Opinions vary on whether a child born through donated sperm or eggs should be told about it later in life.
There are several choices for a woman/couple who choose to pursue donor sperm insemination.
When choosing a donor, they can consider a known donor, typically a friend or relative or an anonymous donor, typically from a sperm bank. Anonymous donors can either have the intent to forever remain anonymous or to be open for future contact.
Sperm banks will have information as to whether the donor is open to future contact. In many countries gamete (egg or sperm) donation mandates openness, with the children of donation always having the right to contact the donor. This is not currently the case in the United States.
However, both sperm donors and recipients of the sperm should understand that even if the plan is for anonymity, this may not be guaranteed in the future. Information technology and medical legality and ethics are evolving quickly. All parties involved should be realistic about the possibility of the offspring of donor sperm being able to find his or her sperm donor and half siblings.
Whether the donor is an open donor or not, the question of who, when and what to tell remains. Typically, single women and same sex couples tend to be more open. Heterosexual couples often find it more difficult to share their fact that their child was conceived by donor sperm. This is a very private decision, and many see that it is no one’s business but their own.
Telling or not, keep the child’s welfare in mind
When making this decision, the welfare of the child should be the driving concern. Human beings have an inner desire to know where they came from, and many consider it a right for a child to know as much birth information as possible. We are learning that more and more or our health conditions are genetically impacted. If a child sees disease progress in his or her social father, it may cause unnecessary anxiety. As the child gets older he or she may undergo unnecessary testing or even procedures for a medical threat that is not there.
Data has clearly shown that children from donor gametes are most drastically affected if they discover the information on their own, or if the information is accidentally shared with them, rather than being told in an open fashion. These children often feel as if they have been lied to about their very being.
Children that have had open information may still want to find their donor parent, and may still have some resentment about the process. However, overall they are much more accepting of the process.
After a decision is made about how much information will be shared with the child, timing of this needs to be addressed. There are many resources for guidance on age appropriate discussions. The decision on what to tell close relatives, more distant relatives and friends remains. This becomes a much more individual choice.
Before undertaking donor insemination it is important to be well educated. Consultation with a psychologist with expertise in donor insemination helps the individual and couples contemplating donor insemination understand the long-term process better.