Addressing Health Questions for Children of Sperm Donors

The Washington Post ran a story last week about the medical issues facing children conceived by donor sperm.  In “Sperm-donor children face challenges in learning their medical history” the article discusses the relatively unregulated industry of sperm donation, and the ways that some cryobanks are implementing best practices for screening and updating medical history of their donors. 

The first documented generation of donor-conceived children - those born in the late 1970s to mid 1980s, are all grown up and beginning to have medical questions that may only be answered by the donor whose sperm they were conceived with.  Caring for children of sperm donors has prompted a host of unanticipated issues, ranging from lack of medical histories to the psychological impact of knowing the circumstances of their conception. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 percent of babies born today in the United States are conceived through assisted reproductive technology, a proportion that has more than doubled since 1999.  Anonymous sperm donation represents only a portion of these births, and solid statistics on how many children are conceived this way are unavailable because mothers are not required to report how they become pregnant. 

In most states, adults who were conceived through sperm donation have no legal right to records about their donor.  Before 2005, when the Food and Drug Administration issued donor screening rules - specifying, for example that sperm be tested for communicable diseases - there were no federal regulations of sperm banks.

If you are working with a known sperm donor, the following steps will help you screen, document and update the donor’s medical history:

  • Have the donor answer an extensive questionnaire regarding family and personal medical history.  Make sure to discuss any instances of heart disease, cancer, stroke, etc. 
  • Have the donor undergo extensive blood tests to determine any genetic predisposition to disease.  
  • Meet with the donor and a genetics counselor to discus the results of the blood test and determine the risks posed to your future child.  
  • Have the donor meet with a psychologist to receive a thorough mental health evaluation.  
  • Follow the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s guidelines and quarantine the donor sperm for 6 months prior to using it for fertilization.  
  • Hire an attorney to draft a sperm donor agreement that addresses the donor’s willingness to be contacted in the future regarding medical questions or concerns.  Establish a method of contacting each other in case of emergency of the need to update each other’s medical history.  
  • Keep the lines of communication open.  Many sperm donor’s are willing to be contacted as some point in the future if it is a medical necessity.  Discuss this with your donor and talk about how often, and under what circumstances you will contact him, if at all. 
  • Above all, a solid agreement is an essential element of a healthy relationship between a sperm donor and the intended parent(s).

Have questions about sperm donation?  Call 310.598.6428 or email