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Are you considering conceiving a child with the help of a sperm donor? Here's an overview of what you should consider, and the pros and cons of both known donors and using a sperm bank.

Are you currently considering conceiving a child with the help of a sperm donor? Here's an overview of the things you will want to consider. 

Who Uses Donor Sperm To Conceive?

Donor sperm is an option people may consider if they want to conceive a child but:

  • There's no intended father to provide the sperm — this applies to lesbian couples and single women.
  • The intended father has no sperm or sperm of a very poor quality, as shown in a semen analysis. 
  • The intended father has a genetic condition he does not want to pass onto his offspring, or has HIV (though sperm washing may also offer a HIV positive man the possibility of having biological children without passing the disease on).

What Do You Need To Do Before Choosing To Conceive Using A Sperm Donor?

Exploring the psychological and emotional aspects of conceiving a child with the help of donor sperm is very important, and this is a complex and multifaceted process for many people considering the option of using sperm donor to conceive. 

Examining, deeply, how you truly feel about donor sperm is hugely important — probably more so in families where there is an intended father who would be raising a child not biologically related to himself, but also for single women and lesbian couples. In couples, both partners should be absolutely on board with this big decision. During the exploratory process, it is immensely beneficial to openly discuss all concerns, fears, and hopes, either within the partnership or with the help of a licensed therapist who hopefully has experience with donor issues. 

Taking a close look at how you feel about different types of donors is also a good idea. Some people prefer to use a donor who they do not know personally, while others like the idea of a donor who will later be accessible to the child. In the latter category, some people choose donors who take a more active part in a child's life, perhaps being a sort of "uncle" or a family friend, while others prefer a donor who is (much) more distant but still available to answer questions about medical history or to give a child a better idea of their biological heritage. Donors who provide their gametes to sperm banks may be completely anonymous, providing only information about their basic attributes such as height, age, ethnic heritage, and sometimes interests and qualifications, along with their medical history. They may also be ID-release donors whose identity will become available to the child upon turning 18. The possibilities here are going to vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Different types of donors are going to come with different pros and cons. With a sperm donor known to the intended parent(s) personally, there may be legal issues to explore, particularly if the mother is going to inseminate herself at home without medical supervision. It is possible that your sperm donor will be seen as the legal parent of your child. In 2014, a Kansas court ordered a sperm donor to a lesbian couple to pay child support after one of the women applied for public assistance, despite the fact that the donor had signed a contract waving his legal rights, despite the fact that he was not acting as a father, and despite the fact that neither of the child's mothers asked for this. The other side of the coin is that sperm donors may, under certain circumstances — and especially if they have a relationship with the child — seek and be granted parental rights. This is particularly true for single women and lesbian couples in which the second (non-gestational) mother is not also a legal parent due to legalities that disallow this (which are, fortunately, disappearing fast!). In the case of married heterosexual couples, the mother's husband is still automatically considered to be the legal father of any child born during the marriage, so these couples have less of a worry in this department.

Finally, but certainly not least importantly, you will want to consider how your child is going to feel about being a donor offspring. For a more detailed account of how donor offspring feel about their origins, see the link directly above this paragraph. It is important to note that many donor offspring do feel extremely positive about their origins, something research shows is most likely within lesbian families. How you handle providing your child information about their origins is going to have a huge impact on how they feel, so it is a good idea to begin considering this when you are still exploring using a sperm donor to conceive.

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