IFLG-Egg-Donors-Sperm-Donors-Are-Unsung-Heroes-Rich-Vaughn

Egg Donors, Sperm Donors Are Unsung Heroes of Assisted Reproduction

Even as reproductive professionals report a shortage of egg and sperm donors, thanks to the lengthy donation process, less anonymity, and lingering impact of the coronavirus pandemic, many people still choose to make the sacrifice of time and privacy in order to help parents in need of fertility services. In many cases, it is the donors who make the whole process of assisted reproduction possible.

We often see media reports of couples struggling with infertility who are finally able to fulfill their dreams of having a child using assisted reproduction. Or, as in my case, LGBTQ individuals finally able to become parents using assisted reproductive technologies such as IVF and surrogacy. Typically, these good-news stories feature pictures of the new family units and first-person accounts of the struggle and how it was all worth it, to bring a baby into the world.  But these stories, understandably, focus on the outcome—the beautiful baby or babies created—and not about how the whole process started. In many cases, the path to parenthood starts with an egg donor or a sperm donor… but somewhere along the line, their story gets lost in the mix.

Of course, we use the words “egg donor” and “sperm donor” as scientific terms, but I think we sometimes forget that donors are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. They are college students, and professionals, family members and friends, next door neighbors and even strangers.  They are the people who make miracles of reproductive technology possible, and their decision to become an egg or sperm donor impacts not only the lives of the intended parents and their future family, it impacts their own lives, too. So, how does donating eggs or sperm affect the donors’ lives, now and in the future? 

Being a genetic donor is not a new concept. Sperm donation has been around since the 1300s, when Arabs began using artificial insemination on mares according to a historical timeline by Huffington Post. In the late 1800s, the first recorded artificial insemination with sperm donation in a medical institution was recorded and resulted in the birth of a baby boy nine months later. Over time and with more success, sperm donation gained popularity as a solution to infertility, with an explosion of commercial sperm banks in the 1970s.

In 1983, doctors at UCLA successfully implanted a donor egg into another woman’s uterus, resulting in a successful birth nine months later. Today, with vastly improved technology and access, the demand for sperm and egg donors continues to grow, as more different types of family units turn to assisted reproduction. According to US News & World Report, sperm donation recipients used to be primarily heterosexual males who were struggling with infertility with their wives, but today 70 percent of sperm donor recipients are single moms or lesbian couples. Similarly, egg donors now frequently help gay fathers and older women who are struggling with infertility. 

Sperm Donation, Egg Donation Processes Are Complex

Although it once may have been easier for men to donate sperm with a quick run to the sperm bank for some extra cash, modern times have brought modern complications. “It’s not easy, and I think there’s a public perception that, ‘I need quick money for my rent at the end of this month,’” Susan Kellogg-Spadt, director of female sexual medicine at the Center for Pelvic Medicine in Delaware County, told US News. “That level may have been yesteryear, but it’s certainly not now.” Today the screening process for sperm donors is time-consuming, requiring the applicants to provide an extensive medical history, undergo STD testing and genetic testing, and provide a sample for sperm quality and quantity.  

The sperm donation process is also very selective. California Cryobank and Fairfax Cryobank, two of the largest sperm banks in the United States, only take in 1 out of 100 donor applicants, as reported in The New York Times. If they qualify, donors must then commit to going to the clinic once or twice a week for up to a year, and to refrain from sexual intercourse 24 to 48 hours before the donation in order to contribute enough sperm. Donors need to provide an ample sperm count, as it sometimes takes multiple tries for recipients to become pregnant and/or the recipient may wish to purchase enough sperm to have more than one child from the same donor in the future.

The donation process can be even more daunting for egg donors, albeit in a smaller time frame.

According to Very Well Family, egg donors also undergo a full medical history screening, STD and genetic testing like sperm donation, as well as pelvic exams and ultrasounds. If the donor passes all the preliminary testing, and the eggs are deemed viable, the donor then must inject herself with fertility drugs daily during the donation cycle.  Following the medication regimen, the eggs are collected during a surgical procedure. Although the egg retrieval procedure typically takes less than 30 minutes, many women report cramping and bloating in the days following the procedure. Most egg donors are able to return to regular activities the next day. Although egg donation is physically more invasive than sperm donation, a donation cycle takes a little over a month to complete, whereas sperm donation is typically a lengthier commitment.

Loss of Donor Anonymity

The option to remain an anonymous donor may also be a thing of the past. Early sperm donors typically were assured anonymity, but new technology and an evolving understanding of the impact of anonymity on offspring have changed that. The advent of home DNA kits such as My Heritage and 23AndMe, genealogy sites such as ancestory.com, and new state laws that establish the rights of donor-created children to access donor information once they turn 18 have given modern donors a new consideration: There may come a time in the future when the donor child wants to reach out to his/her donor, adding to the weight of the original decision to become a donor.  

This new loss of anonymity has changed the demographic slightly for sperm donors. “Instead of 18 year old medical students, donors now tend to be slightly older men who are happy to be contacted,” Nina Barnsley, director of the Donor Conception Network, told DailyMailOnline.

Jayden, a sperm donor in Australia, who has five biological children as a result of  his donations according to news.com.au, knows at some point that he may be contacted in the future and looks forward to it. He likes knowing that he has helped create families. “Men should donate so long as they are comfortable knowing they may be contacted 18 years after the donation and be able to talk about what they did with their current or future partners…most importantly, {recognize and accept that} any children they may have themselves as their own children will have half-siblings, a much wider family outside of their own brothers or sisters,” he said.

The impact of loss of anonymity on egg donors is less clear, as we reported earlier. While compensation for sperm donation is relatively low, an egg donor may be paid thousands of dollars per cycle—potentially making her more willing to give up anonymity. For both sperm and egg donors, “known,” or identified donors willing to be contacted by offspring in the future, are paid more for donating.

How Does it Feel to Become an Egg Donor or Sperm Donor?

While donors are compensated monetarily for their time and physical inconvenience, most donors report they don’t do it for the money, but to help someone. As IFLG attorney Molly Malone wrote in the article “What Is It Like to Be An Egg Donor? 5 Things You May Not Know,” most egg donors express compassion toward another person who is unable to have a child.

“Most donors, at the end of the day, have a sincere desire to help others; the fact they can make money and help someone else in the process is a double bonus," Malone writes. "Many do not want to have children of their own but understand that their ability to procreate can help someone else realize the dream of parenthood. A remarkable number also express a desire to help members of the LGBTQ community specifically to have equal opportunities to become parents. Regardless of the motivation, donating eggs so that another person can have a child is a beautiful gift that will change someone’s life.”

Even with the time-consuming and detailed process of donating, donors who complete the process and are selected tend to feel a connection to their donor-conceived child and a sense of accomplishment. Jayden, the sperm donor from Australia, goes on to say of his experience in news.com.au, “They explained the entire process in detail about how my donations would impact me and the families who take my donations. This left zero doubt in my mind that I was doing a good thing.” Many donors have found that their families are supportive of their decision and believe it is important to tell their own children so that they know they have a genetic half sibling. 

Potential donors are now told of the probability for future contact, so those who make it through the screening process and continue are aware that they may receive an email or phone call at some point in the future from the donor-conceived child. With the new laws governing more transparency of sperm and egg donations, donors can make a more informed decision whether to go through with the donation or opt out. 

As founder of a legal practice specializing in assisted reproductive technology law, I feel privileged to be able to witness the happiness of donor-receiving intended parents whose dreams of having a child are coming true. It also makes me very aware that my husband and I would not have our twin sons had it not been for our egg donor.

In many ways, donors are the unheralded heroes whose generosity has given such fulfillment to so many families. The donor shortage, resulting in part from the lengthy donation process and the loss of anonymity for donors in recent years, has created another challenge for would-be parents. We are hopeful that improved technology will make donation less time-consuming and easier, particularly for egg donors, and that laws and public policy will evolve to provide more encouragement and support for these critically important participants in the assisted reproduction process. We are grateful for all the generous, compassionate people willing to donate, because the reality is, even with all the technology in the world, for many infertile couples, same-sex couples and singles, parenthood would not be possible without the donors.

 

 

Richard Vaughn
rich@iflg.net

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
PEIYA WANG(王培娅)
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015, received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension, and obtained her second Master of Science degree in Legal Studies from Loyola Law School. Peiya relocated back to her hometown, Beijing, China in 2019 and works from IFLG’s Beijing office. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Katie Deaquino
KATIE DEAQUINO
Senior Paralegal

Katie is a Senior Paralegal with IFLG and has dedicated over sixteen years to the areas of surrogacy and reproductive law. She received her Paralegal Certificate from Coastline Community College and has worked with some of the top law firms in the assisted reproduction community. Katie is also a commissioned Notary Public. With IFLG, Katie manages Surrogacy, Egg Donation, and Parental Establishment cases and provides support to other IFLG team members. Katie truly enjoys helping others build their families through assisted reproduction and is thankful she has had the rewarding experience of assisting IFLG clients. Katie often spends her free time with her Husband, four young children and her bulldog “Bella”.

Luis Sosa
LUIS SOSA
Paralegal

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University which he received in 2013, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. Luis has worked for IFLG in both Los Angeles as well as San Francisco, and is currently based in Dallas, Texas. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Alexander Espinoza
ALEXANDER ESPINOZA
Legal Assistant

Alexander joined IFLG as a legal assistant in 2019, where he manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases. Alex is bilingual in English and Spanish and has been in the legal field for 23 years. Alex is excited to join the IFLG team and pursuing his will to help others in the reproductive law process. In his spare time he loves spending time with his family and friends, being outdoors, road trips, loves music and dancing.

Toni Hughes
TONI BOONE
Paralegal

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”

KIM DEVEREAUX
Paralegal

Kim has over 30 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn
RICHARD B. VAUGHN
Founder

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo
ELIZABETH TAMAYO
Paralegal

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien
SUNNY CHIEN
Paralegal

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

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Molly O'Brien
MOLLY O'BRIEN
Partner

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.

Phoebe Sadler
PHOEBE S. SADLER
Associate

Fertility law attorney Phoebe Sadler has a background in family law and has been practicing exclusively in the area of assisted reproduction technology (ART) law since 2018.

Rubina Aslanyan
RUBINA ASLANYAN
Paralegal

Rubina has an extensive background in the legal field as a paralegal in Family Law and has worked in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 2012. Her area of focus is in managing and assisting clients with surrogacy, egg donation, and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s domestic and international clients. During her spare time, Rubina enjoys spending time with her family and dog Bella, traveling and cooking.

Cara Stecker
CARA STECKER
Senior Paralegal

After receiving her paralegal certificate in 2005, Cara began working in assisted reproductive law. During the fifteen years Cara has worked in this field, she has gained a wide range of experience and knowledge that she uses to help better assist clients and those involved in the assisted reproductive journey. Cara’s primary roles involve managing parental establishment matters and coordination with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorney network, drafting contracts and parental establishment court documents and providing support to other team members. Cara finds great joy in being a small part of a team of caring people who help others achieve their dream of having a family. In her spare time, Cara enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, watching her children play the sports they love, and she enjoys, running, cycling and exploring the outdoors in the sun.

Stephanie Kimble
STEPHANIE KIMBLE
Paralegal

Stephanie received her BS in History and Political Thought from Concordia University Irvine in 2015 and her Paralegal Certificate from University of San Diego later that same year. She has been working as a Paralegal since 2016 in Family and Reproductive Law. She is excited to be part of International Fertility Law Group working on managing Surrogacy, Egg donation and Parental Establishment Cases.

Trish Pittman
TRISH PITTMAN
Assistant Financial Coordinator

With more than 20 years of experience in the field of accounting, Trish joined the IFLG team in 2019 as Assistant Financial Coordinator. Her client-facing focus at IFLG is to assist with all client trust accounting. Trish is the mother of two daughters and enjoys spending time teaching and learning new things from them. In her free time, she loves long walks in the park and reading suspense and mystery novels.

Elsa Jimenez
ELSA JIMENEZ
Legal Assistant

Elsa joined IFLG as a Legal Assistant in 2019, bringing more than 35 years of experience working in the legal profession (concentrating in tort and litigation matters). At IFLG she assists surrogates with their surrogacy and parental matters. The oldest of five siblings, born and raised in East Los Angeles to Mexican immigrant parents, Elsa loves “seeing the beauty of families forming” through assisted reproductive technology. She and her husband Carlos have four children and one grandson. Elsa enjoys jazz and ’80s music, being outdoors in nature, collecting teacups and tea pots, and spending time with her close-knit family.