Using a known donor, sometimes referred to as an “open donor” has become increasingly popular in recent years for couples trying to start a family. When In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and artificial insemination were first being used, people didn’t want to use a known donor because of rare stories of children wanting to have a parental relationship with their donor and it going poorly, or other complications with the upbringing and relationships.
With societal changes and acceptance of different methods of fertility, these ideas are now pretty outdated. People are also finding that having the option of meeting the donor should they want can provide some much-needed flexibility.
Known Donor Advantages
More Information about the donor
With a known donor, there is much more room for learning about their personality, history, and values. Testing for anonymous donors can be very limited to the basics- eye color, height, ethnicity, and blood type. With known donors, it can be a major advantage to be able to meet in person and get a gut check of the person who is going to provide half your child’s genetics. Even more than just meeting them and getting a sense of their vibe, you can use the internet to learn more about their interests, family, and upbringing (hello, stalking 2009 Facebook photos!).
A donor concierge service with a known donor is a cheaper option than the medical costs that can occur with an expensive IVF or IUI treatment. Bonus if you use a family member or friend who will waive the fees as a favor.
Options for Similar Genetics
This is a great option for couples who are concerned about the child’s identity and making sure they feel connected to their parents. It is very common, realistic, and achievable to have a brother, uncle or cousin donate sperm so the genes are nearly identical as that of the infertile parent. This is a great way to have the child look and “seem” like the parent’s child.
Giving the Child a Sense of Identity
Donorship can be an emotional experience for both the parents and the child later in life. Alternative family planning is now much more common in society, but it can still lead to questions of identity for the child.
Healthy Co-Parenting Relationships
With a known donor, there are much more decisions involved in co-parenting agreements. Another known person is bringing another parental figure into the equation, which can be equally beneficial and problematic for starting a family. It’s definitely more “untraditional” to have a third parent, but also can benefit the child emotionally, and financially, to have another figure of support and love.
There are many options to create healthy co-parenting relationships. We offer a co-parenting agreement service that has proven to keep the relationship mature and with clear guidelines. With an agreement, you can establish rules surrounding how you’ll raise the child. There are many options for the relationship with the donor. You can choose for them to have limited contact with the child, or frequent contact. The decision is entirely up to you.
Known Donor Disadvantages
Despite a lack of legal rights with the child, the donor may still have opinions on how to raise her or him. This may be complicated and emotionally draining.
Donor Change of Heart
No matter what the donor says when giving the sperm, when he first sees that beautiful little baby you are going to have, it can sometimes be really hard to stay away. This can lead to unplanned complications, and more time with the donor than you wanted in your life. Alternatively, they may realize they want less participation with the child than they initially did. Moving to a new city or country, building their own family, change in careers… These can all be factors to why the donor may want less interaction with the child than planned.
Donor May Feel Pressured
“Can you have my child?”
This question is a big one to ask. A friend or family member may feel obligated to do you the favor, but it is a big deal to have a child with half your genes out in the world. It's also an emotional burden, on the other hand, to say no to a family member or friend who you know has been struggling with infertility or is a member of the LGBTQ+ community and cannot conceive. Either way, the donor can feel a lot of pressure.
Anonymous Donor Advantages
Peace of Mind in Anonymity
There is a sense of security for both the donor and the parents in knowing that you cannot contact each other. The child also remains completely influenced by the chosen parents’ decisions, with no donor influence.
No Potential for Co-Parenting Conflict
Anonymity can be a blessing when looking at potential complications. Humans have ever changing emotions, and however well you know the donor you never know how they will change over the many years of the child’s lifetime. The donor cannot interfere with parenting decisions, ask for my financial backing, sue over parental rights (although this situation is extremely rare), or any other complication.
Less Publicity (Although this is outdated…)
Historically, when women’s roles and familiar structures were different, it might have been shameful to do alternative conception like sperm donorship. Today it is very common and a part of public discourse. Nevertheless some parents may have residual worries about other people’s opinions, so an anonymous donor is much more secretive and lowkey for the family.
Anonymous Donor Disadvantages
An anonymous donor can charge a big paycheck, whereas using a known donor though a concierge service can be more cost effective. The chances of contraception are higher in fresh sperm, so even percentage wise the cost can be lower because you have to try insemination less times. Family members and friends are the cheapest known option because they likely will not charge if acting in a favor.
No Possibility for Future Communication
As previously discussed, humans are emotional people, and are constantly changing their emotions. At the time of conception, the donor might be sure that they don’t want to see the child, but after years of wondering there is a probability they want to meet their biological kid.
Another scenario is the child learns they are donor-conceived and wants to meet the donor for identity reasons or just for a sense of closure. Again, they will not be able to easily do this (there are ways with genetic testing) but it becomes far more complicated than with a known donor who you can just call up. A final scenario is that the parents need financial or emotional support and want the donor involved, they cannot do so either.
Genetic Testing Technological Advancement
Technological advances in this field have led to the possibility for an anonymous donor to become known. This can be fairly complicated, expensive, and emotionally draining for all parties involved.
There is also a trend in finding your “donor siblings” with communities like Donor Sibling Registry.
What is a Known Sperm Donor Registry?
There are several sperm donor registries that have donors free of charge (or with a tiny fee). Modamily has over 3,000 known donors so you can find someone who matches your criteria whenever you need. A known donor registry allows you to match the traits you are looking for, then actually meet that person before committing to them giving your child half its genes. It’s hard to not find someone you like with thousands of donors and new donors joining everyday.
Sign up for a consultation here to learn more about known donor registry options.
Common Myths/Misperceptions about Sperm Donation
It may seem like going through the traditional route of a sperm bank is the safer bet, but there are pros and cons to both systems. A huge issue with sperm banks is that they will place you on a waitlist. You may wait for months and only get to select from a few options. The “best” donors at sperm banks often have a 50+ person waiting list.
Let’s walk though some of the biggest myths about known sperm donorship.
- “Using frozen sperm is safer than known sperm donors”
This is a myth for many reasons. The FDA does have to regulate frozen sperm very strictly, which many patients then mistake for “safer.” The sperm gets tested for genetic tests like Sickle Cell disease as well as sexually transmitted diseases including but not limited to Hepatitis, HIV, and Gonorrhea. The sperm also gets retested after 6 months for the same set of diseases, which ensures the most accuracy in testing. This does make frozen sperm safe.
Nevertheless, that does not mean known sperm donors are any less safe! Known sperm donors can, and should, get tested for the same set of sexually transmitted and genetic diseases. At Modamily, we make sure all donors are properly and thoroughly tested.
One thing to remember is that you are already ahead of the game by getting the father tested. In traditional baby making, neither party is likely tested before concieving anyway.
- “Using a known donor is risky because they might want legal custody later”
In the US, anonymous donors lose parental rights - this is true. But that does not mean every known donor is looking for parental rights. After birth, you can terminate the known donor’s parental rights through adoption.
With a known donor, you can also gain access to a notarized, legal document under “Parental Intent” that can create legal guidelines for the donor’s parental rights in your favor.
Also, when choosing a co-parent, you should choose someone who will stick with their word. You need to create very, very clear guidelines and expectations for the relationship before determining a co-parenting agreement. However, there is no real concern that a donor will try to claim parental rights since the legal barriers are very solid.
- “Sperm banks are better because they have a full history and medical background available”
Sperm banks have much less information on their donors than they give off. The banks perform interviews on health history, sure, but there is no verification on any other information. No one can really double check if the donor got a perfect math SAT or knows 3 languages.
Most banks cannot screen past blood tests, so things that can’t be caught in blood like family history of cancer or recessive genes cannot be screened easily.
Sperm banks are businesses first and foremost - and the donors are their product. This means they want their product to be shiny, attractive, talented, healthy, and everything you could want in a co-creator of life. This means they are not inclined to double check if a donor is lying about how perfect they are.
Also think of social media apps - there is no way of verifying the truth of what the person says on their profile until you meet them. This is why a known donor can be better because you get the chance to check out their vibe past just a profile. Meeting them in person can tell you so much more about their personality and way of life.
- “Sperm banks have higher success rates”
This is false. Frozen sperm is less effective than fresh, and the timing is far more difficult to get right - meaning you may have to try insemination multiple times. Fresh sperm can live inside a woman's body for 5 days, whereas previously frozen sperm only lives a mere 6-24 hours. You also have a very small window (about 6 hours) when fresh sperm has a 1 to 2 day window for the same conception rate.
- “Sperm banks are cheaper and more convenient”
We’re not sure where this rumor came from! Frozen sperm is not cheaper or more convenient.
Due to such low conception rates with frozen sperm, many women chose IUI - an expensive medical procedure which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. The cost barrier can be even higher for LGBTQ+ women who may require fertility treatments, which can rack up the medical bills very quickly.
Is a Known Sperm Donor Registry Right for Me?
Same Sex Couples
If you are a lesbian couple starting a family, choosing a known donor will give you the most opinions in regards to the gene pool. Some lesbian couples want their child to have some sort of fatherly influence, and knowing the donor allows this possibility.
Known sperm donors are a great option for co-parenting. This is a way to conceive without doing it naturally, yet allowing you to have a relationship with the donor. Choosing a known donor brings in a fatherly figure or third person to help and relieve stress.
There are countless egg and sperm donors out there who want to help you start your family, but finding the right one isn’t always easy. If you want to find an anonymous donor you should contact a sperm/egg bank that can help. However, they often severely restrict the amount of information you can receive about the donor. For this reason, you may want to seek out a known donor concierge service.
If you are looking for a known donor, you should first contact friends and family. If you don’t want to involve them, there are services that can help you find a donor that meets all of your criteria.
One of the leading surrogate and donor search services is Modamily. With Modamily, you can enter all of your desired characteristics of a donor or surrogate and we will help you find the one that works for you. Known or anonymous, we’ll help you find the donor with a fast and easy process. Schedule a consultation today.