Becoming a donor
In Victoria, sperm, eggs and excess embryos can be donated to other people. Donors cannot be paid for their donations and all donors must be prepared to have their identifying details (name, date of birth and contact details) 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 which could make the difference between somebody having a child or not. Your decision to donate has significant, lifelong implications for you and your family, the recipient parent(s) and the child. It is important to consider the potential consequences and other issues, including:
- your motivations for donating
- expectations for future contact with the parents or offspring
- legal rights and responsibilities
- emotional and practical implications of donating
- the physical process of donating.
In Victoria, a maximum of 10 women can have children from the same donor. This limit includes women anywhere in the world and children you have with a current or former partner.
Some rural clinics (and other states) have a smaller limit of five families for a donor. This is to reduce the risk of half siblings meeting and forming intimate relationships. It also helps create a reasonable number of people to maintain relationships with if any parties wish to engage in the future. Donors can withdraw their consent for the use of their donation or specify a lower limit at any time.
Donors in Victoria should also know that:
- People seeking donor treatment cannot be discriminated against on the basis of their gender, sexual orientation, marital status, or religion, so your donation may be used for single women or same-sex couples.
- It is illegal to be paid for donating although a donor may be reimbursed for reasonable expenses e.g. medical, counselling, travel expenses or loss of earnings.
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 a recipient chosen by the fertility clinic.
When donating at a fertility clinic, there may be 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.
Donations cannot be used after a donor has died.
The process for donating through a regulated Victorian clinic is outlined below:
1. Considering donating
Before you become a donor, it is important to consider:
- your motivations for donating
- emotional and practical implications of donating
- the physical process of donating.
It can be useful to discuss your motivations and decision with family, friends, or a counsellor.
2. Finding a clinic or recipient parent(s)
Donating to somebody you don't know
When donating through a clinic, you have the option of donating to somebody you don't know. This usually involves the clinic creating a profile of you with some non-identifying details such as your eye colour, hair colour, occupation and hobbies. It may also include information about why you donated, your philosophy of life and a message for potential offspring. Recipient parents usually choose the donor they wish to use from a donor profile provided by the fertility clinic.
However, under Victorian law your donation will not remain anonymous and the recipient parents or donor-conceived child may wish to contact you or access information about you in future.
Most 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.
Donating to somebody you know
If you want to donate sperm, eggs, or embryos to somebody you know, VARTA recommends doing this through a clinic to ensure all parties' rights are protected under Victorian law. If you are considering an informal arrangement outside of a clinic, VARTA highly recommends seeking counselling and legal advice before proceeding. You can read more about the risks of informal donation below.
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 expectations. While this is not legally binding, it is often recommended and used.
3. Undergo screening, attend a counselling session and provide consent
Before donating sperm to a registered clinic 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.
- 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) so that her body will be physically ready to receive the embryo. You may be required to take the contraceptive pill.
Following your donation, the eggs are put together with the recipient partner's sperm (or donor sperm) to fertilise and become embryos. If there is more than one embryo, a doctor will usually transfer one at a time into the recipient's uterus during a treatment cycle. If there are other embryos they are usually frozen and stored for more attempts if needed in future.
The risks in egg donation include a small risk of making too many eggs (ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome), infection, and bleeding. There is no guarantee the person you donate to will become pregnant and she may experience a miscarriage.
You will provide several 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 your donations can be used.
If you are sure you don't want to use your embryos and you want to donate them, you can donate them to someone you know. Alternatively, if your clinic has a donor embryo program, the clinic can allocate the embryos to a recipient. If your clinic does not have a donor embryo program, you can transfer them to another clinic to go through the donation process there.
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.
- A lack of formal documentation of your intention to be a donor rather than a parent.
- Potential claims for child support from a recipient.
- The chance of passing on an infectious disease to the recipient and baby.
- The chance of passing on a genetic health condition that you did not know about.
- No formal documentation of your donation on VARTA’s Central Register.
If you want to advertise your wish to donate eggs, sperm or embryos, you
Frequently Asked Questions
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?
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.