As a recent Los Angeles Times article points out that while at least 30,000 American babies are born each year to mothers who were artificially inseminated by a sperm donor, not much research has been done about the physical and mental health of these children as they grow up. That is, until now. In a new study released May 31, 2010, from the Institute for American Values, a group of 485 adults who were fathered by sperm donors were compared to 562 adults who were adopted when they were infants and 563 who grew up with both biological parents.
Participants were asked a number of questions related to family and personal relationships—as well as their feelings about growing up without their biological fathers. Among the answers given by adult offspring of sperm donors, researchers noted:
- On average, young adults conceived through sperm donation are hurting more, are more confused, and feel more isolated from their families than adopted children or those living with their biological parents. They fare worse than their peers raised by biological parents on important outcomes such as depression, delinquency, and substance abuse.
- Nearly 50 percent of adult sperm donor children are disturbed that money was involved in their conception.
- More than 50 percent say that when they see someone who resembles them they wonder if they are related. Almost as many say they have feared being attracted to or having sexual relations with someone to whom they are unknowingly related.
- Approximately two-thirds affirm the right of donor offspring to know the truth about their origins. And about half of donor offspring have concerns about or serious objections to donor conception itself, even when parents tell their children the truth.
Interestingly, researchers also found that, despite those misgivings about the way they were conceived, 20 percent of those surveyed had already participated in some sort of assisted reproduction as adults, either as sperm/egg donors or as surrogate mothers.
If you are considering using a sperm bank, take time beforehand to find out what kind of donor information will be available later on in your child's life. Some sperm banks routinely give out data about physical characteristics such as height, weight, hair color, eye color, and body build. Information such as education, occupation, religion, ethnicity, and even special aptitudes such as physical ability or special talents is also often provided. Some centers even provide photographs and provide an option for donors to release their name to any offspring.
Concerns about sperm donation and its possible impact on your feelings as a parent—and your child's feelings—should be addressed before conception. "Often, discussing these issues with a professional trained in this area is well worthwhile. In fact, in our practice we require that every couple who is considering the use of donor sperm or donor eggs meet and consult with such an individual before we will proceed. Each partner and each couple must be comfortable with the use of donor gametes before proceeding," says fertility specialist Dr. John C. Jarret.