Doctor holding a clip board acting surprised

Welcome to the second article in this 3-part blog series: ‘Truth and Lies, and How to Minimise the Risks’

In this three part blog series, you’ll hear from sperm and egg donors, donor recipients and donor-conceived people about their experiences of lies, how sperm and egg banks cut corners, and how you can minimise the risks…

Click to read ‘Part One – Do Sperm and Egg Donors Lie?’  if you missed it!

* Indicates that name has been changed to protect the individual’s privacy.

Part Two: Do Sperm and Egg Banks Cut Corners?

Urban dictionary

DEFINITION of cut corners

cut corners


  1. To do a half assed job.

Kids R Us Sperm Bank decided to skip the counselling process and let the young college student believe he wouldn’t be found on social media by his one hundred and twenty-seven information-hungry donor recipients.

  1. …skipping the hard stuff, use the easy way.

Boutique Babies Egg Bank didn’t like the look of egg donor, Donna’s, prominent facial mole, so they Photoshopped it out.

Accountability and Responsibility

Recently I contacted the sperm bank that supplied me with the tall, fair-haired sperm donor that helped me create my seven-year-old daughter. I asked the polite woman, “Why is it that you don’t follow up with donor recipients so you can proactively collect data about your sperm donors’ family limits?”

Her response: “Birth reporting and pregnancy reporting is entirely up to the patients to report. We have thousands of patients, and at this moment we do not have a way of individually checking up on each one.”

In 2015, the global sperm bank market size was valued at USD 3.51 billion, and this figure is expanding annually.1 Despite this reported income, my sperm bank can’t find the funds to employ a few people to contact donor recipients and collect data about live births.2 Nor do they appear to have heard of Mr Alexander Graham Bell and his excellent invention back in 1849.

Half-assed job? Skipping the hard stuff?


What about Australian fertility clinics?

Clinics in Australia are ethically bound – and in three states, legally-bound – to ensure donor family limits are not exceeded. However, this doesn’t take into account an international sperm bank’s worldwide family limit (more about that in another blog post coming soon).

Donor profiles – a few decades ago

Laura (real name) discovered, after finding her biological father that the fertility specialist had misrepresented him. “My Mom was told that he was a medical student; married with two little girls.” The reality turned out to be something quite different. Laura explains, “He was an English education student, single, and with no kids. Also, he was picked [as a donor] because he was a rugby player, and not for his education.” Laura’s biological father shared all of this information with her when she found him. “After the initial shock, he has really warmed up [about sharing information]!”

Zane* had a similar experience. “My mother was falsely told that my biological father was a medical resident at the time of my conception.” Zane explains that this was a fairly common explanation provided to donor recipients during the 70s, 80s and 90s. After identifying his biological father via a DNA test, Zane discovered that he had actually been a law student. “My [biological] father’s family lived about 30 minutes from where my own mother grew up, and I frequented the area a lot throughout my life, so it was quite the shock.” Sadly, Zane’s biological father passed away 3 years ago before he was able to find him.

Using the easy way?


Donor profiles – today

We know that a lot of information provided a few decades ago was particularly deceptive; but what does the current sperm and egg donation situation look like? Are sperm and egg banks providing us with the truth today?

Most people report that yes, after a little bit of research – or actually meeting their sperm and/or egg donor – the donor appears to be the person the sperm or egg bank says they are.

Jennifer* found her donor pretty easily on social media (more about social media and identifying your donor in Part Three of this blog series). “All I had to do was use the information from his profile and search for him on Facebook, LinkedIn and a few others. It wasn’t difficult. They [the sperm bank] seem to have provided the correct details.”

Does this mean we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief?

Possibly not.

Egg donor, Katerina*, was a member of a donor forum where several people were outraged at the way an American egg donor agency had portrayed them to potential recipients on their site. “Most donors don’t get to see what’s put on their profile. One donor made up a [bogus] ‘Intended Parent’ profile so she could see her own profile, and was offended that she’d been Photoshopped and marketed like a broodmare.”

Katerina was particularly upset at the language used. “The language the agency used was similar to what’s used for an animal, like, ‘She has a mild temperament’. It was dehumanizing.”

Skipping the hard stuff? Using the easy way?


Medical screening

Amelie* and her wife selected a donor (let’s call him Donor A) from a U.S. sperm bank. Just prior to undergoing a frozen embryo transfer, Amelie was contacted by the sperm bank with some disturbing news. “Our donor had ‘all of a sudden’ become a carrier of cystic fibrosis.” As a result, explains Amelie, “The sperm bank wouldn’t allow me to use our embryo until after I had genetic testing and counselling to see if I was a carrier.” The screening report on Donor A’s profile indicated quite clearly, says Amelie, “‘No disease causing mutations’ next to the disease, Cystic Fibrosis”.

Despite Amelie not being a carrier, she and her partner did not conceive with this donor and chose a different one.

On the second occasion with a different donor (let’s call him Donor B), Amelie gave birth to a son who was diagnosed at his newborn screen testing with Phenylketonuria (PKU). Amelie explains that she didn’t realise she was a carrier of PKU, and upon checking later, Donor B’s profile indicated quite clearly he did not have PKU. As Amelie explains, “He [the donor] is obviously a carrier of this metabolic disease, and he has a twin brother who is also a sperm donor, so both of them have a 25% chance of passing on a defective gene.”

PKU is a metabolic disease that results in an inability to break down proteins properly. The disease can be managed effectively with a special diet, but if left untreated, PKU can result in progressive intellectual disability.3

Half-assed job?

Most definitely.

Information Disclosure

Willow is the mother of a donor-conceived child with over one hundred siblings. Last year Willow contacted the American sperm bank she used to ask them how many siblings her daughter currently has. “They told me they weren’t allowed to tell me. I was pretty annoyed about this and, of course, I asked why not.” Willow goes on to explain, “They fed me a line about a sensationalised media story that was making the rounds at the time. ‘Not about us,’ the woman from the sperm bank assured me, ‘but another sperm bank’, and the story was about the fact that a donor had 150 kids.”

The woman went on to tell Willow that none of their sperm bank’s offspring numbers were comparable to the one highlighted in the story, so they had decided they would no longer disclose the number of offspring when a donor’s numbers went beyond the worldwide family limit. “She told me they have many policies and restrictions in place to keep the number of families within their worldwide limit, but sometimes the very popular donors, (‘Yours is one of them’, she said), will exceed the family limit.

I’d love to take a look at just one of those policies and restrictions,” says Willow.4

Skipping the hard stuff? Using the easy way? Half-assed job?

Tick, tick, tick.

What about checking donors’ self-reporting elements?

Anton* has previously donated at sperm banks, but now only does so privately. “Sperm banks do very little checking on their donors, beyond basic tests [listed on their websites] and testing how the sperm survives freezing and thawing. Almost everything else about the donor is self-reported and may be embellished by the sperm bank in order to sell more vials.” Anton goes on to say, “As far as I can tell they really did not check up on anything about me. I am sure that they try to communicate the impression of thorough checking and vetting of donors, but in reality what they really care about is that the sperm freezes and thaws properly and that it does not carry STDs. Beyond that, they want to sell as many vials as possible.”

Half-assed job? Skipping the hard stuff?

Certainly sounds like it.

Do all sperm and egg banks cut corners?

In a similar fashion to sperm and egg donors lying; of course not. Believe it or not, there’s even a sperm bank in the U.S. that is ‘not for profit’.

And many sperm banks impose reasonable family limits on their donors, and do their very best to stick to them. Some are rigorous with their screening, and despite this fact, mistakes are made. Human error cannot be discounted.

Michelle Laurie (real name) works with Donor Concierge in San Francisco, and describes the outcomes of a recent survey conducted on approximately 90 U.S. egg donor agencies. “All of the agencies we surveyed check personal identifiers such as drivers license and social security number. The better agencies will obtain a transcript of the donor’s college record, plus do a social media check.”

Michelle goes on to say that it’s not possible to check every bit of information about an egg donor. “Once she [the egg donor] is matched through an agency, she must have an in-person psychological screening with a qualified mental health professional. The clinic will also check all of her demographic information and do a genetic screening.” Michelle believes it’s just as important for intended parents to check the donor agency’s credentials as it is to check the donors themselves (see Part Three of this blog series for more information).

What can you do to minimise the risks?

The bottom line is that if you choose to conceive using the sperm and/or egg donation process, there is always a risk. And in particular, it’s important to be aware that the rules may be different when you choose an international donor (assuming there’s any rules in place at all, of course). In the U.S. for instance, there is limited legislation related to donor conception, and if you choose this option, well, best you do your homework (i.e. keep reading my articles).

So we know that some donors lie, and some sperm and egg banks cut corners… But how can you protect yourself and your donor-conceived child? How can you minimise the possibility of being on the receiving end of a half-assed job?

Stay posted!

The answers to this question are uncovered in the third (and last) article in this blog series…

Part Three: Twelve Ways You Can Minimise the Risks (When Assessing Donor Profiles) 

More blog posts coming soon:

‘How can known donors protect themselves from donor recipients?’

Join in the Conversation on Facebook

I’d love to hear what you think of this article about sperm and egg banks cutting corners! 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.

Part Two – Do Sperm and Egg Banks Cut Corners?
  1. Sperm Bank Market Analysis By Donor Type, By Service Type (Sperm Storage, Semen Analysis, Genetic Consultancy), By Technology (Donor Insemination, In-Vitro Fertilization), and Segment Forecasts, 2018-2025′, Grand View Research (March 2017), <>, accessed 4 Jan. 2019.
  2. The sperm bank referred to is used by Australian fertility clinics.
  3. ‘Phenylketonuria (PKU)’Better Health Channel, (May 2015), <>, accessed 4 Jan. 2019.
  4. The sperm bank referred to is used by Australian fertility clinics.

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