Myths About Donor Eggs and Donor Sperm
by Amy Demma, Esq.
Law Offices of Amy Demma, P.C.
Busted!: I hear this worry from more prospective recipients of donor gametes (and donor embryo) than just about any other concern. I first address this matter in a legal context and discuss with clients that any donor (sperm, egg, embryo) should be expected to relinquish all rights to the gametes (or the embryos) as well as explicitly relinquish parental rights to children resulting from the donation. With sperm donation, this relinquishment is typically done through consents at the cryobank. With egg and embryo donation, it is recommended that relinquishment of donor rights be memorialized in a direct contract between the donor and the recipient.
Of equal concern, though, is whether or not the parent who lacks in a shared genetic connection with the child will feel a parental connection, while this should be explored with a mental health professional experienced in collaborative reproduction …the best response I have to offer is the following quote from a parent of a donor conceived child: “The child who came into my life is the most beautiful, spirited child…he is the child I was meant to have and he fills me with love every minute of the day.”
Myth: It’s the only option for older women.
More Myths – Busted!
Busted!: In addition to donor egg, donor embryo as well as adoption are family building options that many older women can consider (although there are age restrictions imposed in certain types of adoption). In some cases, donor embryo is actually a preferred option because of the lower costs and, once embryos that are available for donation are identified, this family building approach can actually be quicker than donor egg (for example, in the time it takes to go from putting a family building plan in place to actually cycling). Older prospective parents may find support and best guidance in how to achieve their dream of parenting at fertility centers but also in the offices of attorneys, mental health professionals as well as through various resources committed to providing information on alternative family formation.
Myth: Egg donors are exploited / only in it for the money.
Busted!: This is a common myth we often hear in the media. However, it is a concern that is also typically expressed early on when prospective parents are considering donor egg (sperm donors are typically offered very low compensation and donors of embryos are rarely compensated). The fact of the matter is that egg donors contend with a tremendous amount in exchange for their compensation. Their commitment of time, the often inconvenience to their daily lifestyle, the invasive medical screenings and other clinical procedures will, generally speaking, weed out from the donor applicant pool those young women who are purely financially motivated. Egg donation is simply not an easy process. Because egg (and often embryo) donors typically meet with a physician, a nurse, a mental health professional, often an attorney and perhaps other family building professionals, the uninformed applicant who may see this as a quick way to earn money or who may be lured by the promise of compensation is likely to reconsider when risks and the commitment required are explained.
Myth: “I should be worried that my donor will show up at my front door someday.”
Busted!: When prospective recipients of donor gametes (egg or sperm) as well as those considering embryo donation embark on a donor search, the recipient will receive, in most cases, extensive demographic (as well as health and genetic) information about donor candidates. I remind clients who are worried about an anonymous donor searching for and finding the recipient family that the donor has received very little, if any, information on them. While anonymity is something we, as family building professionals, wonder about as technology and social media continue to evolve, the recipient family is actually at a much lower risk of being found than a donor may be. Also, should the recipient engage in a direct contract with their donor, often the contract will address the expectations of both parties with respect to future contact and/or a long-term expectation of anonymity. It is also helpful to recipients to know that donors, in fact, often express this very same concern relative to recipients searching for them. This matter, while appropriate to address in a donor contract, is one that should first be discussed with a mental health professional so that fears are addressed and a best plan (for the entire family as well as the donor) is put in place regarding future contact.
Myth: A donor conceived child is at risk for less than optimal medical care because his/her pediatrician will not know genetic information about the donor.
Busted!: In addition to the extensive medical (both personal and family) as well as genetic information made available to the recipient family, many donors will agree to be reached, in the future, should a physician treating a donor conceived child need additional medical information about the donor or the donor’s family. In the many years that I have been working with donors and recipient families, I am happy to report that I have only been asked to reach out to a donor for additional medical information a few times and that in each of these cases, anonymity of both the donor and the recipient family remained intact. I encourage prospective recipients of donor egg, sperm or embryos to not only expect an extensive profile on a donor (and to ask for as much information as the donor is willing to and/or able to provide) but to also consider whether or not that donor will be available should a pediatrician want to know more about the donor or about the donor’s family medical history.