Healthy looking breakfast with yoghurt and fruit

Are you in the process of choosing a donor, or donors? Do you know whether the donor you’re considering is actually a healthy person? Is there a possibility that the person contributing 50% of your future child’s DNA is a heavy drinker, smoker, or even a fitness fanatic?

And if so, why do any of these things matter?

Some Reproductive Facts

Let’s start with some reproductive facts: sperm takes about two months to reach maturity, and egg maturation prior to ovulation, about three months. With this knowledge in mind, does your donor need to start rethinking their diet and lifestyle a little earlier than first planned to maximise the success rate of conception attempts?

Do you?

And perhaps an even more important detail to ponder is that the condition of the egg and sperm at the time of both maturation and conception can have a lasting impact on how genes express themselves, and the subsequent ongoing health of your donor-conceived child.1

So you can control you (hopefully!) but what about your donor? Did he have a boozy all-nighter with the lads while you hit the sack at 9pm in preparation for tomorrow’s conception attempt? Are you having problems conceiving?

9 Things You Can Check When Choosing a Donor

Here are 9 things you can check to ensure your donor’s lifestyle and behaviours meet your personal standards, before giving them the tick of approval.

1. Exercise

How often does your donor exercise? Are they a couch potato, a fitness fanatic, or somewhere in between?
Evidence suggests that exercising at an ‘in between’ level is best when it comes to fertility, and in fact, extended periods of high intensity exercise may reduce fertility. For women, this is due to a decrease in the production of hormones that stimulate ovary function, and for men, a reduction in sperm quality.2
Is your donor currently training for the Melbourne marathon, or alternatively, enjoying a Game of Thrones marathon couch session?

2. Weight

Weight is a sensitive issue and is not as cut and dried as eating less and exercising more. Many people have mental, emotional and physical issues that directly impact their lifestyle choices.
Unfortunately, however, women with a high (or low) BMI may not respond well to ovarian stimulation and as such, may not be a successful egg donor.
And for men, if your sperm donor is in the overweight or obese category, there may be issues with his sperm count and motility (movement) that could reduce your chances of conception.3

Note: If you are over your most healthy weight, you may be at risk of complications such as miscarriage, premature birth, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia), and are more likely to have a caesarean section. Babies born are at greater risk of being stillborn or have a birth defect, and are also more likely to be overweight or obese in childhood and adulthood.4 If you are underweight, you may be at risk of giving birth prematurely.5

3. Sexually transmitted infections

Left untreated, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including chlamydia, gonorrhoea, genital herpes, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and syphilis can impact both male and female fertility.6
If you are using a fertility clinic-recruited donor, they will screen for common STIs (however, we do know that sometimes donors lie, and sometimes sperm and egg banks cut corners). If you are using a known donor, ensure you have a frank conversation about sexual history, and more importantly, have them tested prior to conception. And keep in mind that when choosing a donor, a certificate of good health is only as spotless as the donor’s last sexual partner.

4. Alcohol

Although conflicting data exists, some research indicates that consumption of alcohol, even in very small quantities, has a dramatic impact on a woman’s chances of conceiving. This rule also applies to men, and excessive alcohol can cause impotence, reduce sperm count and impact sperm shape.
Note: Alcohol consumption during pregnancy (and particularly binge drinking) can increase the risk of miscarriage stillbirth, premature birth and Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.7
Do you know how much alcohol your donor imbibes? Is she the first one out the door on Friday for after-work drinks, or does he start on a green tin as soon as the day’s last job is done at 3.30pm?

5. Smoking

Unlike alcohol, the data related to smoking and fertility is fairly consistent. If your egg donor is a smoker, she has an increased risk of infertility and a poorer response to IVF.

Smoking can also have a significant impact on a man’s ability to conceive, and can damage their sperm’s DNA. Men who have smoked heavily prior to conceiving can increase their children’s chance of developing childhood leukemia.8

Note: If you smoke during pregnancy you have an increased chance of ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage, and most importantly, risk harming your unborn child.9
Is your donor a smoker? Have they been a smoker in the past?

6. Prescription drugs

Prescription drugs such as anti-depressants are fairly commonplace in our fast-paced world today. If your selected donor is taking any medication whatsoever, make sure they check with their health professional (and your fertility specialist, if you’ve already started fertility treatment) to ensure their prescription is compatible with your fertility goals.

7. Recreational drugs

Many recreational drugs can impact both male and female reproductive systems negatively.
Note: Some drugs can increase the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth, as well as birth defects. Depending on the drug, babies may suffer withdrawal symptoms at birth.10

8. Caffeine

While coffee is the most popular vessel of choice for caffeine, it is present in many food items including most teas, some soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate and some over the counter medications. In terms of fertility, some evidence suggests that excessive caffeine consumption may increase the time taken to conceive and can also contribute to miscarriage.11

How much caffeine do you consume? Do you know whether your donor is a coffee drinker, or consumes energy drinks for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

9. Work environment

Where does your donor work? Is he inhaling toxic chemicals on a daily basis, or is the corporate server warming her toes from the floor below? Could these details impact the health of your donor-conceived child?

Doing Further Research When Choosing a Donor

These are all issues worth considering for you and your unborn child when choosing a donor. And of course, depending on the type of donor you are selecting, you may or may not, be able to find out the answers to any or all of these questions. For instance, calling your Australian fertility clinic-recruited donor is not possible, but can you call the clinic and grill them about their selection criteria? Can you find existing parents who have already used your donor?

Or perhaps your research may lead you to considering not just a change of donor, but a different type of donor? For example, is the mystique of an international donor looking less appealing than a local known donor with whom you can meet face-to-face and make your own personal assessment?

All the Risks Apply To You As Well

Of course, all of the risks listed above apply to you as well. What do the last three months of your life look like? Crazy weekend benders at pubs and night clubs, or kale salads and beetroot juice? Do you need to consult your health professional about your anti-depressant medication, or call the Quitline to discuss your smoking habit?

While many genuine and altruistic donors exist, is there a risk your chosen donor’s health or lifestyle behaviours might negatively impact the health of your unborn child? Is this something you’re willing to compromise on? Only you (and your partner) know what is right for you, and more importantly, what is right for your donor-conceived child.

All the best in your decision-making process and conception!

Here’s some other helpful posts related to choosing a donor(s):

Should You Choose a Donor Who Looks Like You?

Part Three: 12 Ways you can Minimise the Risks (When Assessing Donor Profiles)

How to Choose a Fertility Clinic – 10 Things to Consider

Join in the Conversation on Facebook

Good luck with assessing your donor’s health, and choosing a donor that’s right for you! Have you had an experience you’d like to share? What were the outcomes?

Join the conversation HERE on Donor Conceived and Beyond’s Facebook Page.

Is Your Egg or Sperm Donor Healthy? 9 Things to Consider Before Choosing a Donor
  1. The Fertility Society of Australia, Parenting from before conception, <>, accessed 14 March 2019.
  2. ‘The role of exercise in improving fertility’, The Fertility Society of Australia, <>, accessed 14 March 2019.
  3. ‘Weight and Fertility’, American Society for Reproductive Medicine (2015), <>, accessed 14 March 2019.
  4. ‘Weight and Reproductive Outcomes’, The Fertility Society of Australia, <>, accessed 14 March, 2019.
  5. ‘Preparing for a healthy pregnancy’, The Royal Women’s Hospital (Vic), <>, accessed 14 March, 2019.
  6. ‘Sexually transmitted infections and reproductive outcomes’, The Fertility Society of Australia, <>, accessed 14 March, 2019.
  7. ‘Effects of caffeine, alcohol and smoking on reproductive outcomes’, The Fertility Society of Australia, <>, accessed 14 March, 2019.
  8. ‘Effects of caffeine, alcohol and smoking on reproductive outcomes’, The Fertility Society of Australia, <>, accessed 14 March, 2019.
  9. ‘Female Reproduction’, Quitline (Australian Government), <>, accessed 14 March, 2019.
  10. ‘Drugs and conception – preparing for pregnancy’, Essential Baby, (July 2008), <–preparing-for-pregnancy-20080506-2bhs>, accessed 14 March, 2019.
  11. ‘Effects of caffeine, alcohol and smoking on reproductive outcomes’, The Fertility Society of Australia, <>, accessed 14 March, 2019.

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