20 August 2008

Sperm donor families seek link

A survey suggests most sperm-donor inseminated parents seek contact with other families who share the same donor to create a genetic family for their children.

When a family is created through sperm donor insemination, it is likely that other families exist who share the same sperm donor.

Results of a new survey suggest that most sperm-donor inseminated parents seeking contact with other families who share the same donor may be interested in creating a genetic family for their children.

"One's origins hold considerable significance to people - something that's very important when considering how much donor information should be accessible to donor-conceived people," said Dr Joanna E. Scheib.

Parents seem to be moving away from being private about using a donor, said Scheib, of the University of California, Davis. Contact between shared-donor families and individuals can serve as a resource for learning more about one's donor.

How the study was done
Scheib and colleagues surveyed 14 families who participated in the family-matching service of The Sperm Bank of California. The service enables parents who had children via donor insemination to contact families of the same sperm donor.

Half the surveyed parents were single women, while 43 and 7 percent, respectively, were lesbian and heterosexual couples, they report in the medical journal Fertility and Sterility. All had one child (57 percent female), ranging from six months to nine years of age at the time they entered the matched-family program.

Of the 12 families who answered questions regarding their initial contact, five said they "clicked" with the other family, and four expressed excitement about the meeting. Just two families reported initial discomfort.

Another three families said they did not "connect" reportedly because the families were at different points on issues of openness or the amount of contact they wanted with each other.

What the study revealed
During initial contact, which was most often by phone, most of the families compared their children's physical features and personality traits, and discussed donor disclosure issues. After about one year, most families have maintained ongoing contact, the researchers note.

Parents of the children old enough to understand their genetic parentage and aware of their matched family said the children were generally curious about and excited in knowing they have genetic siblings.

"Some of the older donor-conceived individuals from our program seem more interested in their peers/half-siblings than in the donor himself," Scheib said.

Research that continues to assess relationships between donor siblings and their families and the long term impact of these relationships, Scheib's team concludes. – (Reuters Health, August 2008)

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