Questions You Must Ask When Choosing Donor Sperm
What questions should you ask when choosing a donor bank and a sperm donor? Host Dawn Davenport, Executive Director of Creating a Family, the national infertility & adoption education and support nonprofit, interviews Jane Mattes, psychotherapist, founder of Single Mothers by Choice (SMC), and author of Single Mothers by Choice; Mikki Morrisette, founder of Choice Moms; and Dr. Grace Centola, a nationally and internationally recognized specialist in laboratory andrology and reproductive tissue banking. She has published 40+ peer reviewed scientific articles, 70+ abstract presentations at national conferences, and 26 book chapters.
* Note this is an automatic transcription, please forgive the errors.
[00:00:13] Welcome to creating a family. Talk about infertility and adoption. Today we’re going to be talking about the questions you must ask when choosing donor sperm or choosing a sperm bank. A lot of questions we got on this topic. It’s a really good one. Here’s a sample of what you’re going to hear. What term do you use. And certainly people go on the more distancing factor of calling them a donor certainly not a father not a dad although I know from my own personal experience and from a lot of other women there’s always a nervous period of time when a child is young enough to not really care about what the differences in those terms and doesn’t understand them and they will get all excited if they find out. You know there’s some details about their dad. And so no matter what there’s going to be a stage in life when your child is going to want to have their own way of articulating who that person is this show is brought to you by creating a family. We are the national infertility education and support nonprofit. I’m Don Davenport. I am your host and the director of creating a family. And you can find us and all of our resources online at creating a family org. This show is underwritten by our corporate sponsor Ferring pharmaceutical the infertility and fertility journey is a rollercoaster and people often feel so very alone in their struggles in support of this year’s National Infertility Awareness Week which was last week or two weeks ago April.
[00:01:47] In April we saw a couple of weeks ago Ferring is launching the talk about trying campaign to raise awareness of fertility issues and to empower women and couples to seek help sooner. And as you guys know that is something we talk about a lot here creating a family. Don’t spend too much time with your gynecologist. It’s important to get to a specialist sooner. The Ferring campaign encourages people to share their personal experiences to help others feel less alone and they have two opportunities to participate and they’re trying to. Talk about try and campaign that the hashtag hashtag talk about trying again. OK the first opportunity is you can share your personal experience on infertility on social media using the hashtag. Talk about trying for every time the hashtag talk about trying is use the through. May 11th 2018 will donate one dollar to resolve the National Infertility Association to share your story with the hashtag talk about trying to help others feel less alone and to support resolve. The second way you could participate is to share your personal fertility journeys. Again this is always through May 11th which guys is coming up in just two days. So you could share your personal journey as part of the talk about try story contest and that’s going to be on the you’re going to get more information about it on the My fertility navigator site which is a it’s not a new site is actually an updated site. And that is my fertility NAV and the dot com slash contest and you would enter a chance to win an all inclusive weekend getaway for Two at the Mirasol Arizona Resort and Spa in Tucson Arizona.
[00:03:35] You need to also look at the contest rules because as you would imagine there are some and again you get that information at my fertility Nasscom slash contest. So there you have two opportunities to share your story two opportunities to help others. But both of the deadline is coming up on May 11th. So get busy. Stop grass native. Get out there and do your thing do your share. All right. Today we’re going to be talking about questions to ask when choosing donor sperm. Our guests today are Jane Matus she is a psychotherapist. She is the founder of single moms by choice and that was founded in 1981. Yes that was not a mistake 1981. She is also a single mom by choice and she is the author of a book Single Mothers by Choice a guide book first single women who are considering or have chosen motherhood. We also have Mickey Morrisett. She is the founder of the website choice moms work. And she is the author of The Guide choice a choice Moms Guide. No toy moms of sperm died almost messed up. Welcome both of you to creating a family. Thank you so much for being with us today. Thanks. And let me just mention everyone Jane is in Manhattan and so we’re she’s doing her best to keep the noise low. But you know Manhattan is not a quiet place and it doesn’t help any that is kind of warm right now. So she’s battling the street noise and air conditioner although it’s sounding pretty good now so I think word presidential. All right we got a great question.
[00:05:20] We’ve got a number of questions but just from our community but I wanted to start with one because I think her name is LUCCHITTA. I think I’m pronouncing that right. And I think she summarizes well feeling that many women have many recipients have the timing of this show couldn’t be better. I am going to be choosing a sperm bank and I am so overwhelmed. Talk about pressure. I will be choosing one half of my child’s DNA. I am afraid to settle on a donor because I’m afraid I’ll make a mistake. I’m not even sure where to begin. I think that she is so not alone in this process. Mickey I’m going to guess that you hear this a lot from people in your community. Yes definitely it is. You know it’s it’s bigger than deciding who you want to date be it becomes a bigger deal and there’s a lot. And because there’s a lot of choices that means you can put a lot of thought into it. And anytime you have a lot of things you can think about the variables that feel really complicated. Yeah. Absolutely. All right. I wanted to start with talking about the people who are primarily the users of donor sperm and sperm bank are fall into three general categories. One is heterosexual couples who are facing male infertility. The next one would be single women who don’t have partners in the next one would be lesbian couples.
[00:06:53] So we’ve got those kind of three general and it although I will say that at least from our experience there are fewer heterosexual couples now than in the past primarily due to some advances in infertility and infertility treatment in particular intracytoplasmic sperm injection which allows doctors to fly if they’ve got one sperm they can sometimes have they can fertilized egg. So anyway. But nonetheless we still have heterosexual couples who are facing infertility and male infertility and are considering donor sperm. So it occurs to me that that some of the factors that people are looking at and some of the concerns might differ depending upon which demographic group which group you fall into. Jane let’s talk first about heterosexual heterosexual couples are facing male infertility. And for whatever reason either actually is not an option because that could happen where there is absolutely no sperm or they can’t afford or they have they have religious or other concerns about using IVF or creating excess embryos so for whatever reason they are considering donor sperm. So from your experience to primarily be probably in your therapy practice what do heterosexual couples usually look for it and how do they decide and how might that differ because of the reason that they’re coming to donor sperm. Well of course many of the considerations are the same no matter what you want a healthy child that has some traits that you think would be beneficial to the child and help the child get into the family. But with married or heterosexual couple the resemblance to the father is often a big issue because there’s more complications in the story for the child when they’re told or sometimes unfortunately not told that Father the biological father is not the social father that most fathers would prefer that at least the child looked like them if that’s possible.
[00:09:10] It’s a big concern and we will talk about the importance of parents and things like that in just a bit. So yes and you actually mentioned the other one that I was thinking of and that is from my experience in our community heterosexual couples are more likely to look for an anonymous donor. Now that may be changing but that certainly in the past we see that they’re perhaps more likely to prefer a donor who is anonymous. So let’s shift to we’re going to talk about a non birth versus ID identified donors in the later as well. All right let’s shift to lesbian couples. What do they often look for when choosing donor sperm and Jane. I’m going to direct this question to you as well. Well it’s really not that different except for as you mentioned the possible anonymity concern or wish depending on which side the couple falls on that. Otherwise it’s not that different from a single woman using donor sperm. It’s often a decision the couple may have to make in terms of which side of the family the child might resemble. You know most parents want the child to look like at least one of them. And you know it’s easier to pick somebody with specific qualities that resemble one or the other parent but it’s harder to get them to even imagine a mixture. Yeah yeah that’s. And in some make the decision that if one of the partner is going to be the carrying parent that they will choose a donor that will resemble the other partner that is. That’s one way to go about it. The Yep. Or the opposite. You’re exactly right.
[00:11:15] And we actually I know this is primarily either where infertility is already an issue or money is not a concern. But the couple may choose to use the egg. One one mom carries it and the other mom donates the egg. That’s right. I have seen that as well although that certainly increases costs. OK. Also I guess the only thing I would mention is that we see an increased interest in lesbian couples for home insemination which makes sense or trying to do the medicalize for them as a conception process. And some single women also prefer them for the same reason. Excuse me everyone I am this is what we call the jealousies and it’s also known as allergy season. So I’m going to be hitting my cough button frequently here. I should have a snooze button as well. All right. Now let’s move on to talk about single moms single women who are considering using and choosing donor sperm. One question I have for you Mickey is do you see that women make this choice more often by themselves. Or do they usually bring in friends or family to help them make this decision. Yeah you know every every everybody kind of approaches things in their own particular way based on personality traits. But one of the things that I’ve loved hearing about the most are those women that do bring in girlfriends over glasses of wine and they sit down with the list of variables of possible sperm donors they narrow with somebody you know love list of five perhaps and they narrow it down and they make it into something that’s kind of fun. That is that’s an excellent way to do it.
[00:13:09] There’s others though that are very research oriented and very single minded in their approach to getting things done. And they might just decide this is what I’m going to do here. Here it is. So it’ll vary a lot. But I do I do love the fact that there’s women who and that is certainly the single mothers by choice or choice moms are can be very good at networking with each other. Well prior to the sperm selection process though they have built in a community often virtually and they communicate a little bit about what the variables are how people made their decisions not so much to copy that but just to get a sense of what was important to other people and also just even things like how many vials should I beginning. You know some of those logistical things and that’s great. I mean that’s what the community is there for. Absolutely. And and from from your experience in your community towards mom. Or do you see that women are more likely single moms single women are more likely to choose a donor that resembles them or are they looking for from an apparent standpoint. Are they looking for something that the donor might resemble somebody they know and care about. For couples are often looking for resemblance to the non genetic partner. But what about for single moms. That would very also some women on the discussion boards in other places have talked about the fact that they they’re really looking for. I know there has been. There was one woman that specifically said she really wanted to have a multiracial family that was important to her. She lived in a diverse urban area.
[00:15:05] She wanted she specifically wanted to have somebody that wasn’t necessarily of the same background that she was. So it you know it can vary. But certainly it does. You know there’s there’s a component of it for a lot of women to try to have their child feel like they fit into her own family of origin as much as possible and so they will in that case mirror some of the characteristics. Excellent. All right. As a lawyer I can’t help but bring up some of the legal things that it’s boring but I think it’s important Jane. Do sperm banks generally handle all the legal considerations. If the woman is using or the recipient is using a sperm bank. Do they generally handle all the legal issues that she would need to consider or does she need to think about those in addition think about the legal considerations in addition to what they’re doing. Yeah as far as I know the sperm banks do take care of all the legalities in the contracts with the donor and with the prospective mother. But many of these contracts haven’t been tested and that is coming to be an issue as people are finding it easier to actually locate the sperm donors via social media genealogy places and yet they’ve signed an agreement not to do that. So as far as I know has not been tested in the courts. Yeah I think so too. I don’t know that that specific one has been tested. I’m not sure I have not heard of that has Mickey I know that and the moms you guide sperm banks sperm guide toys moms sperm guide.
[00:17:09] I know that you have a section on legal issues to think about anything that you’d like to add at this point. For women you go in thinking about at the beginning before they’re before they’ve decided on a specific bank or specific donor within a bank. Yeah I think there’s two parts to that one is simply that the banks do have different policies and it might feel like everybody has the same idea behind banking but they really have different differences around the number of donor limits and that’s not necessarily a legal question. But there are very different policies that people have around how many other donors siblings as they call them could exist out there because there’s different you know it’s not regulated in the way that some people think it might be. And so. So there are a lot of different policies which is one of the things that the sperm guide gets into and then people can kind of make choices based on what’s important to them. How the banks handle that. There’s also very different numbers in terms of tracking couples and individuals are supposed to report back to the bank when there’s been a live birth from a donor. But many of them do not actually do that. So therefore that that limitation is not necessarily so there different policies about how they track that and asking those kinds of questions and then the other thing that I would just bring into play which I’m sure which we’ll probably be talking about more as well but that a lot of women certainly report that they’re not sure they want an open identity donor.
[00:18:57] And I we just did do a survey every year on a different question with the choice mom community. And last fall the survey question was about talking to your child about their origin story how those conversations have gone. And one of the things that women certainly report is they don’t feel like it’s going to be important to them until that child is actually there and then they realize they do want to have as much information as they can. And as Jane mentioned these days I certainly know a couple offspring who have actually been able to track down their previously anonymous donors. So those conversations happen. What does that person mean. Part of the survey was was was getting at some of the emotional components of what you call that person. How do you reflect the donor and your conversations how often you have those conversations with your child. And when do they start. So those are all different variables that you know again when you’re thinking and you’re looking at the database and what they look like and what their skills are and things like that. Those are some of the important components that need to be considered as well I think. Yeah I would agree with that. And I did want to talk about what some of the policies that sperm banks have that you need to think about and it’s people Burbank’s have different policies and people have different approaches to whether or not what they what they’re looking for. One of the ones you mentioned that I was glad you brought up and that is the limit on the number of times either a man can donate or the number of children who have been conceived.
[00:20:47] Jane from what you see is that is the most banks limit on the number of times a man can donate or on the number of children that have been conceived. Well they don’t really have control over the number of children even though they may think they do. Because as Mickey mentioned a lot of these pregnancies are never reported yet. It may just yeah they can try to limit the number of donations and some do. But then the people who want to donate can just go to a different sperm bank. So it’s kind of not really something that can be successfully regulated. Yeah and I know of a couple of women who intentionally chose a sperm bank that was located on the opposite coast of them. So that with the hope that that would mean that they’re the odds that the donor would be from that area so that their child would have less concern of running into a half sibling in a dating situation which is not a likely scenario under any under any under any circumstance. But it is something that both of these women and I will say that were both on opposite coast and they chose for that reason. So yes that’s something. Something also to consider as well. Mickey you mentioned something about and I hadn’t planned on talking about it. I think it is an interesting thing to bring up and that is what do most.
[00:22:32] And this we’re going to be speaking of single moms right now and perhaps luck because I think it would probably give her with heterosexual what people call the donor know leaking a specific to their children and it make it easier if you can with single moms and then Jane if you would be able to answer this through if there’s any difference that you see with lesbian couples or heterosexual couples. Yes. It was a specific survey question we had quite a few questions but that was a specific one What term do you use. And certainly people go on the more distancing factor of calling them a donor certainly not a father not a dad although I know from my own personal experience and from a lot of other women there’s always a nervous period of time when a child is young enough to not really care about what the differences in those terms and doesn’t understand them and they will get all excited if they find out you know that there’s some details about their dad. And so no matter what there’s going to be a stage in life when your child is going to want to have their own way of articulating who that person is and the term that they hear their other friends using at school. And so that’s it. It’s an uncomfortable sometimes place but it’s also a very inevitable and very common space. And that conversation evolved so much over time. I mean I certainly know my my daughter when she was young at one point because I used a known donor and so she at one point when she was 3 or 4. That’s her daddy. And we will all go to Disneyland together because she saw that in a commercial. Well time goes on and there’s no way that she would consider him to be a dad or a father. Term we actually call them bio dad.
[00:24:28] And so they you know they will inevitably go through those ages and stages and Jane’s actually been part of a CD we did talking about that with Jane and a couple other therapists about how you have those conversations and what those inevitably ages and stages are but so so. But it is an uncomfortable space at times because an adult parent is inevitably going to have a different term for that than their child will at some point. But you know things do develop. OK. And and Jane thoughts on Shaam lesbian couples are heterosexual couples and how they might differ and what they call the donor right. Well first of all there’s an obvious difference in that with the heterosexual couple it’s not obvious. There was a donor with the lesbian and single mothers by choice or choice moms it’s kind of obvious there’s a missing person especially once the children learn the biology. So I just want to put in a plug we’re telling the child when they’re a newborn. People don’t always think about but is really helpful to the parents whether hetero or otherwise in just practicing using the words that they feel comfortable with telling the story to the child who has absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. And so you can just practice you don’t figure out what words work for you. And then I agree with Mickey the child is going to do their own take on the situation. And it’s a matter of really the children don’t get it until they get the biology of how a person is created. Once they get that it’s a lot easier to talk about the biological father or the bio dad or the donor.
[00:26:29] And it was depends on how many other male figures are in the child’s life. How big a deal this person who created them with the sperm is in this story. It might be less important you know to some children where there are a lot of men who are meaningful in their lives for example. And if I can just ban on what Jane was talking about that. Starting young. I do fine with the choice my survey in particular we had a couple hundred people respond and 6 60 percent of them said that they start that conversation from birth birth to two they’ve already started that conversation because it is like Jane said getting used to the the story telling the story proudly and then eventually storybooks come into play and other things and they become so comfortable that it becomes just such a natural part of of conversation that eventually the questions come from a child. And and then it just gets deeper and deeper and you know I’ve had a couple different kinds of conversations with my kids over time. And you know it’s one of the things that I love about how conscious our family building actually is is that you can have conversations with our kids about why how they came to be and why. What’s important is how we define ourselves as a family and you know what a mother is and things like that. So you know what a father is right and what her father is not. We mentioned that at creating a family we have a lot of resources from talking with your child about their conception.
[00:28:16] We hear from people a lot that one of the reasons that they have not told even though they are at some point planning on telling is that they don’t know or they don’t know how to begin. So we we have resources that take you from the very beginning on how to do it. And I strongly support both Jane and Mickey had said about. It’s easier to start young. And Jane I know you said you your survey said 60 percent are starting at birth. I’m going to guess that that in fact there has been some research that’s been reported that heterosexual couples are far less likely to be telling their children at all. Jane if you seen any like within the last one or two years research that indicates the percentages that are of heterosexual couples that are telling or not telling. I haven’t seen numbers but I belong to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine as a mental health practitioner and their policy is very definitely for the couple or single or you know whoever is conceiving with donor sperm to be open from the beginning and that’s not always been the case. But it is now the official recommendation and many fertility doctors and other practitioners require that the potential mother or couple go for some kind of counseling to discuss and help them understand the reason why openness is so important. And for sure it’s harder for a heterosexual couple to do that because the man has to be on board.
[00:30:04] And the couples I tend to see in my practice that is often the issue that brings them in is that the mother wants to tell the child right from the beginning and the father is just not comfortable with that because of his own Navy embarrassment or even shame about not being able to provide the sperm. Oh and fear and fear fear that that his role in the child’s life will be diminished. Now we see that. So yeah. So very often. All right. I mentioned earlier that the location of a sperm bank does not actually matter. I think that’s a surprise to a lot of people but sperm can be shipped and will be shipped unless you happen to live in. And even then probably will be shipped. So I think that’s a surprise to a lot of people that the location of the sperm bank really doesn’t matter. Well let’s talk about something pretty mundane. Let’s talk about prices. Mickey does the price of donor sperm vary now. So right now we’re not talking about if it’s being donated altruistically by somebody who is a known donor who is giving their sperm that we’re in. Talk about that later. Right now we’re just talking about sperm banks. So the price is very much. They do considerably and the thing that’s interesting for me too since I do the sperm děti each year I update the sperm guy. We have about 11 different sperm banks in a chart that we compare some of you know how many donors they have what their limits are motility promises things like that and cost both of shipping and the vials themselves. Every year that number is going up and changing every single one of the banks. Numbers go up a lot of that is you know so there’s more testing that’s needed required and that’s expensive.
[00:31:52] So the numbers are going up they go up fairly consistently. So a bank that’s a little bit higher in price is you know is it still going to be higher in price but they go up in the increments but they range. I mean in the guide that they just the new issued guide for this year it can be as low as 375 which is unusually low and then it can be up to closer to a thousand dollars. And again there’s a lot of services that come with that number. And then you know and then there’s even another one bank that does a lot of people who will be known very early in a child’s life which is a very different kind of policy. But those donors are much more expensive. Yeah. And we’re going to move now to kind of talking about some of the different services that different banks provide that might influence the cost. So let’s talk about some of that. One of the services is the ability to provide how much information they provide and how personalized the information is how to say it that way. Jane can you talk to us about how different banks are able to give parents a feel for the personality of the donor. Because I think it differs depending on the back. Sure some give the actual donor speaking they have the donor to make a tape recording them the potential mother or mother and father can use to help pick the donor. Some people really appreciate hearing the donor’s voice and getting more of a sense of the personality than you’d get from any piece of paper some give childhood photos.
[00:33:52] I believe some give adult photos but I’m not sure about that maybe Mickey or Don can correct me and some also give much more information at a higher price or more basic information at a lower price for example. Those are some of the differences quickly some other differences and then you’re in the talk about pictures. But first before we move into pictures. Can you what are some of the other ways that sperm bags distinguish themselves on trying to identify the personalities involved of the day. Yeah there definitely there’s those staff impressions. And you know those those sort of interviews that people on staff have with the donor. And so then they can give you a sense of what they are what they are like how they might match not just appearance wise but other characteristics that are important to you maybe related to family and things like that. So those are all things mental really help the kust. And again it’s so much more customer service oriented than it used to be and that’s way to make the customer feel a little more assured of what they’re getting. Now of course I mean it has to be said that there’s you know you forget that there’s no guarantees that genetic anomalies that can happen the you know the the donor who doesn’t know when they’re 2022 what kind of health concerns there are. Later on things like that because those are you know it’s those are variables and so it’s but there are certainly ways that the banks are going much deeper into some of them have have started to just specialize only in open identity an identity release donors and then.
[00:35:39] But there too the policies will be very different about how they promised to be able to either track that donor or keep track of that donor over time what that contact may or may not be down the road. So those are all important questions that will vary a lot in the banks but they are certainly being much more able to have more open identity donors than they used to. Can I just had a very recent new kind of information that is available is psychological testing which was unheard of and fairly recently and is now becoming I think pretty soon every bank is going to be doing it if they’re not already because that’s the one big area that does have a genetic piece that was never addressed. Yeah. Yeah that’s a that’s an injury. So you think that that well let me ask this. How common is it right now. Is it just a basic kind of personality profile test or how in depth is the Jane how in-depth is the testing what do you mean by testing. Well it’s more than just a simple obvious kind of test that anybody could cheat on. But it’s I really don’t know how detailed it is but it’s considered acceptable. You know more than like a pop quiz or something you give to myself what it is. It is fairly new. And as soon as there were a number of reports of some donors having had very extreme psychiatric histories that were never revealed until it was obvious from you know later information either from the donor or the children that it was a problem.
[00:37:31] So in the face of potential lawsuits or maybe actual lawsuits the banks are now pretty much making sure that that’s included. Yeah I guess I would just say that part of the reason again the banks are doing as much as they are with customer services. There have been anomalies that have been out of luck and a big spur to that is the fact that because women can now communicate online with each other and find each other through half siblings. And while the registries. There’s much more conversation that can detect those patterns. And so it’s I think it’s going to be a growing area of concern for banks is how to screen things that you can’t necessarily screen for but it becomes a problem. A public relations problem later on. Sometimes a lot of that though can be resolved by how open they are. At what point with customers. And you know again that kind of bank policy there is a lot. It doesn’t near the whole area because if we go back to what Lisa said at the very beginning you know this is such a huge decision. And the more information that’s available the more we want. Because I mean it’s almost human nature that you know the more information we have the less scary this decision is or at least that is one way to think about it and a whole air a whole interesting area is the whole new genetic testing and that’s got some significant gaps. I’ve talked with different sperm banks who are really struggling with this because you know how invasive is that for them for the donor. I mean they may not want all of this information. They may not want to know it themselves.
[00:39:19] Now you know from a genetic testing and others and particularly I think a lot of recipients are very interested in as much genetic testing as as they can get. So there’s not a right answer but I suspect there will be more and more genetic testing although I think there’s a lot of there’s a lot of issues that that’s not easy to think through as to you know from the genetic testing standpoint. But Mickey are you seeing more genetic testing being offered by banks. Yes in fact I know there’s a lot of the banks that I’ve known for a few years and I don’t I have to admit I don’t know the depths of what this new system is but they do have a deeper profile system not necessarily the psychology but related to genetic testing of different variables. I don’t really know how it works but I do know it’s it’s a it’s something they’re very excited about that they’re being able to offer to clients. It’s kind of new. So yeah it’s you know but it also goes hand in hand with that that there’s no guarantees when you’re talking about genetics in any way and so there might be some assurances. But it’s also important for all women to remember that there’s still you know you don’t we don’t even know our own genetic history in as much depth as we might end up knowing the donors and the combination of of egg and sperm had a deeply involved.
[00:40:49] So there’s always going to be variables and you know it can feel like if we’re using science that we’re going to be able to predict the genetics and other things of the child but it’s you know it’s like like it just evolves. Yeah I am so glad you said that. I think that the general public often imagines that we can know everything through genetics. And the reality is we don’t and not all the tests are readily available. And so there is a stepping out on faith one way or the other. Here’s a question that we got from Fiona and it relates back to something that I think you said Mickey. Jane I’m going to direct this to you. Fiona says I’m going to be a single mom and I think I may have only one child because of finances and work demands. I think it would be great if my child was able to have contact with half siblings my family and friends. I think this is a bad idea. I also don’t know if that is possible with our banks or only in the national forum that you mentioned. I think when she says the national forum I think she’s talking about the donor sibling registry I believe so. Jane some thoughts for Fiona. Now she’s thinking of this in terms of I think if I’m reading a correction her question correctly in selecting a sperm bank wanting to be able to connect with others who have used the same donor or rather than she wonders if the only option is to go with the Donor Sibling Registry. Well each of them the Donor Sibling Registry and the sperm banks have different ways of helping or not helping with the connection on the Donor Sibling Registry.
[00:42:42] It’s kind of a crapshoot as to whether or not other people who use the same donor or possibly even the donor are registered on their sperm banks in the past have been not that helpful in helping with the connection part of the problem is also as we mentioned earlier the non-reporting pregnancies. You know the pregnancies that are not reported obviously you can’t find out about them. So. But also there are facebook groups that are popping up on many sibling groups or donor sibling groups or sibling terminology. No question they are too. But people are finding ways to find other people who’ve used the same donor and have offspring that are related. And as a therapist I am very much in favor of this. I don’t know that it always works because even in our own personal families we know there are people who click with these or other people who don’t. But I think it might be worth having that information and either pursuing it or not pursuing it depending on how you and your child feel about having a more extended genetic family can be wonderful. I do know that there are at least one but probably some sperm banks that do have forums and they have some forums based on specific donors so that they’re actively encouraging families to connect if they choose a safe and private space with which to do that. So I do know that that at least some banks are doing that. If there had been some talk I had had over a period of time with different people therapists and bank representatives about having a national registry and I think some of this individual bank is partly to be able to control that a little bit.
[00:44:47] So I you know I myself am kind of disappointed we’re not moving in the direction of more of a multiple bank registry because as Jane mentioned earlier sometimes you know you don’t know how many places a donor has been to and things like that. It’s just one of those factors. But but at any rate it is something that has been the banks have been trying to resolve in their own ways and also think openness is helpful and some women do decide that they really want to have these these dabblings involved and we’ve had some resource material about that as well making those connections or not making those connections. And let me tell everybody the term dribbling is what they’re using and mishear that and she’s not she doesn’t have a list. So donor sibling combination sibling half sibling at some time or donor sibling is. And so it’s been some of that doubling. So that’s where that’s where that’s coming from. Let me I just didn’t want people to think Mickey that you couldn’t correctly when I think they of them. Yes. Yes. Let me remind everyone that you’re listening to creating a family. Today we’re talking about questions you should ask when you are considering donor sperm. This show as well as all the resources provided by creating a family could not and would not happen without the generous support of our partners who believe in our mission of providing unbiased medically accurate information to the patient and recipient community. One of our great authors is Manhattan Cryobank.
[00:46:33] They are dedicated to helping clients have healthy babies by analyzing a client’s DNA in combination with the DNA of the prospective sperm donor to provide the client with a personalized safer donor match list. In addition to sperm donor sperm services Manhattan Cryobank offer also offers a full array of Andrology and fertility preservation services as well. All right. I promise that we would talk about the ways that pictures are handled by different sperm banks and and how and how people. What’s interesting to me is the importance of pictures that differ of the recipients. You know we are all individuals and for some people it’s really really really important for some. Only want to have childhood pictures for others. They don’t really care about chocolate they only want adult so adult pictures. So Mickey how do sperm banks differ and in how they handle pictures of the donors. Yes I haven’t specified in my chart what their what what pieces each bank have but what I’ve done is I provide a link that jumps to those places because those those changed a lot over time. I do know there are more and more and again I think it’s consumer consumer requests to be competitive. More banks are starting to offer those adult photos. It it does mean to me that you know with face recognition technologies and things that you’re pretty much doing any kind of anonymity or waiting until age 18 with open identity you know that kind of goes out the window for those that are earnest and a lot of offspring actually are not. I know that with the sperm bank of California where they have a lot of help in connecting a lot of offspring aren’t really ready to do that until maybe they’re having their own children later on in life. So it’s not an automatic at 18 here I go.
[00:48:38] But certainly the adult photo thing just kind of means you know here we’re going to find you. You know so. So I just find I find it interesting that banks are willing to go there. The other thing I’ll just bring into play as I have interviewed past anonymous donors and also those that have made connections with offspring over time. And one of the variables that I think is also important for us to remember is that after after those after those donors have become adults and married and had kids of their own. Their openness when they were younger has other people in it to be factored in when they’re 30 40 50 years old. So that’s just something to remember too. Yeah. And we’re going to circle back I’m sorry to. Jane did did I interrupt you you were getting ready to say something. I just was going to add that we really have learned a lot from the adoption community and much of what we’re going through and learning all over again is what they went through in terms of openness of adoption or openness. Not all kids are interested as making mention you know in your book. Yeah you’re exactly right. Without creating a family we have a foot in both worlds. And I it seems to me that that this area is an area of such overlap. Let me pause now to bring in a another guest Dr. Grayson told him she is a nationally and internationally recognized specialist in laboratory andrology and reproductive tissue banking. She has published over 40 peer reviewed scientific articles over 70 abstract presentations at national conferences and 26 book chapters.
[00:50:23] Welcome Dr. Synd Tolla you are one busy lady. Well thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be here. I appreciate the opportunity. Well we’re bringing you in specifically to talk about quality control measures because we got a question on this. And I think it’s a question that a lot of people have particularly when they get closer to actually deciding. Let me read roominess question. First she said I bought a vial of sperm from a sperm bank and they said the sperm was a specific number and swam very fast. When my doctor tested the sperm before my artificial insemination it didn’t rank as well. I was so frustrated I didn’t get pregnant and I wonder if that’s the reason why. How can I make sure that the sperm is as good as they say it is. So let’s talk if you could Dr. synthol if you could walk us through briefly what are some of the different tests for quality that are done routinely by sperm banks and why might that differ with it or does it very often differ if it’s tested by the doctors. It’s very it happens very infrequently first of all let me assure her that it does happen very infrequently. And the process goes as follows. Basically when the donor comes in to donate he provides a specimen and usually within about 30 to 45 minutes the lab will then take that specimen and do a sperm count and a motility. You know do some checking and then proceed with the process freeze.
[00:52:09] There’s always a test to vial that is faade yet about 48 hours after the initial freeze and that gives the lab a handle on what we would expect if any of the remaining vials from that date would be thawed. So we do a count and a motility and you do the calculations and we can say OK now if any of those vials were Saad we would expect to have 20 million motile sperm or we would expect to have 75 million sperm but 30 percent motility and you would make the calculation. Now occasionally what might happen is that a vial didn’t get a clotted fast and you know completely enough. So vial might have less in the vial but most often what I find happens is that the sperm lamina andrology lab would do a count in motility is quite different than lot a physician’s office might do. They don’t use the same chamber that we that a lab might use to do the counting. Sometimes doctors office just looks at it quickly on a slide and makes a guess. However what I would recommend to Rowena is that as soon as this happens if that does happen the stone being should be notified and maybe will take the information from the doctor’s office and see what they did for their count. I mean we can expect maybe a 20 percent or up to a 20 percent difference between the way one place would do account in the way a sperm lab would do account. So we take that into consideration and discuss it with the client or the doctor’s office and make amends for that. If there was a significant difference certainly McGary given that OK.
[00:54:23] So sperm banks give a motility guarantee where they say you can expect a number guaranteed and expect x number of sperm and and B and we expect to have a motility of X. So if the the testing that’s done at the doctor’s office is not the same as the testing that’s done in the andrology lab is it not. Is it less precise or more precise. Dr Stanislas at the doctor’s office it clearly would be less precise because they wouldn’t be as experienced with doing checking sperm count in motility that a sperm lab would be. But what I want to point out and what I think is the most important is not necessarily the motility itself but the numbers of motile sperm that are present when that vial is thawed and I’ll give you an example. If we had a count 50 million five all that is 50 million in a motility of 50 percent that would be twenty five million motile sperm. Correct. Half of 50 million. But if we had a hundred million sperm and a motility of 25 per cent that would still be Twenty 25 million motile sperm. So the whole key is not the actual percent motility but the numbers of motile sperm or some refer to it as a total motile count or the motel concentration. That is what is important. Rev’s generally guarantee depending on if it’s one prep or another prep 10 million motile sperm or 15 million motile sperm or 20 million models from the way a doctor’s office would count that it might be off a little. It might be 18 million how different is 18 million then 20 million.
[00:56:42] Not that much different but I definitely recommend that anyone that has something like this happen they should either themselves or the doctor’s office immediately contact the sperm bank and let me bring Mickey in on this. Brad do sperm banks differ very very significantly on what their total Mogel or other motile concentration for what they are guaranteeing for their sample from before their or their sperm donor. Is that pretty universal between sperm banks. It’s fairly universal because again they’re trying to be competitive. But one of the things that will happen and one of the things in our chart is that some banks promote the fact that they have a higher average. But again you know as the doctor was pointing out you know if you if you look at how they’re calculating that that might make all of the difference. So yeah generally everybody is going to guarantee that they’ll have 10 million per milliliter. I believe it is. There’s also CCWs so I don’t know quite how those measured differently or vials. But you know you’ll have a base of 10 million. Some will go up and you know according to our chart will go up to 26 million on average. But yeah again you have to kind of look at how they’re how they’re determining that. And I would agree that it’s very important how it is being determined. And just to clarify millilitre in CC are the same thing now. And some again you have to look at the entire package insert that comes with the vials because vials will have a half of a milliliter or three quarters of a leader.
[00:58:35] They might guarantee say 15 million per milliliter but if there’s only half of a milliliter there you would have to multiply times to half or if there’s 20 million. So you have to look at all of the data and and definitely if there’s a concern the sperm bank should be contacted and they can explain OK. Excellent. All right. And we’ve talked around this topic throughout this interview and that is the advantages and the disadvantages of a identified donor. It’s also called Open I.D. donor our I.D. release donor called different things versus an anonymous donor. Jane I’m going to guess that you have an opinion on the advantages or disadvantages of either of either option. So I’m going to give you a chance to share your opinion. Absolutely. One of my favorite books was a very old book called lethal secrets and the title pretty much says it. I think in terms of good emotional health secrecy can be lethal and particularly when it comes to family secrets that have to do with the child’s identity. So I do think that although for some parents it’s hard to really talk about this kind of stuff because they weren’t familiar with it to the degree that many of us were on the but we really need to get comfortable with it and be able to talk about it with our children and extended family. We just did a about two weeks ago an article on I think the title was the one thing you must know if you’re going to use a donor and it profiled two different scenarios not scenarios on two different real life cases that have recently happened.
[01:00:38] One of a woman who found out actually it was an anon donor situation with her mother had an affair but she found out about it in a basic biology 101 freshman year course when they were doing a pundit square on blood type and her blood type. It would be impossible according to this square and she found out and somebody else in the class tweeted the entire thing. So we have so we have the tweets you know coming in and we took off identity identification identifying information and the other real life story was recently happened when somebody used one of the over-the-counter mail order DNA tests and found a was found out that they were well basically they found out that their parents had used a donor but she was originally knew that something was wrong because there was no Jewish ancestry and her father was very proud of his Jewish roots and and eventually found somebody who was a very close relative and she reached out to that person and said Oh who is this you know and that we have this person in common. And it turned out that was the donor who had donated was the person that she had contacted was his brother who had given in college had donated in college and had never really hadn’t even thought about it. So that’s it’s I think that the that the reality is and this is my opinion. But the reality is that there’s really no such thing any more of an anonymous donor. It’s only it’s in many ways it’s only a matter of when it feels that way to me. Mickey would you agree with that or am I overstating it. Yeah.
[01:02:23] You know I would add my my brother was adopted and as an adult he really resented the fact that he was not able to he he was not given the rights to any information about his identity. And you know there was nothing he could do about it. And you know when you think about your child older and then having their own children and all of that you know it is naturally it’s their origin story. And while we can’t guarantee that information is going to be there a folk with an open identity donor part of it is having that conversation with your child that you did whatever you could to try to help facilitate that. So. And Jane do you see we see now that people are more willing to say that they think they they think they should be telling their children. But I’ve wondered if we’re seeing a and associated increase in people who are actively seeking out open identity donors. And keep in mind that over an open identity is a different defined differently whether or not that’s when the child is 18 or whether there is a medical reason sooner and I think it’s sticky pointed out. Just let me say that one of the questions that people absolutely should ask if you’re looking for an open identity donor is how is tracking going to be done. How how how proactive are they are that are that sperm banks going to be in tracking and how much help they will give in facilitating contact. So those are some things to think about. But now let me ask the question which is are you seeing people move towards more towards open or just. There’s still a fear and there’s a desire for Anonymous.
[01:04:12] It’s certainly there’s still a fear there are people who are just terrified that if a second parent or biological parent is found that somehow the child will no longer love the social parent who raised them or the mother in the case of a single parent family. There is definitely the fear but there is more and more information out there which can allay the fear to some degree of people who have been open. Whose children have found the donor. And you know it’s a very individual thing. Some children get really involved with the donor and want to get very involved donors and some don’t. So it’s really I mean I can’t emphasize how a comfort level with all this can help in discussing it. And if you can discuss an issue it is less likely to be problematic in the long run that I have here. Yet please from from the standpoint of the sperm bank and this is a very complex topic as you allude to. We could talk for hours on this and I think the issue is what you’re trying to say is do you tell the child that they were conceived with donor sperm or not. And then secondly if you do tell them Are they able to find out the identity or information about that sperm donor and if it’s purely anonymous you get a lot of information about that donor you’ll get ethnic group you’ll get medical and social history you’ll get all the physical characteristics but you won’t get their name and number. And there are some reasons for that.
[01:06:10] You know donors do this when they’re young and in college and as you indicated earlier they are thinking perhaps when they’re 40 or 50 or 60 or they’re having their own children that someone is going to knock on their door and say hey I’m you know I’m one of your children that they can be devastating to everyone even the child because they’re in a sea. If someone doesn’t want to know them. So I think that you’re you know I would agree completely that it depends on perhaps your relationship with your child. It depends on how much information is revealed. It depends on if you’re a married couple. You a heterosexual couple versus same sex couple versus a single woman. Each one has different issues and anonymous versus open identity. Yeah it’s very complex very difficult. And if you the time to go ahead if I have Peniche just say so several years ago when my son was probably about 10 and he knew we had an unknown donor and we were going into that city and he said I want to meet him and so we did meet him and it was mostly because my son wanted to shake his hand see what he looked like and then that was it. He really didn’t know he didn’t need more than that he just wanted to say he had met him and he was a do so. So that was cool. Yes it was. It was wonderful. And your points well taken is that we can’t anticipate what it is. In this case what it is that your son what was it that he was seeking. What was it that was going to satisfy his. And it may change as he gets older. You know that’s the thing. Yeah. And his donor you know what his desires are.
[01:08:12] As Dr. Santos said it is complex and it is an evolving and evolving issue. Let me break for a moment to mention another one of our partner. This is Integra med fertility. They are the largest network of fertility practices in the country. They combined the latest innovations in reproductive science with compassionate and customized treatment plans and there they and recommend practices are able to provide the very best possible care. And you can go to their website and take them dot com to find one of their practices one of their clinics near you. Thank you so much Mickey Morrisett Jane Messis and Dr. Grayson Tolla for being with us today to talk about questions and what’s what’s important what factors should you consider when you are choosing donor sperm. To get more information about Jane you would you can go to Bayor book. First of all single mothers by choice a guide book for single women who are considering or have chosen motherhood. And you can buy that. It’s available on Amazon. I believe as both a paperback and a Kindle version. Or you can go to her website. Single mothers by choice. Or to get more information on making more thirt or her site. Choice moms dot org or her choice moms guide to sperm. Go to her Web site choicesMoms dot org. That’s a mouthful there for me. Thank you so much for joining me today and I will see you next week.
- Is the choosing process different depending on the demographic you are coming from or the reason you are using donor sperm? Heterosexual couples, single women, lesbian couples
- What do heterosexual couples usually look for, and how do they decide? (choose together, often look for a donor that looks like one of them, more likely to look for an anonymous donor)
- What do lesbian couples often look for when choosing donor sperm? (choose together, resembles one of them, shared interests, ability to do home insemination)
- What do single women consider when choosing donor sperm?
- Choosing alone, or with family and friends.
- Legal considerations when choosing a sperm bank or donor sperm.
- What questions to ask a sperm bank to decide if they are the ones you should go with?
- Does the sperm bank’s location matter?
- Do prices of donor sperm vary much?
- What sperm bank policies should recipients be aware of? Refund policy. Will there be sperm of this donor available for future inseminations?
- What to call the donor?
- Do most sperm banks have limits on the number of times a man can donate, or is it based on number of children conceived?
- Do sperm banks differ on how much they facilitate communication between people who conceived using the same donor in order to facilitate donor sibling (“dibling”) relationships?
- What are some different ways recipients think about appearances and whom the donor should look like? How important are appearances?
- What should people expect in terms of pictures of donors? Childhood pictures? Adult pictures?
- How important is genetic testing of the donors?
- How do sperm banks try to give recipients a feel for the personality of the donor?
- Advantages and disadvantages of a identified donor vs. an anonymous donor.
- What are the different tests for quality that are used for donor sperm?
- Motility guarantees
Image credit: Luis Alejandro Bernal Romero