Sperm Donor Identity: Who Wants To Know?

By Karen Nikos-Rose

More Than a Third Of Donor-Conceived Adults Seek Sperm Donor’s Identity, UC Davis Study Finds

When it comes to seeking out a sperm donor’s identity, more than a third of adult offspring at a well-established California sperm bank want that information – if only to know more about him and his characteristics – or “get a complete picture,” a newly published study has found.

The findings come from an article published Feb. 1 in the leading American journal of reproductive medicine, Fertility and Sterility. And the data show that the move to open-identity sperm donation is feasible, said the study’s primary author, Joanna Scheib, associate adjunct professor of psychology at UC Davis.

Scheib also is the research director at The Sperm Bank of California, where the data were collected.

The Sperm Bank of California has the oldest “open-identity” program in the world. Donors initially provide non-identifying information to prospective parents. Then, when the people they helped to conceive reach age 18, the sperm bank will provide the donor’s name, and sometimes other identifying and location information to offspring who request it.

“Because the number of parents disclosing is increasing, and parents are often counseled to disclose, we expect a growing number of … adults will seek information about their donor,” the study said.

Most Ask Soon After Becoming Eligible

Half of the adults in the study who could get their donor’s identity were parented by two mothers. The remainder came from:

  • families parented by a heterosexual couple (31 percent)
  • or a single mother (18 percent).

When looking at those who actually sought their donor’s identity, however, the numbers break down differently. More requests came from single-mother families. Most of the donor-conceived adults who sought identity also were women – similar to findings from adoptees, the study said.

The researchers followed a group of more than 256 families with donor-conceived adults who turned 18 between 2001 and 2011. When a request was made, most adults requested the information soon after becoming eligible.

“Perhaps surprising to some, sperm donors can remain committed to an open-identity program and willing to provide their identity to strangers who share their genetics,” said Scheib. “Twenty plus years after leaving TSBC’s donor program, over 90 percent of donors remained committed to releasing their identity to the adults from families they helped.”

The study, “Who requests their sperm donor’s identity? The first ten years of information releases to adults with open-identity donors,” is available here.

The study received financial support from The Consortium for Women and Research at University of California, Davis and the Lesbian Health Fund of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association.

Karen Nikos-Rose covers humanities, arts, social sciences and professional schools of management, law and education for UC Davis News and Media Relations. Follow her at @UCDavis_KNikos.

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