Your decision to have children with the help of donated eggs, sperm, or embryos is a lifelong one. It will be the result of an extensive process of consultation and discussion. Your fertility specialist and clinic counsellor will provide you with information about using donor gametes (sperm and eggs) or embryos and can help you explore the social and emotional considerations.
Am I eligible?
Eligibility requirements for fertility treatments in Victoria are outlined in Section 10 of the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008.
According to the Act, a doctor must be satisfied that:
the woman is unlikely to become pregnant other than by a treatment procedure; or
the woman is unlikely to be able to carry a pregnancy or give birth to a child without a treatment procedure; or
the woman is at risk of transmitting a genetic abnormality or genetic disease to a child born as a result of a pregnancy conceived other than by a treatment procedure, including a genetic abnormality or genetic disease for which the woman’s partner is the carrier.
There are many reasons why donor sperm, eggs or embryos may be needed. You can read more about the donor conception process and what is involved here.
If you are considering donor conception, VARTA recommends following these steps:
Speak to your GP or fertility specialist about your fertility assessment and donor conception options.
Discuss donor conception with your partner (if any) and family.
Find a donor. This could be through your fertility clinic, advertisement, a known or overseas donor.
Have counselling sessions with your treating fertility clinic.
Complete the required consent forms with your counsellor. This will cover details such as withdrawal of consent and what happens in the event of death. You and your partner (if any) will need to be involved in this.
Undertake fertility treatment at your fertility clinic.
Finding a donor
Once you are ready to proceed with donor conception, the next step is to find the right donor. There are many options depending on your circumstances and preferences, including using a fertility clinic donor, a donor you know, advertising for a donor or using an overseas donor.
Using a fertility clinic donor
Most fertility clinics have sperm donors, with some also recruiting egg and embryo donors. If donor numbers become low, there may be a waiting list for access. All donations must be altruistic, meaning donors are not allowed to be paid for donating (apart from reimbursement of expenses). Clinic donors are limited to donating to ten women (including their current or former partner). Donors are medically screened. They (and their partner) have counselling to inform them of their rights and responsibilities before donating.
All donors consent to their identifying details (name, date of birth, last known address) being released to the donor-conceived person when they turn 18. Donors complete a donor profile giving some information about themselves including why they donated, their hobbies, personality, appearance, and whether they are open to being contacted before the child is an adult. Potential recipients are usually able to read these profiles and, if possible, choose which donor they prefer.
You can find out more from your fertility clinic.
Using a known donor
A known donor could be an acquaintance, friend, or family member. Using a known donor often requires a proactive approach to letting people know you are looking for a donor. Word of mouth or your personal social network can be useful tools. You may want to consider the following questions when finding a known donor:
What criteria are you looking for in a donor (e.g. level of ongoing involvement or contact) and what would exclude someone as a potential donor?
How important is the donor's appearance, religion, personal characteristics, morals and beliefs, level of education, etc.?
Why is the person donating to you? Do they feel obliged to donate to you? The decision to donate may have long lasting implications for the donor, their partner (if any), and their family, so it is a good idea to ensure they do not feel an obligation to donate, but rather want to do it for their own reasons.
The relationship between all parties, including the parents and the donor, and the donor and the child, can vary enormously from no contact to occasional contact or an ongoing relationship. It is important that everyone involved including partners (if any) express how they feel about the arrangement, roles and consent. Regardless of the level of involvement, maintaining a positive ongoing relationship can be beneficial for known donors, parents and the child. This is particularly important where there is a co-parenting arrangement in which the donor is actively involved in the child's upbringing.
Expectations, feelings, and needs are likely to change over time. As things change, it is important to focus on ensuring positive outcomes. Some factors that can help contribute to positive relationships are:
a high level of trust and a capacity to communicate openly and honestly
an ability to manage change and conflict
a solid grounding of shared values and priorities
holding each other in high regard
a level of emotional maturity.
In Victoria, it is a legal requirement to have an advertisement for a donor approved by the Health Minister before it is published. This includes sending your draft advertisement for approval to:
Minister for Health
Department of Health and Human Services
GPO BOX 4541
Melbourne VIC 3000
Email Address: email@example.com
Stand out by uniquely reflecting you and your situation. Describe you and why you need a donor.
Clearly state what you are seeking in the title and/or the opening sentence.
Include a short explanation of what reasonable expenses (e.g. medical, travel) will be reimbursed.
Consider privacy (use a non-identifying email address, PO box, mobile number rather than home number).
It may take some time before your advertisement is successful. Not everyone who responds will be a suitable donor for you.
You can find examples of advertisements here.
Using an overseas donor
If you would like to import donated eggs, sperm, or embryos (created using donor eggs or sperm) to Victoria for treatment, you need to apply to VARTA for approval to import donated material. In considering your application, VARTA will determine whether the imported eggs, sperm, or embryos will be used in a way that complies with Victorian law. You can find more information including import criteria in the Victorian guidelines.
It is important to note that you cannot use donations from anonymous donors within Australia. Anonymous donation does not comply with Victorian law. Although anonymity may seem appealing, it is important to consider the impact of this on your potential child. With overseas unknown donors, no contact or further exchange of information (e.g. medical, biological or cultural background) is possible between the donor and child.