Sperm Donors in the US

Tara - posted on 10/26/2011 ( 12 moms have responded )

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News reports of a sperm donor with 150 offspring have prompted discussions on how to better regulate the sperm bank industry.

Every year, tens of thousands of children are born with the use of donor sperm. North Texas families looking to conceive must go online because Texas does not have a sperm bank.

"You order online, and you can have it shipped to your home or doctor's office and go from there," said Shannon Carrigan, who used a sperm donor to conceive her daughter, Kate.

Carrigan, of Dallas, has connected with five other families that used the same donor.

Some of the children look alike. Many have blond hair and blue eyes, and some share a similar jawline.

Carrigan shares stories and pictures in a Facebook group with the other parents.

"I do believe there are a few more out there that aren't in contact with us yet," she said.

The New York Times reported last month on a group of 150 half-siblings conceived with sperm from the same donor.

Some have called for tighter regulation of the industry, citing health concerns.

"If you have a donor who has 150, 200 children, you may have 100 with kidney disease or Huntington's chorea [disease]," said Dr. Kevin Doody, a fertility expert at the Center for Assisted Reproduction in North Texas.

Advocates for regulation also say they are worried about the potential for incest among adults who do not know they are half-siblings.

Doody said recent revelations about donors with 50 to 150 offspring have him taking a closer look at the sperm banks he refers his patients to. His patients use a number of sperm banks across the country.

Carrigan recently watched a documentary about children conceived using donor sperm that featured a man who had 70 offspring.

"I just hope they regulate the industry better, because that's just too much," she said.

Other countries, such as Britain and France, restrict how many times an individual donor's sperm can be used. The United States does not have limits, although the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reproductive medicine, has guidelines.

"So we don't know how many kids are born for any one donor, who they are, where they are, if they have any sicknesses, any genetic illnesses," said Wendy Kramer, the founder of the Donor Sibling Registry. "There's no way to upload and share medical information amongst people who have used the same donor."

She has run the Donor Sibling Registry for 11 years. It has connected more than 9,000 donor offspring with their half-siblings or donors.

In the United States, sperm donors are paid for their donations. Men can donate at more than one sperm bank, and there is not a national system to cross-check if a donor has donated elsewhere.

"The problems are, the sperm banking industry is not keeping accurate records, so you can't limit the number of offspring until you actually keep track of how many offspring there are for any one given donor," Kramer said.

Kramer, an advocate for more regulation of the industry, said profit is a big reason why sperm banks allow repeat sales.

Sperm banks largely work online. Some banks say they cap numbers on donors above what is recommended by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

"We take a more conservative approach than what is suggested by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine," said Tammy Zimmer, managing director of NW Cryobank. "The ASRM recommends no more than 25 pregnancies per 800,000 populous. We limit our donors to no more than 25 reported pregnancies, regardless of geography."

One of the largest sperm banks in the country, California Cryobank, has stepped up its methods to limit donor offspring to 25 to 30 families.

Spokesman Scott Brown said it did so because births to the bank were being under-reported or not reported in a timely manner.

"We limit the [sperm] vials we distribute as an additional method of controlling the number of donor conceived children," he said. "Every donor is re-evaluated every six months for donor eligibility, where reported pregnancies are also considered."

The bank contacts patients who have bought sperm if the bank hasn't heard from the patient in three months.

California Cryobank has also made changes to its website so it's easier for families to report pregnancies and births.

The term "families" refers to an individual purchasing sperm to conceive a child. Though the limit is 25 to 30, a family can purchase multiple vials from the same donor and have several children.

Despite the controversy, Carrigan said she is at peace with her decision to use donor sperm.

"If I ever envisioned what being a single mom is like, this is it -- the good, the bad, the ugly -- but I wouldn't change it for anything," she said.

Carrigan said she does not have a problem with the fact that her daughter has genetic half-siblings across the United States. She said she doesn't consider them actual brothers or sisters but is open to her daughter connecting with them as she grows older.

Carrigan said the sperm donor she used originally wrote on his profile that he was open to meeting offspring when they became adults but has since changed his mind.

"It could be the recent publicity about this issue, or that he's learned he has many offspring, or it could be he's just in a relationship," she said.

MOST HELPFUL POSTS

JuLeah - posted on 10/26/2011

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I agree that regulation is needed, but I learned a lot about this going through the process and I am not sure the answer is an easily found.

If two women have a child, one will adopt the child after its birth and both will be full legal parents, but only the birth mother will be listed in the paper under birth announcements section.

Only the birth mother will be counted in the census

The birth father will be listed as 'unknown'

If a woman and man have a child in the hospital, the man is listed as the father - this is not based on martial status, or DNA testing. He is the father if the woman says he is. He might be just her 'best guess', but he will still legally be listed as the father.

I know someone who has the job of assessing elder folks - to determine if they can live alone safely. Part of her job is to interview the family. She is stunned, often, but what people are willing to tell her. They always say, "Well don't tell.. but..."

And this is the 'father on record' but the real father is .. or this person the child calls Uncle is really the dad, or this child was born 3 months after his dad returned from the war ... we just lied to the kid to spare his feelings .....

It is amazing the stories she tells .... so, yes, I do think half sibs will meet up, and more often in cases such as you described, but happens now far more then we realize.

Becky - posted on 10/26/2011

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The health issues thing they are talking about bothers me. Do they not test donors in advance for genetic illnesses like Huntington's Chorea? They should, and people who carry that gene should be exluded from donating. Personally, if I were to have a baby via donor, I would want to know that that donor did not carry any genetic diseases.

JuLeah - posted on 10/26/2011

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In many ways this issue has long been with us. I am not the product of a donor, and I know I have several half siblings out there. I've not met them, and odds are I won't.

But, many don't have the father their mother told them was their father and many have half siblings across the globe depending on how far their father traveled in his life - war babies and the like

12 Comments

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Bernie - posted on 12/28/2011

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In most countries there is a limit to how many donations one can make and donor's are not payed for their donations- they are only payed back the bus fair or taxi fare.

All Donor's go through a screening process, counselling, blood tests, you name it the whole nine yards.

Merry - posted on 10/27/2011

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Donor sperm is an issue I think but like JuLeah said there's the same issue even without donor sperm! My brother in law met and married a woman who was pregnant, when she birthed the baby she listed him as the father and he signed the birth certificate. The child has NO idea he isn't biologivally related to his dad and his mom has NO idea who the real dad is.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 10/27/2011

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THEY may not have to get checked during donation, but I am sure that they HAVE to check the sperm for health reasons. That would be quite the scandal if they were using infected sperm such as HIV with women who want to conceive.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 10/27/2011

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I would think the sperm would be screened, much like donated blood, at least to eliminate obvious things such as STD's.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 10/27/2011

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I would definitely be worried about potential incest. Especially if the kids are near each other like the OP stated. What makes me giggle is thinking about the one guy that sat in the office so many times to donate. Must like the free porn and the money!

Tara - posted on 10/27/2011

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I agree Kate, there are a myriad of genetic illnesses that a man can carry in his genetic material and pass onto his offspring unknowingly, and hell if I were paying big bucks for donor sperm, I would be sure as hell wanting a clean bill of genetic health first, or at least know about the BIG ones. Do these men not have to get a medical first? What about STD's too? HIV?

Tara - posted on 10/26/2011

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True but when you have one dude in one big city fathering over a 100 offspring, those babies will possibly grow up to be with one of them or one of their babies will grow up to fall in love with one of their first cousins, which I guess isn't so bad, some places still operate that way to keep blood lines pure.
But still I think more regulation is needed!

Carolee - posted on 10/26/2011

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It's better than going for a one-night stand with the intent of getting pregnant. It takes out the majority of STD issues. I do think there needs to be regulations, but it's also the responsibility of the mother and child (when old enough) to do a little bit of research in case the child grows up and falls in love with another sperm-donor "fathered" person. There does need to be a way for them to be able to tell if they're related or not. Even if it's one specific number per donor, and that number is the same at every donation location. I don't know much about it, though.

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