Donor search – Part 1: Clinic/Home, Known/Anonymous?

Most of my posts thus far have been getting up to speed with where we are in terms of the practicalities of having a baby as a lesbian couple. I will get to grips with some of my thoughts and feelings in later posts but it seems wise to get up to speed first. There will be plenty of time whilst we’re going through false alarms and two week waits for me to delve into my psyche and do some navel gazing.

So…. donor search. Such fun (said in the style of Miranda’s mum). Many, many things to consider before the searching even begins. Do you want a known donor or anonymous? Do you want to go via a clinic or home insemination?

Going through a clinic generally involves using anonymous donor sperm where the most information available is ethnicity and general characteristics. The law changed in the UK in 2005 meaning that sperm donors donating to banks and clinics can be contacted by children born using their sperm, if the child so desires, once they turn 18. The sperm is screened and checked for STIs and certain genetic disorders – having said that how many straight couples screen their genetics unless they have a known recessive condition in their family? Most people just hope for the best and take their chances so this wasn’t a major consideration for us. Going through a clinic was something we wanted to avoid doing – partly due to the clinical, detached nature of the process and partly due to cost. As a rough guide to the costs involved in private treatment see the London Women’s Clinic treatment costs.

That leaves us with home insemination and the acquisition of sperm without the back-up of a clinic and their catalogue of donors. It’s still possible to do anonymous donation using the home insemination method. The options basically involve buying sperm from a bank either here or, as we considered, from somewhere like Denmark. The legalities are different and there isn’t the same automatic allowance of information to the child once they turn 18. Anonymous donors can remain anonymous forever unlike in the UK. The costs are also lower using places like Cryos than in the UK – sperm can be shipped to you or you can travel to Denmark to collect it.

Sperm banks are not the only option, though now we venture into the potentially murky world of known donors. That’s a bit of an exaggeration really – if you manage to find a known donor you are comfortable with it is awesome and I’ll talk about our personal search in a bit. There are however places that will help you find a donor. Pride Angel was one place we looked and seriously considered before our donor situation was resolved. The site itself is great idea. It acts as a connection platform between donors (sperm and egg) and recipients. It’s free to join but to send members a message you need to buy credits. They also sell a variety of home insemination kits and other useful things like vitamins and, my favourite, the sperm shaped stressball. The donors themselves were a mixed bag – some came across in their blurb as entirely genuine and altruistic. Some had already completed their families and wanted to help others achieve the same. Some appeared to be less genuine – talking about needing a physical attraction for instance did not fill me with confidence. Nor did anyone who filled in the medical questionnaire and refused to be tested for STIs. I’d approach any connections with strangers with caution and employ a good deal of common sense if going down this route. We had already decided to meet any potential donor that we didn’t know personally in a hotel rather than our own home despite the seedy connotations that conjured up.

The final option in the known donor approach is to ask a friend or hope that one volunteers. This conjures up a whole other world of potential issues (it’s not exactly something to easily drop into conversation) and can be awkward in the extreme.

Oh and if I haven’t said it enough already last post – if you’re not using a clinic or sperm bank, contracts are your friend.

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