DEAR ASK A THERAPIST: What is the best way to go about choosing donors for the benefit of the future child? I’m starting to look into it and I want my child set up for success. I’m learning new things, like that it is good if the donor can be known later in life, etc., but is there a list of things I can look for/do to help make sure I don’t miss something? It’s a veritable wilderness out here, and I’m not sure where to start. – INTENDED PARENT

DEAR INTENDED PARENT: Thank you for your thoughtful question. The questions you are asking will inform the first decisions you make on behalf of your child, and you want to make informed decisions to help create the healthiest family you can. In many ways, this makes you a parent already. Good for you!

It is natural and normal for people to be curious about genetic relatives, which is why current thinking is to collaborate with a sperm or egg provider your child can know. It is understandable to wonder about the missing genetic pieces of oneself. Many donor conceived people say they would have liked to have known the donor, their genetic parent, earlier than in adulthood, so many intended parents now try to meet a donor from the beginning and establish the ability to remain in contact for the future. 

It is also very important to be able to maintain a true and correct medical history for your child. When you do not know the donor and they come from a cryobank or agency, you receive a one-point-in-time snapshot of that person, and you will not have the benefit of ongoing and updated family health history. But you could have access to this information if you knew the donor personally.

Another reason to meet and know a sperm or egg provider before conception is to know how you feel about them. We like to recommend choosing someone who grabs your heart; someone you’d like to know better; someone you would be proud of if they were a family member. You are, after all, going to make a baby with this person, so these qualities are often much more important than whether or not the donor looks like you. When you talk to your child about the donor, you can speak about them with the warmth and good feelings you genuinely have after having met them.

Your question did not mention whether you need to collaborate with a sperm provider or an egg provider. It is a bit more challenging to meet a sperm donor before conception, but there are some legitimate agencies that match sperm donors with recipients. And many egg donation agencies now have women willing to meet the families they help.

Check out our resources or reach out to a qualified mental health professional to help you navigate these important decisions. Best of luck in your family building.

Do you have a question for Ask a Therapist? Anonymously submit your question here. Questions may be edited for length and clarity prior to publication.

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