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To some, sperm and egg donation represent the only way to have a child and the start of a joyous journey. But how do donor offspring themselves feel about their identity and their conception?

“Sperm donation is one of the most generous gifts you can give, changing the lives of couples and individuals who would love to have a child of their own”, the London Sperm Bank tells prospective sperm donors on its homepage. It then goes on to describe the “sperm donor shortage”, which means that “thousands of infertile couples are denied the chance of having children”.


Infertility sucks, and strikes most couples by surprise. These couples had hoped to have children who were related to both partners at the outset of their relationships, but turned to alternatives including sperm donation once it becomes clear this is impossible. For lesbian couples and single mothers by choice, donor sperm is an inevitable part of conception rather than a Plan B.

Like the advert points out, sperm donation and its newer counterpart — egg donation — helps individuals and couples realize their dream of parenthood. Gamete donation creates a lot of happiness in the lives of those people, but it is far more complex than the advert would have you believe. It impacts all involved parties, in ways that are not always easy to predict in advance and in ways that are not always positive.

Donor-conceived babies and children may not have a voice or an opinion, but adults created through gamete donation do. What do they say?

My Daddy's Name Is Donor

Donor-conceived people have gained a new voice through the internet, where blogging platforms have enabled them to share their views and feelings with one and another and with the rest of the world. The often angry, sad and confused voices of these adults represent a point of recognition for other donor-conceived people, but also an outcry for social justice and a necessary “basic training” for any individual or couple considering parenthood through gamete donation.

Those who are looking for a more systematic review of donor-conceived people's views and feelings should, I think, not skip a 2010 study titled “My Daddy's Name Is Donor”, created by Elizabeth Marquardt and colleagues from the Institute for American Values. The report's name was taken from a baby t-shirt marketed to parents of donor-conceived children, meant to be funny. Its findings, created from interviews with donor-conceived people, can hardly be called that, though — it shows another side of sperm donation, and one that we should no longer ignore.

What do sperm-donor children say about their conception and their identity?

Sixty-five percent of donor offspring agreed that the sperm donor is “half of who I am”.

Forty-five percent declared that “the circumstances of my conception bother me”. Nearly half report that they think about the circumstances of their conception multiple times a week, and just as many are disturbed that money was exchanged in order to conceive them. Forty-two percent of donor offspring, compared to 24 percent of adoptees and 21 percent of people raised by their biological parents, believe that “it is wrong for people to provide their sperm or eggs for a fee to others who wish to have children”.

Seventy percent say they wonder what their sperm donor's family is like, and 69 percent wonders if their sperm donor's parents would want to know them. Meanwhile, 53 percent are worried about hurting the feelings of the parent/s who raised them if they tried to find out more about their donor, and 48 percent feel sad when they see friends with their biological mothers and fathers — compared to 29 percent of adopted adults.

Almost half are confused about “who is a member of my family and who is not” and believe that the parents who raised them lied to them about important matters while growing up. More than half report relying more on friends than their family — twice as many as those who were raised by their biological parents.

This is just the start. You can read the full report — which you will find in the links box below — to find out about the number of donor-conceived adults who worry about inadvertently having a sexual relationship with a relative, about the divorce and substance abuse rate among donor offspring, and about the fact that around half of the surveyed donor offspring had serious concerns or objections to donor conception itself, even when parents tell children the truth.

The report's conclusion is far from the rosy picture the London Sperm Bank paints, in conclusion. The "My Daddy's Name Is Donor" study shows an entirely different side of gamete donation:

“On average, young adults conceived through sperm donation are hurting more, are more confused, and feel more isolated from their families. They fare worse than their peers raised by biological parents on important outcomes such as depression, delinquency and substance abuse”.
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