Donor Conception

Anonymous vs. open donors – why US sperm donation is rarely anonymous, in 2024

Emma Harpham in partnership with California Cryobank®   |  25 Jan 2024


If you’ve been looking into using donor sperm as part of your fertility journey, you’ll probably have seen a lot of chat online about anonymous vs. open donors.

And, it’s no wonder – there’s a lot to talk about here. Against the backdrop of technological advances and evolving societal acceptance, the once-standard practice of concealing donor identities is (quite rightly) being questioned, and reevaluated. 

But what’s the reality in 2024? And what does that mean for you and your family, as prospective donor sperm recipients? 

We asked the team at California Cryobank, a leading global donor sperm bank for over 45 years, for their expert insight. 

They stopped offering full anonymity to their wide selection of rigorously screened sperm donors in 2018, and champion stringent quality control as well as comprehensive post-conception services, to make sure your journey with donor sperm is as seamless and supported as possible. 

Now, over to their team for the full lowdown.

Why is US sperm donation rarely 100% anonymous, these days?

  • The rise of DNA testing companies. From Ancestry.com to 23andMe, the rise of these direct to consumer DNA testing companies and an increased interest in genetic heritage is a big part of why US sperm donation is no longer truly anonymous. 
  • Patient and donor-conceived family demand. We’ve found that it’s just what so many of our patients want. Our view is that, as a company, we have a responsibility to protect the families that we are helping to create. We work with the donor-conceived community and want to support and empower them.
  • The internet and social media. Like DNA testing, sometimes all donor-conceived children who are currently coming of age might need to contact their donor is a quick search on Facebook.
  • Societal calls for transparency. The increasing societal emphasis on transparency and the right to our information (genetic or otherwise!) has also contributed to a parallel shift in the mindset of both donors and recipients.

Why did California Cryobank® stop offering anonymity to new donors by 2018?

By 2018, all donors entering the program had to agree to be an ID Disclosure donor. This is because, like we mentioned earlier, we learned that potential access to the donor is really important to our families – especially to the donor-conceived individuals. 

Prior to 2018, we also offered the option for donors to be an Open Donor, which means they had agreed to a minimum of one communication with any donor-conceived individual once they turn 18.  

Making the choice to only offer our families ID Disclosure donors helps manage expectations for everyone involved, when everything surrounding donor anonymity is transparent and clear from the get-go. 

Has that impacted your ability to get donors?

We have always had high standards and minimum donation requirement that allow for less than 1% of applicants to make it into our donor catalog.

We pride ourselves on our donor requirements, such as our psychological screenings, expanded genetic carrier screenings, understanding what it means to be an ID Disclosure from the start, the option for donors to now submit adult photos, and more. 

Anonymous vs. open donors in 2024

Percentage-wise in 2024: As of today, more than 65% of our available donors are ID Disclosure, 7% are open, and the remaining are anonymous.

donor contact

How is California Cryobank® able to facilitate donor contact?

With our ID Disclosure donors, we release certain donor information upon request for all donor-conceived individuals, once they turn 18, following our ID Donor Contact Guidelines. 

When this happens, donors will be notified of the information request and given 30 days to respond to California Cryobank. If the donor does not respond within 30 days, certain identifying information will be provided to the donor-conceived individuals. 

We also let donors request an initial anonymous contact facilitated through California Cryobank prior to their information being released if requested. 

And what about contact with half-siblings?

Like so many choices to make when on a fertility journey, the decision to connect with other families who have used the same donor is completely personal.

We understand the importance of communication and connection and encourage families who have opted in to participate to connect with half-siblings through our Sibling Registry Program.

Can you tell us a little about the California Cryobank® Sibling Registry, and how it works?

The California Cryobank Sibling Registry is a free, optional resource hub that donor-sperm recipients and donor-sperm conceived people (aged 18 and over) can sign up to use. 

It allows donor-conceived people to connect with other donor siblings who were conceived using the same California Cryobank donor. If you sign up, you’ll be able to chat via a bulletin board, set up in-person meetings or simply read about your child’s related genetic network in their secure hub.  

Parents may add a pregnancy or birth, and donor-conceived individuals may add themselves to the Sibling Listing. 

There are different levels of participation available, which offer different levels of confidentiality. 

sperm donor selection

Do you limit the number of families who can buy one donor’s sperm?

One donor’s sperm can usually be used by 30 families at most.

At California Cryobank, we also give you the option to buy smaller numbers of vials at a time, and priority on the waitlist for future releases for that donor goes to people with reported pregnancies.

In 2023, we introduced a new product offering for our clients, called The Donor Reserve Program.

This unique offering boosts donor-family exclusivity by letting you choose either a donor whose vials we will make available to your family only or one with vials we will make available to a limited number of families. Both options offer you greater family exclusivity. 

These donors have undergone the same extensive screening process we use to qualify all of our outstanding donors.

The only difference is that our Donor Reserve Program donors have a limited number of vials.

Finally, what would you encourage hopeful parents to think about, before starting the sperm donor selection donation process?

  • Criteria and characteristics. Think about what criteria and characteristics are most important to you as a donor recipient. Medical history, ethnicity, height, facial features, eye color, and personality traits can all play a role in shaping your family.
  • Anonymous vs. open donors. Each journey and family-building experience is different, so it can be a good idea to think about whether full transparency of donor information is more or less important for you.
  • Financial planning. Finding the funds for fertility treatment can be so challenging, but there are support options available for those wondering about financing

At the stage of choosing a sperm donor? California Cryobank is giving The Ribbon Box readers special access to extended donor profile information with a free Level 3 Subscription ($250 value) with code: RIBBON24

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