Perhaps inevitably, the World Wide Web now has a role in that most human of accomplishments; procreation. Sperm donor websites are becoming increasingly popular in the UK with many people now searching for a sperm donor or co-parent online.
The demand for this has been partly fuelled by the vagaries of the NHS. Many health authorities are cutting back on IVF treatments because of the expense, trusts already refuse treatments for single and lesbian couples and these factors coupled with the shortage of sperm donors here in the UK seem to be pushing the advantages of the internet over the more traditional clinic route. For those looking to create their own family, are these websites a realistic option? Could they even pose a health threat? Like dating online, isn’t there something potentially seedy or unknown about such an endeavour? Or do these websites provide the transparency, advice and directness of purpose that people who just want to be parents are in need of?
Whatever the risks, these services have swiftly established their legitimacy as a resource, enabling people with limited options to choose for themselves where and from whom that all important genetic material comes from.
We spoke to Pride Angel, a leading online facility, for their views. The issues facing those using such a website include the benefits of using a known donor, anonymity law, working alongside fertility clinics and the importance of using a reputable sperm donor website.
Pride Angel is one of the foremost worldwide connection sites, with over 19,000 members. Though primarily aimed at the gay and lesbian community they are dedicated to providing quality information regarding health screening and fertility law for all. Created and run by Erika and Karen, they aim to equip those who need it with the knowledge and support necessary to negotiate such a potentially delicate undertaking. Both scientists, they are passionate about improving the services available for those looking to become parents. Not just academically qualified, Karen has fostered and personally experienced conception using the sperm of a known donor.
Using a known sperm donor
There has been a social and cultural shift in recent times, towards women wishing to meet a known donor. This could be because of high fertility costs, or perhaps the shortage of donors, whichever, the benefits of knowing who exactly will be credited with creating your own bundle of joy cannot be denied. There has been much research and evidence which has shown that children who know the identity of their donor and the honest circumstances of their conception from an early age are more secure with their identity as they become adults. Another plus is the potential for a prospective mother to meet a like minded individual who is happy to stay in touch, albeit, at a distance, omitting the longing within their child to meet an unknown donor as they grow up.
Anonymity law and future children
The change to the anonymity law in 2005 was certainly a positive thing for donor conceived children, allowing them to trace the identity of their donor at age 18. However we are still to really discover the effect this will have on the thousands of children who may be wanting to meet their biological father in the future; they may find that the donor is simply not interested in being contacted. There is also the worry that the donor may not be the kind of person the mother would wish for their child to meet, after all, she may have only received basic details such as height and eye colour by which to choose her donor originally. There is also the very real concern of genetic attraction, something which especially affects parents and children who have never met before adulthood. The repercussions of this could be catastrophic.
When the effects of this law are eventually felt, in the year 2023 and beyond (eighteen years after the law was introduced in 2005) will it be felt that children were better off not having access to this information? Would it not therefore be far better for donor conceived children to have known of their donor from the beginning?
Websites working alongside fertility clinics
Sperm donor websites assist in the much needed recruitment of donors and help bring together co-parents and the creation of alternative families in a way which clinics are less able to do. By working alongside the authorities and regulated clinics, websites can therefore provide a much needed service, providing they are educating their users about any health risks and legal considerations.
A spokesman for the HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority) is advising people to only use sperm donor websites which direct their users to a licensed clinic, ensuring that complete health screening is completed and that a record of the donor’s name is kept on file.
Choosing a reputable sperm donor website
When choosing to use a sperm donor website to find a donor or co-parent it is important to ensure that they are providing the necessary health screening and legal advice and directing users to use regulated fertility clinics for treatment.
Erika, co-founder of Pride Angel highlights the advantages of their connection site and the safeguarding in place;
’All profiles are continually screened to ensure users are not offering ‘natural’ insemination or requesting an anonymous donor. Nor is payment for donations allowed to be offered or requested.
If any donor attempts to contact more than 10 different recipients, an email is automatically sent, highlighting the ‘no more than 10 live births law within the UK’.
‘We are committed to providing a user friendly service, while ensuring that we do everything within our power to make it a safer environment for our members. We also offer email support for users requiring help and further information.
Users should never consider using a donor who offers natural insemination, even if they offer artificial insemination as well. The health risks of such promiscuous donors are too great.
Unfortunately many other connection services do not monitor profiles and restrict messages in the way that we do at Pride Angel. This means that many of the more prolific donors tend to use other sites which do not monitor them as closely. These factors are really important to consider when choosing a connection service to find a known donor or co-parent’
A bleak thought and a fair warning of the realities and risks inherent in such a situation but Erika is keen to point out that for most, the benefits of the self determination and choice Pride Angel provides far outstrips the negatives.
‘We have had so many people thank us for the service we provide, without which co-parenting arrangements would not happen and many lesbian couples and gay men would not have the chance to experience the joys of parenthood’
For more information regarding finding a co-parent, health screening, home insemination and fertility law visit and register for FREE at www.prideangel.com
Article: 6th Januray 2013 Pride Angel