Thursday, April 23, 2009

How to Choose a Donor

Here for IComLeavWe? Want to learn some background? Please check out my About Me tab at the top or see my Intro post.

I've received questions and interest from several people regarding how John Dear and I went about choosing our sperm donor, so I thought I'd go through some explanations and provide some tips.

Though I had visions of having to sit squeezed with JD into a tiny, dreary medical office, flipping through binders of donor characteristics, all the while hearing snippets of porno music from the room next door, choosing a donor is NOTHING like that. Or at least, it wasn't for us.

In fact, the largest sperm banks in the US have online search engines with all of their available donors characteristics catalogued for free. You can get more information about donors, even purchase vials of sperm, online.

Once you have decided to go forward using an unknown sperm donor (from a bank as opposed to from someone you know), start thinking about and discussing your Must Haves, Must Not Haves and Would Likes.

• Physical Characteristics
For us, I wanted to choose a donor who looked similar to JD, because I wanted our baby to look like s/he could have been our genetic child.

Some sperm banks will do photo-matching for a fee, determining which donor (in the whole bank or from a chosen group) most closely resembles your partner or your chosen characteristics.

I also wanted the donor to have some height on him, because my family is pretty tall (at 5'6", I'm the shortest) and because, at almost 5'8", JD always wished that he was taller.

• Blood Type
I wanted the donor to be my blood type or JD's blood type so that at least one of us would be able to give the kid blood if they (G-D forbid) ever needed it.

Additionally, since JD and I are both Rh+, I wanted to find a donor who was also positive, thereby avoiding any possible complications or the need for Rhogam shots.

• Ethnicity
JD was adamant that the donor be of Jewish ethnicity. I didn't care about this aspect as our child will be Jewish because their mother (me) is Jewish and because they will be raised as Jews. The donor's ethnicity, however, was one of the only things that JD felt really strongly about, and it did not dramatically lower our number of donors from which to choose, so I went along with it.

I imagine that if you are looking for something really specific, it might be hard to field a larger sample or you might be left with only one donor who has other characteristics that you don't want.

• Other Characteristics
My mother said that we should find a donor who played tennis. Um, yeah, Mom, that's our first priority. Of course, after we went through all our own criteria and chose the donor that worked for us, the donor that we picked wound up being a tennis player. Maybe this means I should listen to my mother more often. :)

This is one of the big ones, and because we were choosing to use donor sperm due to genetic considerations, JD and I spent most of our time discussing this category.

A lot of the medical history part can be "Duh, we don't want that," but when you get down to the nitty-gritty details, you need to think about and discuss what you might be willing to accept in a donor's medical history. For example, we were willing to accept someone with a history of late adult-onset diabetes. So, if the donor's grandmother was diagnosed with diabetes in her 70s, we were fine with that.

You will need, however, to consider more than just the common "old age" diseases. What about glasses or contacts? Are you OK with someone who is allergic to pollen or dust or penicillin?

JD and I had discussions about these somewhat picayune details as I was narrowing down the list. I think that it would have served as more of a hindrance to me if I had to consider these issues while making my initial cuts.

Many sperm banks now have programs that allow children conceived with the help of donor sperm to find out their donor's name and contact information once the child has turned 18. Each bank's program is different, so make sure to check with your bank if this is something that you want.

JD and I decided that we would like to have an ID Consent donor, but that it wasn't imperative. Following the advice of a fellow blogger, JD and I decided that once our child was born, we'd purchase the available information for their donor (photos, medical histories, etc.) so that the child could have the information when they were younger if they so chose.

Reputable sperm banks strictly track the amount of children born from a donor (both on a total basis and on a geographical basis), so please follow your bank's instructions for registering your child's birth.

Some banks set up donor sibling registries so that children of the same donor (and their parents) can meet and/or stay in contact. Please inquire about this program with your chosen bank.

Many banks offer donor's responses to essay questions, as well as impressions of the staff on each donor. I liked these offerings initially, but didn't really use them as a selection tool.

I do think that the essays and staff impressions helped both JD and I get comfortable with the idea of using donor sperm in general. These help you to see that the donors are actual people with lives, i.e., the donors are more than just their assembled genetics.

To be blunt, I felt better when I read the essay responses and staff impressions because I didn't want our donor to be a douchebag. I wanted him to be someone that we both would/could have been friends with, if we met in real life.

So, you've got your list of things to look for. Put that into the search engine and let 'her rip. The search engine will come back with a list of donors that match or somewhat match the characteristics that you've plugged in. You'll be able to narrow these results down to a list of favorites.

Many banks allow you to bookmark or create a list of favorite donors from your search. Others allow you to save your search characteristics so you don't need to enter the same info in every time you look.

Once I had narrowed down our selection to about 10 possible donors, I then made a spreadsheet so that I could look at all of the donors' characteristics side-by-side. Our bank only allowed you to compare physical characteristics in that way, but I wanted to be able to compare medical histories as well.

JD and I sat down with cups of tea (our version of wine) and went through the donors one by one. Once we'd narrowed down the list several more times, we came up with our donor.

That's it! If you have any questions or if you'd like me to explain something further, just ask me in the comments or shoot me an email.


Lollipop Goldstein said...

What an incredibly helpful post.

Fertilized said...

This a extremely informative post! Well done

Lorza said...

PHEW! No wonder you needed another day to get this post out! :) Thank you for the info on how it went down. Very interesting. I didn't realize you could get that specific. hummmm..
COOL! I am excited for you!!

Clare said...

Congratulations to you on writing this! It is so helpful to anyone considering going down this route. You sound like you took a very considered, very logical approach to all of this and I just wish you every happiness for the future. Big thanks for writing this.

Jill said...

Thank you so much for writing this out! I've always been curious about it. Also, I am SOOO glad you guys found a decision you're both at peace with. I'm so excited for you!!!!!!

~Hollie said...

Very well organized! I needed that at the beginning of our journey!! Thanks for the info! I know someone will find this and breathe a sigh of relief!

Searching for Serenity said...

This is fascniating! Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm certain this post will be helpful to those who need it in the future.

Congrats on finding your donar!

Somewhat Ordinary said...

Wow, very helpful post! This is a great resource for those beginning this process.

annacyclopedia said...

This is so great that you wrote this all down - I never did, but since Manny and I were choosing pretty much by instinct, I doubt our process would have been very helpful for anyone else. But this post is so clear and so helpful for anyone considering a donor. Well done, Jendeis!

Anonymous said...

Such a great post! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking the time to write this. However, your Rh status argument is incorrect.

If you are Rh+ you would not EVER require rhogam. It is only if the female partner is Rh negative and the male "donor" is positive that rhogam would be necessary.

I saw this post on Kirsty. Factual information should be correct when you are putting it out there for the general population.

Just Caz said...

Just wow.
That is a really really long and well thought out process.
I'm amazed.


Smitty76 said...

This was such a great post. Really wish it was around when we were choosing our donor.

(Happy ICLW!)

~Jess said...

You did a better job of writing this post than I did...GOOD JOB!

We pretty much followed the same steps to choose our donor.

Kymberli said...

This list was comprehensive, VERY educational, and of course, interesting. I'm most impressed with the essays and staff impressions portion. I realize that all clinics might not do this, but like you, if I would need DI I'd find this to be a helpful tool. It's an aspect that I previously hadn't thought about, so that bit of new information really put a "full circle" scope on choosing a donor.