The Differences Between Egg Donors and Sperm Donors.
What I love about Pamela Madsen from the Fertility Advocate is that she asks out loud those questions that only others dare to think. As I read her article about the difference between sperm donors and egg donors I was honestly surprised to read that sperm donors aren’t required to go through a psych screening or take an MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory: a self-report personality inventory consisting of 550 items that describe feelings or actions which the person is asked to agree with or disagree with; many scales estimating traits and qualities of personality have been developed using MMPI items)
Another top notch attorney Amy Demma Reproductive Attorney and founder of Prospective Families went on to ask a very reasonable question — she just wanted to know why a nineteen year old young man would be allowed to donate sperm, “to possibly share his genetics with dozens (?) of families, to potentially create more genetic half-siblings than he, his partner and his own children (should he partner and have a family of his own) ever know of but not be required to meet with a mental health professional? Why isn’t mental health screening a part of donor sperm screening? In this particular regard, why are sperm donors viewed differently than egg donors?”
I like Pam had to stop a really think about this. Why is it that men don’t have to jump through the same hoops as women do when it comes to donating their genetic material? Why are the standards different? It starts with the difference in ages. The age for a sperm donor is 19 for men and 21 for women who donate their eggs. The reasons we hear are that it takes a certain amount of maturity to embrace the tough regime of daily injections and that most 19 year old women aren’t responsible enough for that. I am here to tell you I disagree.
My bigger concern was the psychological aspect. Regardless of whether you are a man or a woman when you donate your genetic material it’s floating around out there. Taking an MMPI and talking to a therapist about how you feel about all of “this” is really a reasonable and appropriate thing to do. After all we require our egg donors to do it. Why not our sperm donors?
“We follow the regulations of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), American College of Medical Genetics (ACMG) and several other agencies for qualifying donors to… our program. Psychological screening is not a requirement; however, it is performed at our facility in several ways. According to the New York State Department of Health, http://www.nyhealth.gov/publications/1127/#psychological, the psychological screening process “should help (a donor) evaluate your desire to donate and to think through these issues. You should have a chance to ask questions and express any concerns.”
In our program, we use a written donor consent agreement for this purpose which we review with the donor applicants in detail. During the informed consent process, we discuss all the requirements of the program including the fact they are donating for the primary purpose of causing pregnancy. We give the donors the consent agreement to take home to review further even if they feel they are ready to sign the agreement right away because we require that they have time to consider the issues involved.
In addition, each donor applicant is evaluated by a physician and genetic counselor to determine if he is eligible to participate in our program. We do not accept a man as a donor if he has a personal or family medical history that could indicate an increased risk for mental health problems in his offspring. This includes findings such as an applicant who has been diagnosed with a serious psychological disorder, abuses drugs or alcohol or has several relatives who have dealt with substance abuse, uses psychoactive medications, is not mentally capable of understanding or participating in the process, etc.
These evaluations are performed to assess the overall health of a donor applicant (physical and mental). If we find anything in the donor’s history that would indicate an increased risk for a serious medical problem in his offspring, we would not accept him into our program. We also follow up on the donor’s medical history and that of the offspring in our program so that we can keep our clients informed of any new medical information that could be relevant to the health of their families.”
While I liked their reply and I thought it was informative — it still didn’t answer my question about why sperm donors aren’t required to see a psychologist before they donate.
As I dug deeper and researched further I went to the State of New York’s website and read the guide they put out for women who are thinking about egg donation. There is nothing for men. Zero. And while I don’t have the answers as to “Why” there is a difference. My knee jerk reaction is pretty simple. When men donate it’s not invasive. It’s a short and most often a pleasurable experience with the results provided into a cup that’s passed on to a lab whereas a woman who donates eggs endures much more. Aside from all the medications she takes, there are lab appointments, doctor appointments, and finally an invasive medical procedure that requires the egg donor to undergo anesthesia to have her eggs harvested, and it doesn’t end there is the recovery period that has to happen as well. So okay women have to go through more than the men to donate their genetics but that still doesn’t change the fact that a man doesn’t have feelings about his genetics and perhaps it would be a good thing of the guidelines were changed and a psych screen by a therapist and an MMPI were required.
I’m just sayin.