A shortage of adequate advice for donors and recipients of gametes

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Although it is vitally important that parents and donors are well advised before resorting to a donor or making a donation, too often, to research demonstrates that this is not the case.

  • A study published in 2013 of 1,700 sperm recipients reported that 62% had not received professional advice before embarking on conception using donor sperm, and 71.6% of their partners either. .1
  • A 2009 study of 155 egg donors reported that only 37% felt properly educated and counseled about the potential curiosity of the children they were helping to create.2
  • Another 2013 study of 164 sperm donors found that 80% said they received no education or counseling about the potential curiosities of donor-conceived people to learn about their genetic, ancestral, and medical backgrounds.3

Because establishments that sell gametes have not incorporated appropriate and comprehensive counseling services into their business models, parents and donors have not been able to make fully informed decisions about the choices that will affect their life and that of their children for decades.

In-house counselors often promote a decades-old agenda of secrecy and maintain many of the mistakes still peddled by gamete sellers, for example, having accurate records of children born, having limits on the number of children born to a same donor, or regularly update and share medical information with families.

Over the years, there have been many testimonials from parents and Donor Sibling Registry donors who were either not counseled at all or were counseled by therapists who did not seem well-versed or experienced in:

  • The importance of early revelation of the truth about a child’s conception story.

  • The importance of recognizing and honoring the right of all donor family members: the donor-conceived person, the donors, their families and parents to be curious and to seek out genetic relatives.

  • The difficulty of late disclosure and the trauma of discovering the truth about her donor conception as an adult.
  • It is important to know the medical history (physical and mental) of his family.
  • The fact that donor anonymity is no longer possible since 2005.4
  • The intricacies of donor family relationships: the potential complications and many joys of connecting and defining relationships with newly discovered genetic relatives.

A study of 1700 sperm recipients1

  • Sixty-two percent did not receive professional advice before embarking on conception using donor sperm, and 72% of partners did not either.

  • A higher proportion of those in a lesbian relationship had not received counseling. A smaller proportion of single respondents indicated that they had never thought of consulting a professional.

  • Of those who received counselling, 61% recall being advised to tell their child early in life that they were donor-conceived, and almost a third were asked to tell their child that the genetics does not make a family. A relatively smaller proportion of single respondents received this advice.2

A 2021 study of 363 egg donors

  • Sixty-six percent received mandatory pre-donation counseling:
  • Fifty-seven percent at the fertility clinic, 2 percent at their own counseling center/office, 37 percent at a facility recommended by the clinic, and 4 percent elsewhere.
  • Twenty-one percent were advised by a psychiatrist, 33% by a psychologist, 3% by a nurse, 1% by a doctor, and the rest said they were just not sure.
  • Forty-four percent indicated that they did not feel the counseling had prepared them for possible contact with children born of their donations.
  • Sixty-three percent said they had not received advice about possible future fertility problems.
  • Thirty percent did not ask their medical team/counsellor to discuss (prior to donation) the possible medical risks associated with donation.
  • Eighty percent said their medical team or advisor did not discuss or provide information about direct-to-consumer DNA testing (eg, 23andme, Ancestry.com) that could be used by a parent or a child to find them.

A 2012 study of 244 non-biological parents5

  • Thirty-nine percent of women and 57 percent of men said they had received professional advice before using sperm donation.
  • Twenty-six percent had obtained advice from the clinic before treatment, as it was mandatory.
  • Fifty percent had not considered consulting before starting treatment.
  • Sixty-one percent of women and 81 percent of men who had been counseled were asked to tell their children early in life that they were donor-conceived.
  • Sixty-nine percent of women and 43 percent of men were told that a child is likely to be curious about their genetic makeup.
  • Forty-one percent of all respondents were told that genetics does not make a family.
  • Participants were also asked about the advice they had received from the sperm bank/clinic during treatment. The majority said they received little advice on the type of donor to use (anonymous or open identity).
  • Seventy-one percent received no advice on whether to tell their child how he was conceived.
  • Forty-two percent of the 65 respondents who received this advice were told to do so before the child was 10 years old.
  • Thirty-six percent of women and 39 percent of men surveyed were advised never to tell their child the truth.
  • Fifty percent of women and 57 percent of men were told to tell others (family, friends, etc.) only when needed.

A 2013 study of the experiences and opinions of sperm donors6

  • Eighty percent said they had received no education or counseling about the potential curiosities of donor-conceived people to learn about their genetic, ancestral and medical backgrounds. Several donors noted that due to the anonymity of their donations, they felt no advice was needed on this matter.
  • Twenty-two percent wanted more information before making a donation. The desired information focused on the results of their donations, the impact of donor conception and anonymity on offspring, laws and policies regarding anonymity, and issues arising from possible contact with offspring.

A 2021 study of 529 donor-conceived adults

We asked if donor-conceived people had ever sought professional support or advice regarding their donor conception background, and more than 29% said ‘yes’. Perhaps if their parents had received proper education and guidance and were able to make informed decisions, that number might have been lower.

DNA = Non-anonymous donors

Given the dramatic increase in the use of donor gametes in recent years, combined with the Register of donor siblings and commercially available tools to easily trace family DNA, the practice of promised/mandatory anonymity for 18 years or forever is no longer viable.

Surprisingly though, every vial of semen sold is still sold as anonymous, whether for 18 or forever. During this long transition period in the field, mental health and medical professionals can support and empower all donor family members through appropriate education and counseling, especially regarding needs and issues. created children.

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