-year-old man from Georgia, has struggled with serious mental illness for much of his adult life. He has a history of run-ins with the law, has done time in jail, dropped out of college and struggled in the past to hold down jobs. His sperm has been used to create 36 children: 19 boys and 17 girls from 26 families. Read more here.
To say it is safer to use a sperm bank is debatable for me. However, if you have a “Directed Donor” sperm or a friend in your life that has offered up his sperm, they will still have to comply with the six months quarantine period. All of sudden my spermology and sperm shopping turned me into a sperm-zilla.
Last year when I was searching for new fertility technology within the space, I discovered and found the company GenePeeks. I featured them in my earlier blog called, “Future in Fertility” to talk about all the new technology coming down the pipeline for fertility. GenePeeks offers a preconception test that analysis 2 prospective parents’ saliva DNA information to identify a future child’s risk of inheriting one or more of 1000+ serious genetic diseases. I really liked that concept and thought how impactful that could be on the sperm industry. Here is just a sample of possible diseases a donor and you could be tested for.
- ABCC8-related hyperinsulinism
- alpha thalassemia
- Bloom syndrome
- Canavan disease
- cystic fibrosis
- familial dysautonomia
- Fanconi anemia type C
- Gaucher disease
- glycogen storage disease type Ia
- Hb beta chain-related hemoglobinopathy (including beta thalassemia and sickle cell disease)
- hexosaminidase A deficiency (including Tay-Sachs disease)
- Joubert syndrome 2
- lipoamide dehydrogenase deficiency
- maple syrup urine disease type 1B
- mucolipidosis IV
- NEB-related nemaline myopathy
- Niemann-Pick disease, SMPD1-associated
- spinal muscular atrophy
- Usher syndrome type 1F
- Usher syndrome type 3
- Walker-Warburg syndrome
My takeaway advice is regardless if you are looking for a donor because of lack of a parenting partner, same-sex relationship, or to become a choice mom, I would highly suggest getting fertility legal advice involved. It never hurts to protect yourself or ask for help. Here is a great list of the Top 10 most common mistakes when obtaining donors. After debating myself for a while, I came up with my own top must haves for consideration in choosing a sperm donor: male with functioning sperm, healthy and free from any genetic diseases, willing to donate sperm for additional children at later time, open ID so if some day my children wanted to contact their genetic biological father he was open to it.
When you have a child, there is a lot you can’t control, some things that you won’t share with your child unti maybe they are older, but what you have to learn is how to quickly deal with any unexpected problems or situations. Your child might have a physical disability or medical condition. They might be transgendered, have learning difficulties, or be a genius. Good parents are will adjust to their child’s circumstances – raising them in recognition of their personal needs, even when they don’t share the exact same position as what you might want them to have. Your child might have strong opinions about topics relating to your family unit or choices you made when creating your family. Maybe your child might go through phases as they get older and ask hard questions. These are all things to think about before coming to your final conclusion about what choices are right for you.
I would also suggest using resource website, Donor Sibling Registry. The DSR website was founded in 2000 to assist individuals conceived as a result of sperm, egg or embryo donation that seeks to make mutually desired contact with others with whom they share genetic ties. Without any outside support, the DSR has single-handedly pioneered a national discussion about the donor conception industry and families. DSR advocates for the right to honesty and transparency for donor kids, and for social acceptance, legal rights and valuing the diversity of all families.
One last helpful resource is Mikki Morrissette of ChoiceMoms.com‘s $5.99 e-guide “The 2016 Choice Moms Sperm Guide” (40 pages) to help answer questions, give you tips and trick, share information like how can you share leftover sperm vials, who will ship sperm to your home, or should we connect with half-siblings and/or donor? I found the e-book to be very helpful and savy for the modern day woman looking to plan her family.
In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) April 23-29 I wanted to feature, The Great Sperm Race documentary by BBC Channel 4. This program inspired me to write this two part blog series and I’m proud to say I work with some of the experts (Dr. Chris De Jonge and Dr. Alex Travis) featured on this show (6 parts – 10 minutes each). Promise it is very entertaining and worth the next hour of your time. Happy sperm shopping!