PrivateBlogUsing a sperm donor to get pregnant
Parents to donor-conceived children, Infertility and treatment

Using a sperm donor to get pregnant – How Verena and Enrico fulfilled their dream of a family

A couple from Italy went to Switzerland to receive fertility treatment

After a failed sperm extraction, the only choice for Verena and Enrico was to use donor spermLearn how using a sperm donor to get pregnant helped fulfil their dream of a family.

Why we needed to use a sperm donor to get pregnant

“After trying to conceive for about a year we made a test on Enrico's sperm motility and quality. The result was zero sperm count (azoospermia). Many blood tests and ultrasounds later, the doctors said that the only option was to try a sperm extraction from the tissues (TESE), but no sperm was retrieved during the surgery. As no sperm was found, it became clear that it was not possible to use our male gametes for conceiving. Then followed a period where we went through some of the 5 stages of grief. The first few months were particularly difficult, especially since no cause for the low sperm count could be found. If you struggle with a low sperm count, we can recommend you follow the link to our blog post containing tips for getting pregnant with a low sperm count.

It took us some time to grieve the loss of our genetics before deciding that we wanted to proceed with using a sperm donor to get pregnant and enlarge our family. For us, using a sperm donor was not really considered fertility treatment, but more like an alternative family-building method.

Our decision-making process was divided into two areas:

  • Firstly, we wanted to be sure that we had overcome the fact that our male gametes could not be used for conceiving. We wanted to be sure, that we had accepted the loss of genetics before continuing with donor sperm for fertility treatment.
  • Secondly, it was important for us to find a child-oriented approach. We read a lot about the experiences of donor-conceived people in order to try to support our (future) donor-conceived children in the best possible way right from the start.

It quickly became clear to us that this decision did not end with the pregnancy. For example, we decided on an identifiable donor (ID Release Sperm Donor), so our children can receive information about the donor from the age of 18. Moreover, the most important aspect for us when using a sperm donor to get pregnant was honesty from birth.”

Travelling to another country is necessary for choosing an ID Release sperm donor

Travelling abroad to receive treatment

“If you are using a sperm donor to get pregnant, it is important to be aware of the law in the different countries, that offer treatment. In our country, an ID Release Sperm Donor was not allowed. Therefore, we decided to go to Switzerland since in this country the donor is by law identifiable. At the age of 18, the donor-conceived children will be allowed to request (if they desire) identifying information about the donor and try to get in contact. If he denies contact, they will still receive some basic information about him, like name, age, place of birth etc.

Almost from the beginning, we thought that this could eventually help our children in accepting the way they have been conceived. One of our biggest fears is the rejection from our child’s sperm donor. In general, we want to thank him for his donation and for helping us create our family. We hope that if our children will want to get in touch with him one day, he will be open to that and not reject them.

As we travelled abroad to receive our treatment in Switzerland, the selection of the donor was made by the fertility clinic. In the selection process of the sperm donor, couples must fill out a form with some basic physical characteristics of both partners. Based on this information, the doctors choose the donor. It was not possible for us to choose the donor from a list, nor to know any information about him.”

Conversations about being a donor-conceived child

“Right from birth, we started telling our children that they are donor-conceived. For this purpose, we made a photo book with our family story, starting from when we first met, some holiday pictures, our marriage, the trying to conceive time, medical treatment (TESE), donor sperm treatment, pregnancy and the births of our children. 
We also wrote a diary from the very beginning of our infertility journey sharing our emotions and thoughts during every step of our path to parenthood. Our children will receive this diary when they are older. 

Verena and Enrico made a book about how their donor-conceived child was born

A page from the book Verena and Enrico made for their donor-conceived child

For now, we are open about the fact that our children are donor-conceived with our family, friends (mainly close friends) and all doctors. As we fear some prejudice, we have not told for example our children’s teachers. We might be more open in the future, but this depends a lot on how open our children will decide to be about the fact that they are donor-conceived.”

Advice for other couples considering using a sperm donor to get pregnant

“Before we decided to use donor sperm to get pregnant, we tried to find out as much as possible about parenting donor-conceived children – from the perspective of the parents and the future children. However, psychological support might have helped us to dig deeper into all the implications that donor conception has for all family members. It would possibly also have helped us to consider and deal with questions that we had not thought of ourselves.

For example, one issue that we did not think through sufficiently before deciding was the number of half-siblings a donor-conceived person might have – and what psychological impact this will have on our children in the future. Therefore, our advice would be to get in contact with a counsellor or a psychologist who has experience in this field. Here in Italy, donor conception has only been legal since 2014, which is why there was no or only very little psychological support from trained psychologists when we decided on this path 6 years ago.”

If you want to read more stories about families fulfilling their dream, despite infertility challenges (low sperm motility), we can recommend this blog post about Johan and how he describes life as being a dad to a donor-conceived child