Lately I get a lot of questions about how Eden was conceived – a lot of the time from ladies and couples who are trying to conceive in the same way. As a couple who tried for twenty four months with a known donor and artificial insemination, I feel like Amy and I have a fair bit of wisdom on the subject. So, here it is. My ten commandments of making a baby “the alternative way”.
1. Thou Shalt Get To Know Thy Donor.
The very idea of finding a donor on Facebook or another donor site is deplorable to some people. The reason why is because there are some SERIOUSLY bad eggs out there. What helps those bad eggs keep doing what they’re doing? Adverts like “donor wanted today” probably don’t help. “Donor wanted in next 48 hours”. If you’re posting adverts like this, you’re just putting yourself in danger. This is one half of your future child. Some ladies seem to take more time picking a pair of shoes than picking a donor. Please. Be careful. Get to know potential donors. Make sure you’re a good match and there are up to date STI test results available before going ahead. If not for your sake, for your future child’s sake.
If you don’t want to take the time to get to know a donor and just want safe, neatly packaged sperm and a full medical history, I would recommend paying for sperm from a sperm bank.
2. Thou Shalt Know Thy Method
The known sperm donation world is made up of several accepted methods. The usual choice for lesbian couples, and the safest method in most cases – is AI. Artificial insemination involves the donor *ahem* producing the donation into a sterile pot and then leaving, and the recipient then inseminating herself (or partner) using a sterile syringe. No sexual contact with the donor is required at all. Some of the other methods floating around are:
AI+ – where the recipient is expected to help the donor produce the donation
PI (Partial insemination/Penetrative insemination) – where the donor masturbates until the point of ejaculation and then enters the recipient to ejaculate.
NI (Natural Insemination) – Sex.
All are as effective as eachother, so the only thing governing what method people use is their preference. Never let anyone talk you into anything that you don’t want. Remember that as a recipient (or as a donor) you have the right to choose your method and stick to it.
3) Thou Shalt Look Into Myths and Legends
Remember that unless you’re being given advice by a medical professional, it’s not necessarily correct. People will recommend all kinds of things and try and sell you all kinds of crap. Some is more effective than others, but when considering whether to try a product, a vitamin or a method, be sure to do your own research. You’ll soon find that a lot of what people say makes a difference actually makes no difference at all.
Classic example of this is when people say you absolutely MUST lie down with your hips raised for “x” amount of time. The month we conceived Eden, I inseminated and got up almost immediately. Why? Amy was making egg and bacon sandwiches… and there’s nothing worse than a cold egg and bacon sandwich!
4) Thou Shalt Think of the Future
Remember that this is a child that you are creating. One day that child will be a young adult and they will have questions about where they came from. Think about how you will answer those questions. Think about how you will answer medical questions about where they came from. This ties in with getting to know your donor, but even if you have a “no contact” arrangement, it might be worth having some way to contact the donor should you need to or should the child need to when they are older.
5) Thou Shalt Know About Contracts
This is specific to England as I can’t speak for the law anywhere else, but contracts between donor and recipient mean absolutely nothing in this country. They’re helpful to have because at least everyone knows they are on the same page, however they are not legally binding. They can be taken into account, but English law stands above that of a contract. A donor can’t “sign away his rights” to a child without going to court. Signing a contract would not stop a family court granting a donor access to a child who is one half biologically his. There is no way to protect against this 100%, but I will go into some ways in my next commandment.
6) Thou Shalt Protect Thyself Legally
If you are in a lesbian couple using a known donor, you must be married or in a civil partnership at the time of conception in order for the non birth parent to go on the birth certificate. There is no way around this, except for going for treatment through a licensed fertility clinic. In order for an unmarried non birth partner to appear on a birth certificate, they would need to adopt the child or go to court for a parental order.
In terms of donors getting access if they want it, there is no way to stop this. But ways to protect yourself as much as possible are to only accept donations through AI – sex is considered to be a relationship by a court – and to be married or in a civil partnership. This makes it harder, but not impossible for a donor to gain access. Family courts in England tend to go by biology, in the same way they would if a recipient was to make a child support payment request from a donor. Protect yourself as much as you can.
Natalie Gamble Associates has some fantastic information on UK law with regards to children conceived with known donors.
7) Thou Shalt Not Pay
In England, it is illegal to charge for sperm (or eggs) unless you are a licensed fertility clinic. It’s accepted that donors often ask for travel expenses, but if any man is asking for money specifically for his sperm, this is illegal under HFEA and UK law and you should avoid him. Never pay for sperm. There are lots of wonderful men out there who are working within the law and only ask for travel expenses or nothing at all. Anyone breaking the law is worth avoiding.
8) Thou Shalt Track, Track and Track
Get to know your cycle. Know when you ovulate. Buy ovulation tests and track that cycle! Don’t rely on apps for your phone, because they go by averages and very few people are “average”. Ovulation tests will tell you what YOUR body is doing rather than what the average body is doing. I wrote an OPK Quick Reference Guide which explains how ovulation tests work and when to inseminate around them. Use ovulation tests, take your basal body temperature if you want to, get to know your cervical mucus. Knowing your cycle not only makes conception easier, but it also makes life easier for you and for your donor.
9) Thou Shalt Embrace the Community
Only if you want to, of course. This one isn’t essential, but there are plenty of sperm donation groups and communities out there that have a lot of very valuable support on them. I found some of the most helpful people when we were trying were people who were going through similar. I also found lots of support on general trying to conceive forums as well. There’s a hell of a lot of support and knowledge in the trying to conceive community and I don’t think our journey would have ended happily without that support. Not to mention that in the Sperm Donation world, you soon get to know who the bad eggs and good eggs are.
10) Thou Shalt Take Thy Time
Take Your Time. Get to know your donor. Get to know the law. Get to know your cycle. Don’t rush. And if it takes a little while, don’t stress. It can take up to a year for a healthy couple with no fertility problems to conceive. If it takes longer than this, a trip to the doctor for is often recommended.
So, there you go. That’s my ten commandments of donor insemination. Nothing in this post is intended as medical or legal advice, and I would recommend taking advice from a registered professional before embarking on anything. Known donor insemination was a long journey, filled with ups and downs for us, but it ended in the most wonderful things. Obviously it ended in our gorgeous little girl, but we also made a lifetime friend in our donor. I hope anyone reading who is undertaking home insemination gets the same happy ending that we have. I’ve added some helpful links at the bottom of this post.
OPK Quick Reference Guide – My guide to ovulation tests and how they work
The Ten Commandments of Trying to Conceive (For Lesbians) – an amusing post that I wrote some time back
You Know You’re Trying To Conceive When – Another one from the archives
So… How Does It Happen? – A post I wrote about inseminating
Natalie Gamble Associates – A great site for legal help with trying with a known donor
Stonewall Pregnant Pause – A guide for Lesbians on How to Get Pregnant
Free Sperm Donors UK – A Very Helpful Facebook Group
Fertility Friend – A useful site for tracking your cycles, temperatures and pregnancy symptoms.