THE SPERM BANK OF CALIFORNIA, the only US sperm bank to conduct and publish research on family-building through donor insemination, has been actively involved in research for over 20 years. We are leaders in the field - tracking the outcome of each insemination attempt, maintaining records of conceptions since the establishment of our organization, and conducting research on the well-being of TSBC families and donors. Since 2000, Joanna Scheib, PhD, has guided the research program. Research findings shape how we provide family-building options and inform the long-term services and support we provide to our families and donors. We applied more than a decade of research to develop and implement a system for information release to adults with donors in TSBC's Identity-Release® Program.
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First 10 Years of Donor Information Releases to Adults
The first individuals with donors in the Identity-Release® Program turned age 18 in 2001. Since then, over 100 donor-conceived adults have obtained their TSBC donor's information. We are interviewing many of these adults, to learn what happens after one's donor is identified. The first study findings - Who Requests Their Donor's Identity - are now published in the premier assisted reproduction journal, Fertility & Sterility. Findings indicate that origins information matters to a significant number of donor-conceived adults. Having a donor in TSBC's Identity-Release® Program gives adults options. They can get more donor information, if and/or when they want it.
Preparing for Donor Information Releases:
Donors, Parents and Youth
We conducted three studies to identify the needs and perspectives of the families. Study participants represented the first group of individuals who could be involved with a release of donor information. This included men who had been donors in TSBC's Identity-Release® Program 10-18 years earlier, parents whose children were within six years of being able to get their donor's identity and the adolescents themselves who were between the ages of 12 and 17. Findings from the donors will be posted when they are published. The insight from these individuals -- the offspring, their parents and the donors -- should help set the standard for open-identity sperm donor programs worldwide.
TSBC Adolescents with Donor Origins
- TSBC youth represent some of the first generation to be raised with openness about their donor origins from an early age.
- Most were comfortable with their origins and felt that knowing had a positive or no impact on the individual relationships with their parents.
- Almost all were curious about the donor, with common questions being 'What's he like?' and 'Is he like me?'
- All but one wanted a picture of the donor.
- The majority stated that they planned to get their donor's identity and pursue contact -- not necessarily at age eighteen, but at some point in their lives.
- Many wanted to know how their donors felt about being contacted. Few planned to contact him directly, but instead would use a letter or email, or follow the donor's stated preference.
- Many felt that learning about the donor would help them learn more about themselves.
- None reported wanting financial support from the donor.
- Few felt they were seeking a father figure.
Conclusions from the Adolescents
- Learning about one's donor origins at an early age does not appear to disrupt family relationships and likely contributes to many youths' comfort with their origins.
- Interest in one's donor is likely fueled by a normal, common curiosity that arises during identity development. This interest may help individuals gain a better sense of themselves.
- Despite being eager to learn more about the donor, the youth also expressed concern about the donor's privacy and not intruding on his life.
- These findings indicate that the stereotypical concern of offspring showing up on the donor's doorstep is inaccurate. This concern does not reflect the actual intentions of youth anticipating going through the process of obtaining their donor's identifying information.
- The vast majority of parents were pleased with their decision to use an open-identity donor - only one regretted it.
- Almost all parents, even heterosexual couples, had told their children about their donor origins, with most doing so by age 6.
- All felt that telling their children had at least a neutral, if not positive impact on the parent-child relationship.
- Almost all parents were curious about the donor, but few felt that he played an important role in their family's life.
- Some parents expressed concerns about how the information releases would go for their adult children.
- Despite these concerns, all but one parent were positive about their children having the option to identify and possibly meet their donor.
- Almost all parents expected that their adult children would want the identity of the donor.
Conclusions from the Parents
- TSBC families appear to be doing well.
- Parents do not regret telling their children about the family's donor origins and feel that it does not harm their family.
- Parents look forward to their adult children being able to learn the identity of the donor.
Short summary from parents, teens and donors: Scheib, 2004
Support: We greatly appreciate the youth and parents who were willing to share their experiences with us and help guide how donor information is released. This work was supported by the Bay Area Career Women (administered by the Horizons Foundation), Gill Foundation, Gay and Lesbian Medical Association's Lesbian Health Fund, Rainbow Endowment, an Uncommon Legacy Foundation, and individual donations to TSBC.
- Scheib, J.E., Riordan, M. & Rubin, S. (2005). Adolescents with open-identity sperm donors: Reports from 12-17 year olds. Human Reproduction, 20, 239-252.
- Scheib, J.E. (2004). Experiences of youth and sperm donors in an open-identity program. In Psychology/Counselling Nursing, pre-congress course publication for the 19th annual meeting of the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology, Berlin, Germany, pp. 22-25.
- Scheib, J.E., Riordan, M. & Rubin, S. (2003). Choosing identity-release® sperm donors: The parents' perspective 13-18 years later. Human Reproduction, 18, 1115-1127.
TSBC Success Rates
Every year, we calculate the overall success rate of our recipients and the rates associated with method of insemination and recipient age. We use four years' worth of data to provide better estimates of the likelihood of conceiving. The most recent analysis is for conception attempts and outcomes from 2004 through the end of 2007.
Vaginal Insemination & IUI Combined Success Rate: 14.6% per cycle
This rate of 14.6% or a 1 in 7 chance of conceiving each cycle attempt matches industry standards for conception through donor insemination. The rate is based on 4589 cycle attempts. It includes (i) all recipients regardless of their age and (ii) all insemination attempts done vaginally, intrauterine and combined vaginal and intrauterine. Based on an older life table analysis across consecutive cycles, 80% of TSBC recipients conceive within 7 cycle attempts.
We have a small group of recipients who use IVF to conceive rather than IUI or vaginal insemination. They are working with a fertility clinic as well as TSBC. This group includes women of all ages who use egg donation or their own eggs. Keeping in mind the small number of cycle attempts (n = 160) and that some women are using donor eggs, the success rate for this group matches or exceeds rates typically reported by clinics:
IVF Success Rate: 53.8% per cycle
We include this success rate to provide a comparison basis for IVF success rates which are typically published by fertility clinics. In contrast, it is less common for donor insemination programs to publish their success rates.
Supporting TSBC Research
- TSBC Families
- Stephanie Bright (Bright & Associates) - Database & Programming Consultant
- A & P Fund of the Horizons Foundation
- Gay & Lesbian Medical Association - Lesbian Health Fund
- Gill Foundation
- Horizons Foundation - Bay Area Career Women's A Fund of Our Own
- Rainbow Endowment
- Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada
- Uncommon Legacy Foundation
- University of California Davis Faculty Research Grants
- University of California Davis Consortium for Women and Research