Understanding donor conception

Becoming a donor

Sperm, eggs and excess embryos can be donated. Donation in Victoria is altruistic, and all donors must be prepared to have their identifying details (name and date of birth) released to any person born as a result of their donation. Anonymous donation is not allowed in Australia.

Being a donor is a generous act, enabling the creation of new families for those affected by  infertility. Your decision to donate has significant, lifelong implications not only for the recipient parents and resulting child, but also for you and your own family. It is important to consider what impact this may have and discuss any potential issues including:

In Victoria, a maximum of 10 women can have children from the same donor (including the donor's partner). Some rural clinics (and other states) impose a smaller limit of five families for a donor. This takes into account the potential for meeting related families and future contact with a donor. Donors can withdraw their consent for the use of their donation or specify a lower family limit at any time.

Donors in Victoria should also know that:

  • People seeking donor treatment cannot be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation, marital status, or religion, so your donation may be used for single or same-sex couples.
  • It is illegal to be paid for donating although a donor may be reimbursed for expenses e.g. travel.

Am I eligible?

When donating at a fertility clinic, there may be a number of eligibility criteria. Speak to your clinic for more information.

Donors are preferably:

  • Aged 25-40 years
  • People who have completed their own family
  • Both physically and mentally healthy, and leading a healthy lifestyle
  • People who have no family history of serious genetic disorders
  • Motivated by a desire to help others
  • Responsible and settled. It is advisable that a donor's life is stable with a good support network. Existing stressors (e.g. relationship or job related) are likely to be compounded by the demands of donating.

You must be prepared to undergo the necessary checks, counselling sessions, and provide consent for the  release of identifying information about you, as required by Victorian legislation. It is important to contact the fertility clinic if there are any changes to your details. This includes change of address, or if you or a close family member are diagnosed with a medical problem that could be passed on to people born through your donation.

You cannot donate your embryos if they were formed using donor eggs or sperm.

Options to donate

It is possible to donate sperm, eggs or embryos in Victoria. You can donate to a clinic, friend, family member, acquaintance, someone in your social network, someone you connect with online or via an advertisement.

If you have unused embryos at the end of your fertility treatment and you have decided that your family is now complete - or you are no longer able to use them for other reasons - you may donate your embryos. Providing the embryos are suitable for donation, you can donate to someone you know or to an unknown recipient chosen by the fertility clinic.

If you would like to advertise that you wish to donate, you will need to apply for approval from the Health Minister prior to it being published. This includes sending your draft advertisement for approval to:
Minister for Health
Department of Health and Human Services
GPO BOX 4541
Melbourne VIC 3000

Email Address: art.enquiries@dhhs.vic.gov.au

It can be difficult to know what to put in your advertisement. Generally, advertisements:

  • Stand out by uniquely reflecting you and your situation. Describe you and why you would like to donate.
  • Clearly state your intentions in the title and/or the opening sentence.
  • Include a short explanation of what reasonable expenses (e.g. medical, travel) you would like reimbursed.
  • Consider privacy (use a non-identifying email address, PO box, mobile number rather than home number).

It may take some time before your advertisement is successful. Not everyone who responds will be suitable.

What’s involved?

As a donor, you:

  • Need to agree to be identifiable as required by Victorian legislation
  • Can only donate on an altruistic basis. It is illegal to be paid to donate, however, you can be reimbursed for reasonable expenses (medical and travel).
  • Must have a medical check, blood tests, and counselling (including your partner if you have one)
  • Are required to complete a donor profile (information describing yourself)
  • Need to sign consent forms which outline rights and responsibilities.

The process for donating in Victoria is outlined below:

BECOMING A DONOR

1. Considering donating

Before you become a donor, it is important to consider:

It can be useful to discuss your motivations and decision with family, friends, or a counsellor.

2. Finding a clinic or recipient parent(s)

Finding a clinic

You may prefer to donate to a clinic if you do not want to have direct contact with recipient parents at the time of donation or do not want to be involved in choosing the potential recipient parents. Your donation will not remain anonymous and the recipient parents or donor-conceived child may wish to contact or access information about you in future. Potential recipient parents usually choose the donor they wish to use from a donor profile provided by the fertility clinic. The donor profile provides some non-identifying details about you (eye colour, occupation, hobbies etc.) and may include information about why you donated, your philosophy of life, and a message for your offspring.

Most fertility clinics recruit people for their donor programs. There is currently a shortage of all types of donors so your donation would be warmly welcomed. Some clinics do not have egg or embryo donor programs. Check with the fertility clinic for specifics about their donor programs including any eligibility requirements for donation.

Finding recipient parent(s)

You may prefer to donate to someone you know. It is essential to seek counselling and independent legal advice before proceeding in this direction. The relationship and amount of contact can vary, from none through to ongoing (e.g. co-parenting). Before you donate it is important to discuss and agree on the type of ongoing contact you would like, what your role will be and what the child will call you. Many recipient parent(s) and donors have a written agreement outlining their expectation. While this is not legally binding, it is often recommended and used.

3. Undergo screening, attend a counselling session and provide consent

Before donating you will need to:

  • Have screening tests and a medical check-up with a fertility specialist. For men this will involve providing a sperm sample. Your sample is produced by masturbation at a private room at the clinic. The quality of your sperm is checked before you proceed.
  • Provide information about your medical and genetic history.
  • Complete your donor profile which is given to the recipient parents(s). Your donor profile may include information on your appearance, personality, education, a message to the person conceived, and your openness to contact. It is useful to include as much information as possible which may be of interest to recipient parent(s) and any donor-conceived children.
  • See a counsellor at the clinic where you donate. The counsellor will explore with you and your partner the emotional implications and legal consequences associated with donating. If you are donating to someone you know, you will usually have a joint session with the recipient parent(s). Counselling is designed to ensure that you have thought carefully about whether donating is the right decision for you and your family and that you are comfortable to proceed.
  • Sign a detailed consent form. This is to ensure that you are fully informed of any medical risks as well as your legal rights and responsibilities. Consent must be discussed during counselling, before you consent to treatment, and in the forms that you sign. This covers issues such as the withdrawal of consent, and what happens in the event of death.

4. Donate

Egg donation

While your fertility specialist will tailor your treatment to you, the process of donating eggs is similar to the first stage of an IVF cycle and normally involves:

  • injections to stimulate your ovaries to produce more eggs than you usually would during a menstrual cycle
  • blood tests and vaginal (internal) ultrasounds to monitor the egg development
  • an egg collection procedure. This is usually performed under a light anaesthetic in a hospital and takes approximately twenty minutes.

Your medical treatment is carefully coordinated with the cycle of the woman who is receiving your eggs (recipient) in order that her body will be physically ready to receive the embryos. You may be required to take the contraceptive pill.

Following your donation, the eggs are then put together with the recipient partner's sperm (or donor sperm) to fertilise and then become embryos. Normally only one embryo is put back into the recipient. If there are other embryos these are usually frozen and stored for further use.

The risks in egg donation include a small risk of making too many eggs (ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome), infection, and bleeding. There is no guarantee that the person you donate to will become pregnant and she may experience a miscarriage.

Sperm donation

You will provide several more sperm samples. This is a similar process to a sperm test, except your samples are then frozen and stored and quarantined for several months. You will then have another blood test for infectious diseases. If the results are clear then your donations can be used.

Embryo donation

If you are sure you no longer wish to use your embryos and want to donate them you can either donate them to someone you know, or if your clinic has a donor embryo program, you may prefer that the clinic allocates the embryos. If your clinic does not have a donor embryo program, you may transfer them to another clinic.

Find out more about what to do with unused embryos here.

5. Information release

Fertility clinics provide specific information about people involved in donor conception to VARTA. Both identifying and non-identifying information is stored on VARTA’s Central Register. VARTA will make all reasonable efforts to give donors notice of any release of their information before it occurs.

The Registers, your information and privacy

Personal quotes

''I knew there were people who couldn't have children and I thought it was a nice thing to do. I was a blood donor and on the bone marrow register.'' Donor

"I was reading Melbourne’s Child and came across the fertility advertisements... among many requests for egg donors, one letter really touched me. I felt like the woman who wrote it was talking to me. My heart ached for her. Several days of discussion with my husband followed, and I read everything I could about the procedure. Finally I contacted the couple, and formed a relationship." Kylie, egg donor.

"Most of my concerns weren't about the process itself; it was more about how we would deal with it in the years to come. How would her donor-conceived child cope and what would my role be? So there were lots of conversations about what sort of contact would we have, and how they would talk about this with their child." Kylie

"I was acting from altruistic intentions. I had some awareness of infertility because I had a close friend who was in that circumstance. I wanted to help people who wished to have children but could not do so." Ian

Personal stories

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A donor's wife's perspective

I have always known that my husband was a sperm donor while at university in the 70s. It was undertaken on a strictly confidential basis and over the years we really d...
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Sperm donor meets the family created from his donation

Listen to this interview with Adrian, a sperm donor for single mother, Dianne. “When we were approached by the registry to make potential contact by the donor family...
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Talking to children about being a donor

Listen to this interview with Stewart and his children talking about being a sperm donor. “My advice would be to tell. Certainly it’s never as bad as it seems to giv...
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My decision to be an egg donor

Listen to Kylie talk about her decision to donate her eggs to a couple.
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One sperm donor's personal story

Hello, my name is Ian. I am the biological father of nine children. Two of my offspring live with me and seven I have never met.
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Frequently Asked Questions

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I want to donate. What are some of the things I should consider?

How this may affect you and your family. Will you tell your extended family and friends? Consider the genetic connection to your own children and other members of your extended family.

You will not be a legal parent of a donor-conceived child and will not appear on the birth certificate. You will have no legal rights or obligations to the parent(s) or child born as a result of your donation. How will you feel towards the person/people you help create?

  • How this may affect you and your family. Will you tell your extended family and friends? Consider the genetic connection to your own children and other members of your extended family.
  • You will not be a legal parent of a donor-conceived child and will not appear on the birth certificate. You will have no legal rights or obligations to the parent(s) or child born as a result of your donation. How will you feel towards the person/people you help create?
  • The people to whom you donate may have different values, backgrounds, beliefs, and parenting styles from your own. How do you feel about that?
  • The information you would like to share and type of relationship you would like in future with the recipient parents and donor-conceived person.
  • If you donate to someone you know, what relationship and contact will you have with the recipient parent(s) and child. What will your role be and what will they call you?

Who will benefit from my donation?

People who benefit from donation may include couples diagnosed with infertility, single women who want to have a baby on their own or same-sex couples who require a donation to have a baby. Find out more here.

Can I donate anonymously in Victoria or somewhere else in Australia?

No.

If I donate, when will my identifying information be released?

You can find out more about what information others can find out about you here.

I have unused embryos. Can I donate them?

Yes. If you are at the end of your treatment and have completed your family, you may prefer to donate rather than dispose of your embryos. Whether it is sperm, egg or embryo donation you will need to consider implications for you, your family and the donor recipients. The meaning and significance of embryos are not the same for everyone. Some people feel unable to donate their embryos because they consider them to be potential children and connect them potentially to their existing children. Others feel differently. Make sure both you and your partner are comfortable with your decision before proceeding.

You cannot donate your embryos if they were formed using donor eggs or sperm.

Find out more about what to do with unused embryos here.

As a donor, do I need to tell the fertility clinic if I or a close family member have been diagnosed with a medical problem?

It is important to contact the fertility clinic if you or a close family member is diagnosed with a medical problem that may be passed on to people born as a result of your donation. This may help people take preventive steps such as early screening for the condition.

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