Donor Conception

Introduction

Donor conception is  a form of assisted reproductive treatment that involves the use of donated sperm, or donated eggs or embryos. Most commonly the sperm, eggs or embryos are retrieved from a person(/people) unknown to the recipients. In some cases however, donor conception may involve a ‘known donor’, that is usually a friend or relative.

Like any form of assisted reproduction, donor conception can be stressful for those wishing to become parents. However, it also involves many more decisions and implications for donors, the recipients, and most importantly the children who are born as a result. This section focuses upon issues that are particularly relevant to donor conception, and the laws that relate to its practice.

Below you will find information about using donor conception, telling children about their method of conception, and about seeking help and support.

Other pages in this section then focus upon

Legal parentage is also an important issue. Brief information concerning legal parentage of children born as a result of assisted reproduction may be found here.

Note that the discussion found in the assisted reproduction section generally, is also very relevant. For example, people will usually engage in donor conception via a clinic (which is regulated via the particular oversight regime relevant to the state/territory in which they live). They will need to meet any eligibility requirements. Donors and recipients may also need to be aware of rules surrounding storage of gametes and embryos. Other areas of health law, like consent, negligence, and practitioner regulation are also generally applicable.

Using Donor Conception

Many people who engage in donor conception do so after having explored many other routes to parenthood. There may be a history of years of unsuccessful fertility tests and treatments, which will have carried with them impacts upon the person and their partner. For others, inability to conceive a biological child may be related to other illnesses (such as cancer) that have impacted fertility. Others yet, may have explored options such as adoption or fostering, without success. Others will be single or in a same-sex relationship. For some, donor conception may be seen as the only way they may have a family.

Whether in a hetero-sexual or same-sex relationship, or single, deciding upon using donor conception to have children is a significant step. It may bring people closer together, or it may cause fear and stress.

Discussing any issues or concerns and thinking through the consequences of donor conception is essential. There may be personal issues concerning having a child that is not genetically related to one or both of the recipient parents. Planning on how to tell the donor conceived child(ren) about their conception is also important.

People may talk with their partner (if they have one), a friend or relative, or seek more formal counselling. Finding people who have been in the same situation may also be helpful. For example, joining a ‘donor conception support group’, attending education sessions on donor conception, or participating in online forums may all help address any fears or worries, and to have a clear plan moving forward.  Some useful links to support services/groups can be found at the end of this page.

Telling children they are donor conceived

Telling a child that they are donor-conceived is the first step to ensuring they are informed about who they are and how they came about. Evidence suggests that talking with a child from an early age about donor conception will make it an acceptable part of your family story.
There are a number of other reasons that support telling a child.

The personal stories of donor conceived people who grew up not knowing, only to find out later in life, indicate that some felt a loss of trust in their parents, and questioned their identity. Children who find out in other ways, for example in times of family distress (eg. divorce, or illness) or through somebody else who knows, are more likely to be distressed.

Knowing medical history is also important, it may help people take steps to preventing or seeking early help in relation to some diseases that are passed on in our genes (for example certain cancers).

There is also a small but real risk that when a donor conceived person becomes an adult they could form a sexual relationship with someone they are related to. If both people know their background they can check whether they are related before this happens.

Some parents think that not telling their child will protect the child from feeling different or being talked about. However, by telling the child the truth, they are more likely to be able to deal with any matters that may arise. The truth may also enable parents and others to realise that there is no shame in having needed assistance to have a baby, including in having used donor conception.

Advice therefore is that when a child begins to ask about where babies come from (usually at around age 3 or 4), in addition to telling them that ‘a baby is made from an egg from a woman and sperm from a man’ they should be told that some families need to get an egg or sperm from someone else called a ‘donor’. The conversation can then lead to telling them about how a donor was used to create them.

Building a family journal, which includes information about their birth might also help in telling the child their story. Reading age appropriate books about donor conception can also be of assistance. (There are many now available).

As a child grows, there may (or may not) be more questions. Teenagers may wish to know more about their donor, and some may want to meet him or her. They may also want information about siblings. This may be the case no matter how much they love their immediate family.

It will be important to seek help and information if and when it is needed. It may be helpful for children to get to know other young people born through donor conception. It will be important to be aware of the laws where you live (or rather where your child was conceived and born), in order to know what information is available about the donor, and how to access information. Please see the Health Law Central section on access to information.

There are also useful links below about support groups for families and donor conceived people. The support needed may vary from family to family, but is there for all members if needed.

Finding help and support

Australia

Help and support is available at clinics and privately via formal infertility counselling.

Support networks in Australia also exist. The following are just a few of the many information and support services/groups available to those thinking about, trying, or having already had a family through donor conception. Click on the name of the organsiation/group and its webpage or contact details will appear in a new window. Important links for donor conceived people are also found below, and further discussion of particular issues surrounding access to information can be found here.

All Families:

For all families, the Donor Conception Support Group, may be a good place to start. Donors may also get in touch.

Access Australia, the Australian National Infertility Network, provides information, resources and can put people in contact with others who have faced infertility.

Donor Conceived People

There is an Australian Donor Conceived People Network on Facebook for donor-conceived people to link in with other donor-conceived people. (Note you will need to be logged in to Facebook to see the “Australian Donor Conceived People Network”. If you wish to join, you must send a request to join the group).

Various information regarding donor conception and contacts may also be found on the Australian Donor Conception Forum.

There is also an Australian wide campaign for donor conceived people called “Are you donor conceived?” aimed at encouraging people to find out their donor-conceived status by having a conversation with their parents.

In Victoria, a donor conception support group for donor-conceived people over 18, is operated by VANISH and VARTA on the last Thursday of every month from 7.30pm to 9.00pm at VANISH, 1st Floor, 50 Howard Street, North Melbourne.

Egg and Embryo Donation:

A forum regarding egg donation for intended parents and donors can be found at Egg Donation Australia (also includes discussion regarding embryos and surrogacy). There is also the Embryo Donation Network where people can discuss embryo donation.

Government information and support services

Government information services are available in Victoria, via the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA), and in Western Australia, via the Reproductive Technology Council.

Rainbow Families:

The Rainbow Families Council  in Victoria, and Rainbows Families Queensland may assist LGBTIQ people in seeking information and support before, during and after they start a family. The Rainbow Network also has links to groups for people who are co-parenting, children of rainbow families, transgender families, and more.

Single people:

Single people considering using donor conception might wish to get in touch with SMC (Sole Mothers by Choice) Australia.

International

Some links to support groups for families and donor conceived people in other countries are also found here.

Note the list is not exhaustive, but provides a starting point for those seeking support and information.

Belgium

Donorfamilies vzw: www.donorfamilies.be

Canada

Infertility Network: www.infertilitynetwork.org  

France

Maia: www.maia-asso.org

PMAnonyme: http://pmanonyme.asso.fr/

Germany

DI-Netz e.V.: www.di-netz.de

SpenderKinder: http://www.spenderkinder.de/

Israel

Israeli Donor Families: Israeli Donor Families

The Netherlands

DonorKind: http://www.donorkind.nl/

Freya: www.freya.nl

Poland

Nasz Bocian: www.powiedziecirozmawiac.pl

United Kingdom

Donor Conception Network (DCN): www.dcnetwork.org

The United States of America

Donor Sibling Registry (DSR): www.donorsiblingregistry.com

Find out more about donor conception

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