Donor Conception

What’s it Like to Donate Sperm? A Sperm Donor Tells All.

Eloise Edington  |   11 Jan 2022

Ever wondered why someone would become a sperm donor or how sperm donation works?

Earlier this year, TRB’s Founder, Eloise spoke with one of California Cryobank’s sperm donors about his experience of sperm donation.  If you missed the podcast, read our article below to learn more about why our podcast guest became a sperm donor.

California Cryobank is one of the world’s largest sperm donor banks who have helped tens of thousands couples, solo parents and LGBTQ+ clients across the globe start and grow their families for over 40 years.  View California Cryobank’s profile here and visit their website by clicking here.

Q: Why did you become a sperm donor?

A: I’ve always liked helping people.  That was the main reason I went into it and it’s still the reason I keep donating.  Before I was a sperm donor, I was a blood donor for years but I stopped when I joined the military.  After college, I attended a talk about IVF by a fertility specialist and was really struck by the emotional journey of people using donor [gametes] for fertility problems (and other reasons).  I realised I could help.  I was young and healthy, I guess I have a decent genetic resume so I saw my opportunity to help out and I took it.

As a society we have a lot of stigma attached to the concept of “fertility” – we marry it with the ideas of sex and intimacy.  This makes sense on first flush but when you consider how we organise ourselves socially and in terms of the relationships we have with those closest to us, sex, intimacy and fertility come apart in really meaningful and powerful ways.  I feel that how we define families and how we think about families has a lot more to do with the emotional bond felt than the material nitty-gritty, like genetics.

I feel that stigma really hangs on people and can weigh them down.  With the miracle of 21st Century science, we can help abate this stigma.  The human race would be a lot better off (and have healthier family dynamics) if we talked about this stuff more openly.  It would also probably lead to more people being willing to help by donating gametes that others so deeply need.

  • Genetic test summary
  • Medical history
  • Donor personal essay & donor keepsake
  • Donor childhood & adult photos
  • Donor profile & extended donor profile
  • DNA ancestry
  • Staff impressions
  • Facial features report
  • Keirsey report and Q&A
  • Donor conversation
California Cryobank is giving TRB readers special access to all of these items and more with a free Level 3 Subscription ($250 value).  Just use promo code: RIBBON24.

I think it’s a lot less about me and who I am than about a donor-conceived child trying to piece together the story of who they are.

Q: How has your experience of donating sperm been?  Would you recommend it to a friend?

A: My experience has been positive.  I’d definitely recommend it to a friend – we need more gamete donors out there!  I’ve had a great experience working with California Cryobank, nothing but responding with dignity and positivity to people seeking donors.

Q: If you weren’t paid, would you still donate sperm?

A: Yes, definitely.  Maybe not as many times per week but I’d definitely still donate sperm.  My main driver (and I think the reason why most people donate sperm) is to help people by contributing what I can.  When we’re talking about medical resources and people’s time, I think we should always be fairly compensating individuals but for me, money isn’t the main motivation behind why I became a sperm donor.  I can’t speak for all sperm donors but I don’t think it’s the reason most people do it.

Q: What are your feelings about offspring making a request to contact you in the future?

A: I’ve thought about this for a long time and I’m comfortable with future offspring contacting me.  I understand why a lot of donors have reservations about being contacted; it’s not like I don’t share those same feelings and although I’ve spoken about many of the benefits of sperm donations, I’m not blind to the gravity of the situation.

I don’t consider my donations to be a means of having my own children; I’m donating to help other people have children but I am having genetic, biological offspring and that isn’t lost on me, or likely anyone on the California Cryobank programme.

Recognising the impact sperm donation has, personally, I would feel obligated to respond if a donor-conceived child reached out to me.  I think it’s a lot less about me and who I am than about a donor-conceived child trying to piece together the story of who they are.

I think it comes back to stigma surrounding sperm donation.  People who have been struggling with plans of having IVF treatment or donor-conceived children, have told me they’re not sure how to explain a donor as part of the biological make-up of a family.  I think we’re conflating intimacy, fertility and what a family really means.  Testimonials of donor-conceived children seeking out their donors focus on filling in the narrative of their own identity, not wanting a replacement parent.  They have their parent(s); they were the ones raising and loving them.

When we recognise this, we’ll be better off dealing with the distinction between anonymity, contact and the emotional costs of both.

Q [To California Cryobank]: Do donors get informed when a child has been born from their sperm and what information does the donor know about the child and the parent(s)?

A: Due to California Cryobank’s policies, the donor wouldn’t have access to information that’s private about the child or the parent(s).  However, if the donor is curious about live births from his donation, he’s more than welcome to contact California Cryobank and a manager can divulge that information.

Q [To California Cryobank]: Can you tell us more about the California Cryobank Sibling Registry?

A: The California Cryobank Sibling Registry is a FREE, optional resource that helps donor-sperm recipients and donor-sperm conceived individuals connect with other donor-sperm siblings who were conceived using the same California Cryobank donor.  The registry is open to anyone using a California Cryobank donor and participants are given access to help discover potential siblings from the same donor.  If they choose, they have the opportunity to reach out to those sibling matches, or even share their own information.  Donor-conceived individuals (over 18) are also invited to participate.  Out of respect for the privacy of our families and donors, California Cryobank donors are NOT eligible to participate.  How one chooses to participate is totally up to the individual – from remaining anonymous to sharing your information, it’s all optional.

Q: Has your perspective on donating sperm changed in terms of regrets or affirmations since you started?

A: A lot of my hopes were reaffirmed by this process and many of my anxieties were alleviated.  There’s always a snagging doubt coming into this process: how would it actually turn out the other side?  Would California Cryobank treat me like the number I’m allocated (on account of anonymity)?  How would my rights as a donor be respected versus California Cryobank’s services delivered to clients?

I really don’t have anything to say but positive things about my experiences with California Cryobank.  As a result, it’s reduced my anxieties about the whole process, so much so I thought it would be amazing getting the chance to speak with [Eloise at The Ribbon Box].

Q: How do your family feel about you being a sperm donor?

A: It hasn’t really affected any relationships with my family.  My partner and I have been dating for about four years and we’ve spoken for a long time about me being a donor.  She’s been nothing but supportive since day one.

I told my mother and she was pretty nonplussed about it.  It was actually kind of funny.  Neither of my sisters are planning to have children right now but when they do, I plan to talk with them about being a sperm donor for the sake of awareness.  I’m also pretty open about my sperm donation with friends – it’s not something I see any sense in hiding or feeling uncomfortable about.  I’ve had a range of different comments from friends, some have been jovial, others were rather touched and told me it was an admirable thing, which I thought was sweet of them.

I haven’t received a single negative comment after deciding to do this and telling people I do this.

Q: If you were to have children with your partner in the future, how would you feel about telling them about you being a sperm donor?

A: I plan on having children in the future and I’ll need to tell them, I think.  I’ve thought about that conversation a few times but [my kids’] existence is a few years off!  I’ve definitely rehearsed the conversation in my head; the hows and whys of telling them.  Surprisingly, I’m not really anxious about it.  In one sense, it’s not too unlike having a bunch of cousins you’ve never met, and in another sense, it’s something that will, most likely, not impact their lives.  If it does, chances are it will be a positive impact.

We are so grateful to California Cryobank and this donor for taking the time to speak openly and honestly and donor sperm and donor conception.  Conversations like this really do help to break the stigma surrounding using donor sperm.

To take advantage of California Cryobank’s incredible discount and access their Level 3 tier of donor information, use promo code: RIBBON24

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