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Thursday, August 18, 2011


A recent survey of parents via ovum, sperm and embryo donation conducted by Britta Dinsmore, Ph.D. and Carole LieberWilkins, M.F.T. has yielded responses indicating family preferences when using language about donor conception.

204 respondents answered questions about how they refer to the person who contributed gametes to help them create their families.  The survey also asked how parents refer to the children being parented by donors, as well as the children that may have been created through the donor’s contribution to other recipients.

The majority of respondents were partnered.

  • 34 were single. 
  • 2 respondents were gay/lesbian; the remainder was heterosexual. 
  • 163 conceived their children through ovum donation alone.
  • 24 with the help of both donor sperm and donor eggs.
  • 13 received donated embryos.
  • 4 received donor sperm alone. 
  • 5 respondents indicated their children were born through surrogacy.
  • The remaining majority carried their own pregnancies.
In response to the question:   By what term do you refer to the people who contributed eggs, sperm, or embryos to you?

  • 76% stated that they refer to the genetic contributor as “donor”, “our donor”, or “egg/sperm donor”.
  • 3 respondents refer to donors by their first names.
  • 1 calls the donor a “helper.” 
  • 2 call the (family) donor “aunt” or “uncle.”
  • 5 people sometimes refer to the donor as the “genetic mother,” “genetic father,” “genetic parents,” or “genetic contributors.”
The survey asked how parents refer to the children being parented by the donor. 

  • 44% said they call these children the “donor’s children”.
  • 10% refer to the children as “half siblings”.
  • 7% call them by their names.
  • The remainder fell into the categories of “genetic half siblings”, “bio sibs”, or those who did not know whether or not the donors had children. 
The survey also asked how parents refer to those children that may have been created by the donor’s contributions to other parents.

  • 7% refer to these children as “half siblings” or “half siblings.”
  • 5% refer to them as “genetic siblings” or “biological siblings,”
  • 5% refer to them as “other children” and
  • 5% are unsure (either hadn’t thought about it yet or didn’t know if their donor had contributed to others).  The remaining responses were divided among “genetic half siblings,” “donor sibling,” or “donor half sibling.” 
The issue of language referring to both social families and genetic families is an ongoing discussion among professionals in the field of reproductive medicine, and more importantly, those of us living with the duality of being family without genetic links.    This preliminary survey confirms that genetic contributors are overwhelmingly referred to as donors and not with vernacular referring to parenthood. 

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