What to Choose: Open Release vs. Anonymous Donors

November 18th, 2016
Open Release Donor

You’re searching the database and land on a donor you really like – she played your favorite sport as a child and her eyes remind you of your mother’s. Then you notice she is listed as an “open release donor” and your mind races – What does this mean? What am I signing up for if I choose this donor? Will the donor have access to my child’s information? Let’s explore some common questions about anonymous and open release egg donation so you can choose the best option for your family.

What is an Anonymous Donor?

Many feel that donor eggs are simply building blocks to making a baby, and your chosen donor provides one ingredient in your masterpiece of a child. For anonymous donors, the information is all there – education, personal skills, genetic history, photographs, motivations, etc. – without the option for further contact. While many people who choose an anonymous donor are thankful to their donor, they also choose to focus on the nurturing connection through pregnancy and birth, and not on the origin of the egg.

What is an Open Release Donor?

Parents do not have to share the nature of the egg donation with the child, but for those who do, they generally want to have answers to support their child’s natural desire to know when they get older. An open release donor consents to possible contact with a child conceived from her donation.

It is important to note that contact can only be initiated by the donor-conceived child once he or she has reached the legal age of adulthood, and this interaction will take place using a third party intermediary. Your confidentiality is protected; the donor does not gain access to your personal information automatically. Please note that a $500 fee applies to all open release donors in the Donor Egg Bank USA database, regardless if the parent is interested in the open release option. Contact with the donor allows for more information to be shared beyond what is listed on their online profile, and many who choose an open release donor would like to give the option to their child to connect with their egg donor if they so desire.

Why Do We Offer an Open Release Donor Selection?

While egg donors have a right to confidentiality, many express an interest in connecting with the offspring conceived from their donor eggs. Likewise, many Donor Egg Bank USA clients have inquired about their children potentially meeting the donor, to gain a deeper understanding of their biological heritage. Our Open Release Donor program allows each party the opportunity to meet and exchange information at their own comfort level.

Want to Learn More?

Choosing an egg donor is a big decision, and there are so many factors to think about. Donor Egg Bank USA is happy to provide support and answer any questions you may have about our anonymous versus open release donor selection. Please contact us to learn more.

About The Author

Jonelle K. Agurs serves as the Marketing and Assured Refund Assistant for Donor Egg Bank, a California Cryobank Company.  Graduating with a degree in public health, she has a passion for learning about methods for healthier living, and sharing tips to help promote quality of life.

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Interesting article - thanks! We used an anonymous donor for both cycles and prefer that option.

Submitted by Mary 4 years, 4 months ago

Your chid always needs the option of an open donor. Through DNA they can discover they are unrelated to a non-bio parent, and this would be devastating if they found you had lied, even by omission. This is not a choice for any adult to make - this is the child's choice to be made once they are in their twenties [or before, through such avenues as Wendy Kramer's website register]. Research the lessons learned in closed adoption - the harm it has done to those in closed adoption. We all change: the option surely must be left open.

Submitted by brenda 3 years, 9 months ago

DNA=Donor Not Anonymous

I can’t help but wonder when the sperm banks and egg clinics will start acknowledging that there is no such thing as guaranteed donor anonymity. This has been written about a lot, starting with with a New Scientist article from 2005 about a boy locating his donor after submitting his DNA to a commercial DNA website.
A quick review of some of the largest sperm banks and egg clinics finds that not one of them mention in their donor recruitment materials the ease with which, and the growing frequency of donor-conceived people identifying their donors via DNA testing. This is now a regular occurrence.
Many egg clinics not only offer anonymous donors, but actually require anonymity for all involved. Because egg donor children are now getting to the age where they are starting to get their own DNA tested, promised egg donor anonymity is also being shown to be a myth.

I recently heard from an egg donor mom who said that her 19-year-old son had told her that he’d recently sent in a swab to have his DNA tested with 23andme, and was waiting for the results. It was clear that this boy had suspicions about his biological parentage. She was so frozen with fear that even with the impending DNA results on the way, she couldn’t muster the courage to tell him the truth about the use of an egg donor.

I see no educational materials on the sperm/egg bank websites, for both donors and potential parents) addressing the importance of donor-conceived children knowing about their genetic, ancestral and medical histories. Not one website pointed to the Donor Sibling Registry as a place to make mutual consent contact (unlike many egg clinics that now write the DSR into initial donor-recipient contracts so contact is established right from the get-go).

Both sperm and egg donors should know that they can share and update medical information, photos, and messages with families on the DSR at any time. This can be done without sharing identifying information, so if donors are not ready to establish relationships, they still have a vehicle with which to share information. And it goes both ways, as medical information about the children they have helped to create could be beneficial to them too, if they have, or are planning to have children in their own family.

Egg banks should stop promising anonymity on their websites, and start properly educating both parents and donors about why having contact with each other is crucial. they need to stop misleading parents into thinking that choosing anonymous egg donor will keep an unwanted party from intruding on their lives. This misleading and incomplete information is given to parents as they make decisions that will affect their child for decades to come.

Submitted by Wendy Kramer 3 years, 7 months ago

I have a five year old son conceived through a sperm donor via IUI. Before he was born I didn't have strong feelings about Open Release vs. Anonymous but happened to settle on a donor who was Open Release because of all of his other traits and qualities.

Now in hindsight I feel Open Identity was so important and I'm so thankful my son will have the choice of contact when he's 18. He doesn't have to, and certainly it gives neither the donor nor anyone else access to my son in this way, but currently my son is very curious about the paternal biological side of his DNA and I expect it will be something he pursues and that it will be important to his long term mental health and happiness.

I was so excited and thankful at the prospect of having a child that I didn't fully comprehend that I was already making choices on behalf of my child even at that early step in becoming his parent. I'm so appreciative for our donor and also appreciative that my son will get to at least have access to that key information about who makes him who he is should he choose that route for himself down the road. I feel it's his right, not just an added bonus.

Submitted by Amber 3 years, 6 months ago

When people seek out egg &/or sperm donors, they do so because they want to have a child of their own. So how can one justify to themselves that biology won't be important to a child. I used a willing to be known sperm donor. I never would have used an anonymous donor because whether or not my child chooses to meet her donor is (and should be) her decision. If you choose an anonymous donor be prepared to explain why you closed that door on your child. I feel people choosing anonymous donors do so out of insecurity. Be confident in your decision... you're going to great lengths to have a child. If you are open and honest from the start, your child will always see you as their parent. Sadly, for those who find out later (& the truth always comes out) the same can not be said. From all I've read (written by donor conceived adults), finding out you're donor conceived as an adult leaves an open wound and irreparable damage to the family unit. For the sake of your children, please don't close that door.... choose an open ID/willing to be known donor.

Submitted by Meredyth 3 years, 6 months ago

I'm both a donor conceived person and an egg donor, and I'm solely supportive of open donations (and opposed to anonymity) for a variety of reasons. First, here’s a brief version of my personal story: My parents never told me that I was donor conceived. At the age of 34, I found out via a 23andme genetic test (innocently taken to learn about genetic health risks) that my dad and I weren't related. At first, I was in denial and argued with 23andme, but the results were accurate. Not wanting to upset my dad and unable to discuss it with my mother afflicted with dementia, I tried to keep it from him to avoid upsetting him and found solace in discussing it with others. He found out through somebody else who failed to keep their promise of confidentiality that I discovered we weren’t related and was searching for my donor, and he nearly disinherited me due to assuming the worst (that I was trying to reject him as my father). He never discussed it with me before making unpleasant legal changes and creating unnatural rules for visiting my parents’ house, as though I couldn’t be trusted. But what I did was completely natural for anyone in my position of 1) shock over the discovery that my father wasn’t my biological father and 2) having a gap in my identity due to half of my genetic origins being a mystery. Being in my mid-thirties already made these discoveries especially difficult.

The truth is that I’ve had identity problems my entire life and never understood why. My self-confidence was never as high as it should have been, given the type of comfortable life and supportive parents I had growing up. Well into adulthood, I continued to struggle with the question of whom I was and where I was going career-wise, in combination with other factors affecting my lifestyle. It was only when I discovered that I was donor conceived that things started making sense - I had mystery traits that neither of my parents had (my eccentricity, certain physical sensitivities, more rational style of thinking, etc.) and had no foundation for understanding or accepting them. This made me feel like the odd-woman-out and caused mood and self-esteem issues until recently, upon discovering the truth. I’m certain that my psychological health would have been stronger had I known that I was donor conceived and personally known my donor. My identity formation process would have been completed long ago - when it was supposed to in the teen years. I’m not alone in this experience, as hundreds more donor conceived people whose stories I’ve come across have closely matched mine. I don’t blame my parents, since people in the late seventies and early eighties didn’t have a clear understanding of the ramifications of anonymous gamete donation like we do now. But the secrecy had toxic effects on my family as well as myself personally.
Continued to next post...

Submitted by Laura McMillian 3 years, 6 months ago

Continued from previous post...
My roots are in clinical psychology and I'm familiar with child developmental psychology, to which I can refer to back up the statement that it's important for children to know where their traits came from at an early age, before they can begin to form their own identities in the teen years and beyond. (The work of German child psychologist Erik Erikson is relevant here.) It's a prerequisite, like a bicycle with training wheels. If anecdotes and psychologist theories aren’t enough, the extant research on the subject also reveals the psychological struggles that donor conceived people grapple with when they were conceived with an anonymous donor and the majority’s interest in identifying their donors. For example, this study is listed on the Donor Sibling Registry’s research page:
Offspring searching for their sperm donors: how family type shapes the process

A less reputable but still interesting study is that by Marquardt surveying nearly 500 donor-conceived adults (note that divorce may have been a factor that was not controlled for, among other study limitations). A Slate article describes the results: https://bit.ly/2FZDClr
"Regardless of socioeconomic status, donor offspring are twice as likely as those raised by biological parents to report problems with the law before age 25. They are more than twice as likely to report having struggled with substance abuse. And they are about 1.5 times as likely to report depression or other mental health problems. As a group, the donor offspring in our study are suffering more than those who were adopted: hurting more, feeling more confused, and feeling more isolated from their families. (And our study found that the adoptees on average are struggling more than those raised by their biological parents.)"
Link to the full study: https://bit.ly/2UtIjOn

If there are any concerns about donors’ interest in contact, check out the statistics reported in a peer-reviewed DSR survey study on 164 donors: https://bit.ly/2FY5CG2

Although there are limitations inherent in all studies (such as participant selection issues), it’s important to acknowledge that many offspring and donors do indeed desire contact, as with my own case, and the option should be made available to every child. The only way I was going to donate my eggs was as an open donor, and I feel good about making sure they'll know me their entire lives. Any intended parents wishing to ask me questions can feel free to email me.

Submitted by Laura McMillian 3 years, 6 months ago

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