This information leaflet should provide you with all the information you need regarding the use of donor sperm and eggs, however we would like to remind you that we have developed a totally bespoke hand holding service and will be available 24/7 to support you. If you have any questions or concerns after reading this, please call us on 01245 241231.
An increasing number of babies are born each year in the UK using donated sperm and eggs. The experience of people who have donor-conceived children shows that this can be a very positive way to create a family.
If you are considering using donated sperm or eggs there are some things that are important to think about. This leaflet is designed to:
- Help you prepare to receive donated gametes (sperm or eggs)
- Enable you to understand how the law affects you and your family
- Answer your questions about using donated gametes
- Encourage you to think about the emotional and psychological issues involved
What is donor conception and how could it help me?
Donor conception involves using sperm, eggs or embryos donated by someone else. It could help if:
- you are not producing sperm or eggs of your own
- your own sperm or eggs are unlikely to conceive a baby
- you have a high risk of passing on an inherited disease
- Chemotherapy or radiotherapy has resulted in ovarian failure or testicular dysfunction.
How might I feel about using donor conception?
If you are considering using donor gametes you may feel a sense of loss because your, and/or your partner’s genes will not be passed on to your children. You may worry about how your partner feels about this and how it will affect your children, family and friends.
Take time to reflect before going ahead. Discuss how you feel with your partner and try to talk to parents who already have donor-conceived children. (see references at the end of this leaflet). We will offer you the chance to talk to an independent counsellor, and this can help to make things clearer.
How has thinking about donation changed?
In the past, infertility, and particularly the idea of using a donor was seen as something to be secretive about. Parents were advised not to tell their children about how they were conceived. Few imagined that donor-conceived children would want to know, or ever could know, the truth about their conception.
Today all that has changed. Huge medical advances mean that infertility has lost its stigma, as IVF becomes increasingly popular and successful. Research has shown that parents and their donor-conceived children often wonder about the donor and why they chose to donate.
Also, we know that donors think about the children that they may have helped to create. It is common practice to encourage parents with children born from donated eggs or sperm to be open with them from an early age. Current thinking is that secrecy is not in the children’s best interest and that they have a right to find out about their genetic origins if they choose to do so.
What does the law say about donation?
This greater openness about infertility and donation is now reflected in the law. Until April 2005, people who donated gametes were anonymous. Since that time, the law has changed.
Donor conceived people born after the 1st of April 2005, when they reach 16 years old, are now able to apply to the HFEA to receive non-identifying information that their donor provided (all information given by the donor except for their name and last known address). Once they reach the age of 18, anyone born as a result of donation will be able to contact the HFEA and will be able to receive information from them that will identify the donor. They may want to get in touch with the donor. Donors will be contacted by the HFEA before releasing any information.
What are the potential benefits of the new law?
The new law recognises that our genes are part of our identity and that knowing about our genetic heritage can help us to understand who we are. This can be important:
- For the psychological and emotional well being of donor-conceived people.
We know that many of them, like people who have been adopted, are naturally curious about their genetic origins.
· For medical reasons.
We are all born with inherited characteristics, some of which predispose us towards certain medical conditions. Knowing the medical history of people genetically related to you may help you to get an early diagnosis and effective treatment for an inherited disease.
· For family relationships.
Family secrets can undermine trust and lead to conflict and stress. They can also suggest to children (and others) that they’re parents are ashamed of how they were conceived. It is hoped that this change in the law is encouraging more parents to be open with their donor-conceived children.
· For donor-conceived people’s future relationships.
There is a small but real risk that 2 people who are genetic siblings could have children together without realising they were related. If parents tell their children they were donor- conceived they will be able to check this.
· For donors.
Donors are often curious about the children born as a result of their donation. Under the law now, they will be able to find out from the clinic how many children were born as a result of their donation.
Will the child be legally mine? What do I put on the birth certificate?
When you and your partner have your treatment at a licensed fertility clinic, you are the legal parents of the child and should put your names on the birth certificate. The donor has no legal rights or financial responsibilities towards the child.
Can I reserve sperm for future siblings so my children have the same father?
You can if the sperm is available. This is something that you should discuss when you embark on the treatment. It is a good idea to check on the terms of consent, including how long the donor has agreed to their sperm or any embryos created from them being stored. Sperm, egg or embryo donors can be legally used in the treatment of up to 10 families. You may find it useful to discuss this with the counsellor or one of the Simply Fertility team.
When should I tell my child about their origins and what should I say?
There are no hard and fast rules, but many experts say that it is better to start early, even before your child can talk or understand the facts of life. This allows you to become familiar with talking to your child about how they were conceived so that, by the time they are old enough to ask questions, it is already part of their life story.
Donors are encouraged to provide detailed information including a short description of themselves and a message of goodwill to any children conceived.
The short description can be given to you when selecting a donor, however the message of goodwill can only be given once a baby is born. You may find this helpful once your child starts to ask detailed questions. It is a good idea to discuss how you may tell a child with the counsellor. The donor conception network (www.dcnetwork.org) also has information leaflets and personal stories (see references at the end of this leaflet) which many couples find helpful.
Where can I get help and support?
The decision about whether to use donated gametes is an important one, with life-long implications. There are many issues to consider, some of which are complicated. Before coming to a final decision it is recommended that you see an independent counsellor. They will have a great deal of knowledge and expertise about donation. These sessions can be particularly helpful in explaining how your decision to use donated gametes may affect your relationship with your partner, if you have one. It will also allow you to consider your relationship with any child that you may have. Please also remember that the team at Simply Fertility are always available if you have any queries or questions, however small. Please call us on 01245 241 231.
References and organisations
These organisations may be able to help you if you have specific queries about donor conception.
Donor Conception Network. A national support group for people who have conceived through donation and those considering it. They can give you advice and support and also the chance to meet parents with donor-conceived children. Call 020 7278 2608 or visit www.dcnetwork.org
National Gamete Donation Trust. A national government-funded charity set up to raise awareness of and seek ways to alleviate the national shortage of sperm egg and embryo donors. It provides useful publications for donors and recipients including information on donation and the law. Helpline call 0845 2269193 or visit www.ngdt.co.uk
British Infertility Counselling Association (BICA). The professional association for infertility counsellors and counselling in the UK. Its website includes a list of counsellors providing services and a downloadable leaflet on choosing a counsellor. Call 0114 263 1448 or visit www.bica.net