The Challenges of Donor Anonymity

Our modern world makes it inevitable that donor anonymity is simply not possible. More donor-conceived children (and sometimes their parents) are turning toward direct to consumer genetic DNA testing to find a possible genetic link to 1) the donor, or 2) a family member of the donor, or 3) a full or half bio-sibling. This can create confusing boundaries and ethical considerations on potential contact and what to do with this information. The ability to quickly find donors on Facebook using donor agency profile information adds to this modern reality. Egg and sperm donation is a mostly unregulated industry. These unique ways of making genetic connections and the lack of true anonymity will ultimately change that.

Have you ever had to keep a secret? Or made a decision in young adulthood that with time and reflection, was understood differently? It’s helpful to consider that privacy expectations of intended parents or donors may change over time. When that happens, it can be challenging to look for ways to reach out and promote connection or rescind contact. This is where direct to consumer genetic testing has stepped in for better or worse — to fill this void.

For donor conceived children, finding genetic connection can be an important part of becoming secure in one’s identity. For donors, it can be an important part of making sense of a younger decision to become a donor and help build families. Let’s start reframing this path to parenthood as a family story with connectors from the onset. Note the difference in hearing ‘this is how we had help in becoming our family and there are others who were also helped’ versus one day being sat down and told about donor origins and bio siblings with no context and no additional information. Time will stand still at that moment. A family story with openness to conversations over a lifetime, figuring things out together, and sharing information offers fluidity, closeness and integration over time.