Emotional Challenges Faced By Sperm Donors & Parents

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Sperm donation provides a simple solution to gay and heterosexual couples and single prospective parents trying to have a child. The sperm donor donates the sperm directly to the parent or does that anonymously through a sperm bank in exchange for a small payment.

To an observer or third party, the entire process can seem rather transactional. However, many individuals involved in the process have admitted to finding it stressful. Experts on the subject also suggest that the process could have a long-term emotional and psychological impact on all parties involved, whether it’s the sperm donors, the parents, or the sperm-banked children.

In this article, we’ll go over the emotional and psychological repercussions of sperm donation. We will also discuss the reasons why it can be an overwhelming and emotionally taxing experience for those directly involved in the sperm donation process.

woman expressing strong various feelings emotions

Prospective parents either ask their friends to become sperm donors or contact a sperm bank to use a stranger’s sperm cells for insemination. This process may seem simple and clinical but it can put a strain on family dynamics.

For instance, according to experts, infertile men have a difficult time dealing with societal expectations linked to their manhood within the context of reproduction. There’s also a sense of loss and shame given that what was expected to happen effortlessly and naturally is now a struggle requiring outside intervention.

These men may seem focused on the ultimate goal of having a child and choose to disassociate with it by calling it a “project” but they may not end up processing the full impact of using a sperm donor if they decide to close off and attempt to get it over with. This can ultimately put a strain on their relationship with their wife and the child too.

Emotional Challenges Involved In Sperm Donation

There are psychological implications on sperm banked children conceived with the help of sperm donors. Until as early as April 2005, kids neither had a legal right to know if they were conceived through a sperm donor nor did they have any way to trace their biological fathers. But the law changed in 2005 when donor anonymity became a thing of the past.

Even though people who were conceived through donor sperm now have the option to contact the sperm donor, it can lead to them experiencing a whole gamut of complex feelings. Psychologists have also found that children born through sperm donors tend to have issues around trust. They may also face some form of identity crisis that could trigger confusion and emotional turmoil during adolescence and adulthood.

On the other hand, the psychological impact of sperm donation on donors can surface in the form of stress and anxiety as they do not have any contact with children conceived using their sperm. A certain percentage of donors may also not wish to be contacted by donor-conceived children as they wouldn’t want their past influencing  their present.

That’s why both donors and those using the donor sperm have to undergo psychosocial counseling during and after the sperm donation process. In fact, counseling is mandatory when using donor sperm so that you can understand the long-term consequences of sperm donation before you give your full consent to go ahead with the fertility treatment.

Counseling allows you to think about the full impact of sperm donation (for both the donor as well as the prospective parent using the donor sperm for insemination).

Reasons Why It Is So Overwhelming

Now more than ever sperm-banked children are asserting their right to get in touch with their biological fathers, whether or not the sperm donor shared the same sentiment.

But this isn’t how things were a few decades ago. Fertility doctors encouraged anonymity and even advised parents against telling their children the truth about how they were conceived. The practice of staying silent on the subject however continued to perpetuate feelings of shame around the subject.

Since there weren’t enough regulations in the industry earlier, there were cases of donor-conceived individuals finding out they have many half-siblings from the same sperm donor. There were also cases of doctors who inseminated women with their own sperm without the women’s knowledge or consent, and sperm donors who lied about themselves and their credentials and pretended to be someone they were not. As a result, parents were misled and misinformed, which in and of itself led to emotional trauma.

Now parents are advised to discuss the sperm donation process openly with their donor-conceived children. One can even find online support groups for parents, donors, and their kids on Facebook. In countries like Australia, donor anonymity is no longer an option. All donors are expected to reveal their identity and this information is readily available to the child once he or she turns 18. There’s value in this as people are curious about their biological ties with the sperm donor and may want answers.

More and more women in the UK are choosing to use donor sperm although the treatment can cost a lot of money at private facilities and most women don’t qualify for artificial insemination on the NHS. That’s why some of them are forced to use an unlicensed sperm donor, which could potentially put their health at risk, with the possibility of contracting STIs and hereditary issues, all of which can have serious consequences.

Final Thoughts

Today, the sense of anxiety and shame that used to stem from using a sperm bank seems to be dissipating as more and more people are open to discussing their sperm donation journey. This includes both donors as well as receivers.

That said, there are a few sperm banks that still allow anonymous sperm donations. However, with tools like DNA testing, anonymity is no longer feasible.

Sperm donation has changed in the last few years and some of those important changes have come from the demands made by sperm-banked children curious about their identity and seeking to assert their fundamental rights to know their biological father.

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