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Donor Conception: Questions for Prospective Parents

Issues and themes to ponder when considering using donor gametes.

Key points

  • What will the use of donor gametes mean to you, your family, and to your future child?
  • Donor-conceived people desire to know about their ancestry, medical history, and close genetic relatives.

Many published research studies and decades of anecdotal accounts lay out some common themes that prospective parents should be aware of when making important decisions and planning for their future child.1

Some questions and topics to explore:

  • What are your beliefs about fertility/infertility?

  • Have you (or your partner) worked through a grieving process in regards to infertility? Do you understand the impact that may have on your future children?

  • For prospective parents who will have no genetic connection with their child(ren): how do you feel about the loss of a genetic link to the child?
  • How do you define “family”? Families can be formed both with and without DNA connections.

  • Will you be okay with carrying (or having your partner carry) the baby of someone unknown?
  • Do you feel emotionally protective of the non-bio parent?
  • Have you thought about how your family/community/society will view you as parents if people know your child’s conception story?
  • Do you have financial concerns?
  • Do you have a strong social support network? Having close friends and family members available for support during the journey is essential, as is having this network available after a child is born.
  • How do you feel about privacy/secrecy and the desire to hide infertility or not having a partner?
  • Choosing a donor: how do you feel about not knowing enough about what they look like or what kind of person they are? Are you considering which donor characteristics are most important and which ones might be genetic in nature?
  • Do you feel concerned over unknown medical issues that could be passed to your future child?
  • Do you wonder how and when to disclose to the child, family, and others?
  • How will you acknowledge your child's potential curiosity and desire to know their unknown genetic relatives?
  • How do you feel about holding family “secrets” and the potential damage that they can have on relationships and families?
  • Have you thought about the legal and emotional issues that might result from using a known donor, (a friend, family member, or stranger found via social media)?
  • Do you have fears about not being able to connect with and love the child? It is crucial that this fear be adequately addressed before deciding to utilize donor conception.
  • Do you understand that much of the information on fertility clinics' and sperm banks' websites are marketing materials and may not reflect their actual practices? (Eg., keeping accurate records, regularly updating and sharing donor's medical information, and limiting the number of children born to any single donor.)

Understanding the needs of donor-conceived people (DCP)

It's imperative to educate yourself about the needs, issues, and experiences of DCP long before you actually create one. Many DCP feel that they should be able:

  • To fully know their origin stories right from the start. To have their parents willing to be honest and open, and to discuss all donor issues.
  • To know about their ancestry, because part of knowing who you are is knowing where and who you come from.
  • To know about their close genetic relatives. Many want to know their half-siblings and other biological parent (the donor) long before they're 18.
  • To have their full medical history to ensure proper preventative medicine, screenings, and treatments.
  • To have the freedom to explore their genetic identity and connections without any guilt or fear of hurting their parents.

Recommendations for prospective parents

  • The decisions you're making today in regards to choosing a gamete vendor and donor will affect your future child for decades to come. Making fully educated and informed choices is vital.

  • Talk with your current support system about your plans. This can be a joyful event with no shame around it. The more open you are now, the easier it will be to be open and honest after a child is born.

  • Build a wider support system around donor conception. Seek out other parents, especially parents of older DCP. Explore the Donor Sibling Registry and read the success stories, testimonials, research, books, and the wealth of information provided. Hearing advice from others who have walked the path before you can be incredibly helpful.
  • It is important for prospective parents to know the importance of early conception story disclosure and modeling these conversations for their very young children. The more your children see you speak openly and confidently with family, friends, doctors, teachers, acquaintances, and even strangers, the more comfortable your children will feel. You can feel confident that any playground questions won’t rattle your child, as they will be self-assured about explaining and sharing their own origin story.
  • It’s important for parents to acknowledge that their kids will most likely think about and want to talk about their unknown genetic relatives. Talking through any relevant hesitations or fears and having an understanding of the benefits of honoring a child’s curiosities and desires to know about/connect with their genetic relatives is imperative.
  • It’s now very common for parents utilizing egg donation to join the Donor Sibling Registry to connect with their egg donor right from pregnancy/birth. This allows the parents and the donor to establish contact and decide for themselves the depth, breadth, and speed with how they communicate and how to define their relationships. These connections allow DCP to grow up having access to their other genetic parent and possible half-siblings. You can ask your egg or sperm facility for this open and early communication!


1. Blyth, E., Kramer, W., & Schneider, J. (2013). Perspectives, experiences, and choices of parents of children conceived following oocyte donation. Reproductive Biomedicine Online, 6, 179-88. doi: 10.1016/j.rbmo.2012.10.013.

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