Ask The Expert: Choosing between an Anonymous vs Known Sperm Donor

GayParentsToBe For Lesbians: Sperm Donor

Every month we ask our LGBT family building experts to answer a question from a gay parent to be. Today Lisa Schuman, licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) answers a question in regards to whether or not a lesbian couple should use an anonymous or known sperm donor.

Do you have your own family building question that you want to ask our LGBT family building team? Leave us a comment below.

Planning Ahead? Choosing between an Anonymous vs Known Sperm Donor

Hi Lisa,

My wife and I have dreamt about having children since we met in high school. We felt like we did all our homework about what it would take. We took all the right steps. We got married. We thought about how we wanted to build our family. We found the right fertility clinic. We decided that she would carry first and I would carry second (since I'm younger) and we are using a good sperm bank.

But now we’re stuck on whether or not to use a sperm donor who would be willing to be contacted when our future child is 18 or to use a completely anonymous donor. The truth is we want to give our future child the gift of being able to contact his or her donor but we aren't in love with any of the open donors we have found and really like a donor we found who is anonymous. We thought doing our due diligence would help us find all the answers but now we’re stumped. Can you give us some


Dear Cassie,

Ok, I will give you a few more things to think about and perhaps that will help. First, let yourself off the hook about thinking that you have to have the exact perfect plan. It’s wonderful that you want to give your child the gift of being able to find his / her donor one day. However, it does not always work out the way we plan. The donors who say their identity can be released when the child is 18 can change their minds. When the first 10 children contact him, he may be very happy to meet, talk and share his history. But when he is older, has a family of his own and perhaps has met 30 offspring already, he may not be as enthusiastic. And the anonymous donor may want to be found one day, even though now he is adamant that he does not want to be. By the time your children are adults, we may be able to find our genetic relatives just by doing a retinal scan.

Take a look at the website, The Donor Sibling Registry. So many kids are finding their donors and genetically related siblings. They connect with them and share stories. Sometimes I think everyone would like a different sibling. But I digress. The bottom line is that you should choose a donor that is right for your family now because we don't know what the future will bring. The question is how do you do that? That’s a longer conversation than we can have here but here are a couple of tips that I can leave you to take into account.

Think about health first. Not just the health of the donor but relatives on both sides. Then think about the biological mix between the partner who will be using her eggs and that donor. You don't want to double the risk of any genetically inherited difficulties so for example, if you are using your eggs and you have heart disease in your family the donor should not have heart disease in his family. This is one of the benefits of choosing a donor. You can choose the genetics!

Also, think about the genetics of both sides of his family as being stronger than the traits you see in his profile. For example, I met with a donor who was blonde but he has three red haired brothers. If you are interested in fair skin, tall stature, dark hair etc… make sure your donor is not the only family member who has that trait. Look at the overall picture on both sides of the family.

Beyond those two tips, the rest is gravy. Health and inheritable traits are primary. Being musical or athletic are not necessarily inheritable traits and are far less important. Remember that everyone finds their baby the cutest baby in the world. You will love your child if he has your grandfather’s nose and the donor’s eyebrows. None of those will matter but health will always matter. And if you want your child to bear some family resemblance you may be able to have that as well. After that there is not much in our control. Then again, much of parenthood is like that anyway. We focus on what’s important and let a lot of the not so important things go. So imagine this exercise as step towards parenthood.

Enjoy the journey,


Lisa Schuman

Lisa Schuman

Lisa Schuman, LCSW is a psychotherapist who has been counseling individuals, couples and groups on a variety of issues and has specialized in reproductive medicine for over a decade. Ms. Schuman helps individuals through all aspects of the family building process.

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