Madeline Licker Feingold, Ph.D. 2011, Updated by TSBC in 2022
Family-building through sperm donation can be an emotionally complex process. Yet it is also one that helps many make the dream of having a family become their reality!
Often, parents who want to tell their children about their family’s origins find themselves delaying because they don’t know what to say. Disclosure to children regarding their donor origins allows for open and honest communication throughout their lifetime, provides children with accurate health information, and lets children know they are loved for exactly who they are. It signals there is no shame in this way of having a family. Alternatively, delaying discussions with children about donor conception may have unintended and potentially harmful effects, including within the parent-child relationship and for children’s sense of self. This can further perpetuate the stigma of infertility.
Fertility struggles and emotions
Approximately 15% of all heterosexual partners in their reproductive years experience infertility, with males and females affected at similar rates. The associated emotional experiences can be quite different, however. Historically, cisgender women are more likely to have been socialized to express their feelings, which may help in seeking support and resources. Cisgender men, on the other hand, are often encouraged to suppress emotion, which may lead to isolation and reluctance to seek help. Additionally, the therapeutic resources available tend to be geared towards women’s experiences of infertility, and therapists who specialize in fertility issues are overwhelmingly female-identified. It may also be difficult for some partners to find a therapist who is intimately familiar with how their cultural, religious, and/or ethnic identification may impact their experience of infertility. So what’s to be done?