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Preparing for possible contact from someone conceived from your donation

This page outlines what to expect, and the things to consider, if an adult conceived from your sperm, egg, or embryo donation applies to us to access the identifying information we hold about you.

Who is this information for?

This information is specifically aimed at sperm, egg or embryo donors who:

  • donated between 1 August 1991 and 31 March 2005, and
  • have chosen to remove their donor anonymity, and
  • have had an adult conceived from their donation apply to us for identifying information about them.

It may, however, also be of interest to those who donated after 1 April 2005, when donor anonymity was lifted, as the information and advice here may be something you will need to consider in the future.

Key facts

  • You are not legally obligated to make contact with the donor-conceived person.
  • If when and how contact is made will ultimately be decided by the person conceived from your donation.
  • There are many things to consider before going ahead.

What can I expect?

We have a duty to provide the people conceived from your donation with the non-identifying information that we hold about you on our secure database (the HFEA Register) if they apply for this. You have also consented to allow them to have identifying information about you (including your full name, date and place of birth and the most recent address). We must release this information to them within 20 working days of the request being made. This process is known as ‘Opening the Register’.

If someone applies to us to access your identifying information, we strongly encourage you to take advantage of our confidential support and intermediary service. This gives you the chance to talk things through with a support worker in a way and at a time to suit you – this could be by phone, email or in a face-to-face meeting.

The support worker can also act as an intermediary if the donor-conceived person decides that they would like help making contact with you. For most donors, this service is free.

Some things to think about

When we notify you that a person conceived from your donation has applied to us for your identifying information, you’re likely to go through many different emotions. Anxiety, curiosity and excitement may all play a part. Much of what you feel may depend on your own circumstances and whether your close family are aware that you donated sperm, eggs or embryos.

Your feelings may change and perhaps become more intense if a person conceived from your donation makes contact and if you actually meet them. This is understandable and quite normal.

After getting information about you, the donor-conceived person may decide to take their time before making contact, if at all, or they may contact you straight away. They may change their mind several times. It may feel very difficult for you to know that they could contact you at any time, ‘out of the blue’ or not at all.

You do not have any legal obligation to meet the donor-conceived person or to respond to any methods they use to contact you. However, this could be upsetting and lead someone to just turn up at your home. In these circumstances you may not have a choice about how you would like to be contacted, or about meeting the donor-conceived person.

We encourage donor-conceived people to access our support service where they can discuss how contact with you could be made in a considered way, but this cannot be guaranteed.

You might want to think about, or talk with your family and friends about, what might happen or what you would like to happen. For example:

  • Would you like to have an ongoing relationship with a person conceived from your donation?
  • Do you want them to meet the people who are important to you?
  • Do you want to meet the people who are important to them?
  • How might your connecting with each other affect them as well as you?

Other things to consider

How would you like contact to happen with a person conceived from your donation?

This may depend on what else is going on in your life and whether your family are aware and open to contact being made. You may be going through a major life event like a relationship breakdown, birth, or death and you might wish to have some time to talk it through with your family and friends.

You may also want to provide us with an email address or telephone number that you would prefer to be contacted on, or state any preferences about how you wish contact to be made. However, if, when and how contact is made will ultimately be decided by the person conceived from your donation.

Including your family in this process and being as open and honest as possible may help them and you feel more at ease.

However, some of your family members may prefer you not to have any contact with a person conceived from your donation. Will this make a difference to the decisions you make? How will you handle it either way?


What is the importance to you of ‘nature versus nurture’?

The person conceived from your donation may have inherited some characteristics from you – is this genetic connection important to you? The significance of what is inherited from genetic parents is different for everyone, which means that the donor-conceived person might view it differently to you, as might your family members.


What if they are totally different to you?

You may not have anticipated the donor-conceived person’s lifestyle and circumstances and they may not have anticipated yours. For example, you may not have considered each other’s sexual orientation or family set up (eg, single parent or divorced/separated family).

You may not share the same social/educational/ cultural background, you could have very different life experiences and lifestyles and your first language may not be the same.


What about donor-conceived genetic siblings?

The donor-conceived person may know the identity and may be in touch with, one or more of their donor-conceived genetic siblings (people also conceived from your donation) and may/may not be willing to share this information.

In the same way, you might be in contact with another person conceived from your donation who doesn’t want their identity shared with them and doesn’t want information about, or contact with, them.


What are your expectations about having contact and what are your hopes and fears?

There are many possible outcomes and a person conceived from your donation may not live up to your expectations or they may exceed them. They could have different needs/wants to you – what are your best/worst case scenarios in the short and longer term?


What if the person conceived from your donation wants to meet your family (and/or your own children) and vice versa?

Meeting the donor-conceived person’s family could change relationships within their family and yours and both families may need time to adjust.

You may also need to help your child(ren) (if you have any) to adjust to potentially meeting them. Your child(ren)’s and your partner’s hopes, fears and expectations may be very different to your own.


What might their expectations of contact be?

This could range from a one-off communication and/or photo to satisfy their curiosity about you and why you donated, or they may be looking for more – possibly an on-going relationship with you and your family.


How might you feel about them and vice versa?

There is the potential for intense physical and emotional feelings on both sides following any face-to-face contact. They could feel like ‘the daughter or son you never had’ or you may not feel any connection to them.

Sometimes people experience sexual feelings or what is known as genetic sexual attraction. If this happens to you it’s important to be aware of such feelings and remember the roles and boundaries of any relationship with them.


Other things to keep in mind

Multiple donor-conceived children

If more than one person has been conceived from your donation, they could be siblings within the same family or they may have been born to different families.

It’s possible that several people conceived from your donation might access your details at the same time. Some may be twins or triplets. One sibling might not wish to have contact or may not even know about the request.

Expectations and needs may vary from one person to the next and from one parent/set of parents to the next. Parents also may not be aware that their son/daughter has applied for identifying information.


Future requests from other people conceived from your donation

If more than one person has been conceived from your donation and this is the first time your identifying information has been requested, any choices that you may make concerning this first request may have implications for requests from other people that may follow in time.


How did they find out they are donor-conceived?

Some donor-conceived people may have always known about how they were conceived and some may have found out when they were older or by accident. The way in which they found out about this could affect how they feel about being donor-conceived and also how they could feel towards you.


Sharing information on social media

Think carefully before sharing any information about this process or details about people conceived from your donation on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter – once shared it’s out of your control.


Next steps

We strongly recommend that you talk about the implications of the request for your identifying information with a professional.

Please contact us at openingtheregister@hfea.gov.uk or on 020 7291 8200 for details of how to access our independent and confidential specialist support and intermediary service.
If you haven’t already and would like to provide alternative contact options, for example an email address and/or phone number, in addition to your postal address (which we are legally required to provide), we can pass these on to the applicant if they wish to receive them.

Also, if you would like to express a preference for the use of an intermediary for making contact arrangements and perhaps providing a safe and confidential space for this, or any other preference about how you would like contact to be made, we can also pass this on. The person conceived from your donation will also have been offered the above services. However, if, when or how they make contact will still remain their choice.

Whether contact is eventually made and whether this happens with or without the help of an intermediary, it’s important to go slowly, especially when the rush of emotions may be greater than you expect and the desire might be to hurry ahead. This will give you, and others around you, time to adjust to the new information and prepare for what lies ahead.

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Review date: 30 November 2020

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