The truth about limiting siblings


This topic has been discussed widely, within professional organizations, and in the media. The problem is that no one talks about the most pressing issue: tracking. Without understanding how each donation will be tracked, recipients may not be prepared for their future.

Let me explain. For each sperm or egg donation there may be multiple recipients. We all understand this. Clinics and agencies who recruit egg donors and banks who recruit sperm and egg donors will advise the sperm or egg donor that they are able (should) only donate a specific number of times. They can track this within their system, and beyond their system, in some cases. Donors agree to this and may genuinely cease donating after the prescribed number of donations. However, there are three wrinkles in this plan.

First, the donors may change their minds. They may donate to other programs or banks without notice. Each one of those donations at a program can result in several children in each family. Each one of those donations to a bank can result in donations to several families. Let’s say a young egg donor creates twenty-four eggs. That batch of eggs can be split up into smaller batches of six eggs. That means four families will have eggs from the same egg donor. The donors can also donate to friends and family members and the number of people donating on Facebook and other social media channels is growing constantly.

Second, those twenty-four eggs, may (for argument’s sake) may create fifteen embryos. A family may use three of those embryos to complete their family. The remaining embryos, in this case twelve, can be discarded, donated to science or donated to an embryo donation program. I once worked with a family who donated seven embryos to seven families across the country.

Third, it is not possible to know how old your child’s donor siblings will be. They can be the same age, younger, older, or even the same age as your grandchild. In the US there are hundreds of thousands of embryos stored in various facilities. Last year, a child was born from a twenty-seven-year-old embryo.

I am not sharing this to make you worry. It is simply the reality of the world we live in. Will things change? I hope so, but at the writing of this newsletter, there is no organization available to pay for and run a thorough tracking system. So, in the meantime, remember to talk to your children about this fact and utilize commercial genetic screening (i.e. 23 and Me). Then, if they date someone whose parents used donor conception, or, are donors themselves, check for those people on 23 and Me. Also, join the Donor Sibling Registry. If you do, you probably won’t meet every donor related sibling, but it’s a great resource and you are likely to eventually connect with someone related to your child.

As you communicate your openness and acceptance of your child’s donor, and donor conceived siblings to your child, and offer support, you can become an ally to your child and help them in their self-discovery. And that can help you create a scenario where you and your children can weather many confusing or difficult situations together.

And, as always, feel free to reach out to us any time.
We are here to make your journey easier.