About 1,700 UK births each year are thanks to donor treatments. Women may choose to use donor sperm for a variety of reasons, perhaps they are not currently in a relationship and would like to conceive, or they may be in a same-sex relationship, or in a relationship with a man who has poor quality sperm. Each situation can have an impact on how they choose a sperm donor and how the criteria is decided.
Modelling on a Partner
Couples opting for sperm donation often choose to model their donor on their own characteristics to ensure that the child looks like them, or has particular attributes. Choosing a donor with similar facial features and colouring is often important to couples so that their child looks like both parents.
Unlike choosing a romantic partner, choosing a donor allows you to make entirely logical and informed decisions on whether you are happy with your child’s possible genes. Ruling out family histories of some diseases is an easy way to narrow the pool; many women prefer to avoid donors with a family history of Alzheimer’s, for example.
Skills and Personality
While it’s a matter of contention whether or not certain traits are passed down genetically (such as mathematical or artistic talent) many women also use this as a way to pare down the list further. This is often modelled on an existing partner – like looks – or as a balance to the mother’s personality or abilities. So a creative mother may choose to use donor sperm from somebody who has good mathematical skills.
In recent years, studies have suggested that these traits may be passed down genetically:
- Maths skills
- Sporting ability
- Musical ability
While it is still a contentious issue, particularly with counter-arguments coming from epigeneticists, it’s a useful way of creating a shortlist from the thousands of donors available.