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Assisted Reproduction

Can Transparency & Market-Forces Address The Growing Gamete Donation Problem?

Professor Julie Shapiro makes a compelling case:

Let’s suppose any sperm bank a man went to had access to accurate information about how frequently that man had provided sperm to other banks and how many children had been conceived using that sperm. Would a sperm bank buy sperm from a man knowing there was a lot of his sperm already out there in the marketplace? You might think the very experience noted here answers that (because after all, this bank did keep taking his sperm even though it obviously knew how much he had already sold) but bear with me, keeping in mind that the majority of banks are for-profit operations.

Now suppose the same information was made available to potential purchasers/users of the sperm. How many people would buy sperm if they know the provider already had fifty or more offspring? Or that there was so much of his sperm out there on the market that this was likely to happen? I don’t actually think that is what most people want, so I suspect that if there was accurate information out there, most people would reject the provider. Anticipating this, most sperm banks probably wouldn’t think it worthwhile to pay for sperm from men with lots of offspring–they wouldn’t make a profit on the investment. If sperm banks stopped paying men for donating repeatedly, men would stop doing it.

While I think Professor Shapiro is on to something, I also think there will be a small segment of the marketplace that will place an intrinsically higher value on a repeat donor (even one with 150 children). In other words, because that particular donor is so popular, there will be recipients that feel compelled to use that donor, notwithstanding the number of children he fathered, because he has a certain cachet (or “y factor”).


5 comments for “Can Transparency & Market-Forces Address The Growing Gamete Donation Problem?”

  • Egg donors are limited to donate 6 times in their reproductive life due because of long term health concerns (as in we think there are no ramifications long term but we truly don’t know) and Consanguinity issues, why isn’t the same true for sperm donors? When I read that a single sperm donor could have over 50 off spring out there it freaks me out, there is such an ick factor to that.

    • I completely agree with you Marna. And if you are bothered by this ick factor, what do you think of getting inseminated while at Starbucks?

      By the way, you raise a good point about ASRM Guidelines on egg donation. Couple of points. First, with egg freezing becoming more viable, an egg donor can undergo 6 aspirations and potentially freeze 150+ eggs. As this technology improves, it would not be unrealistic to see egg donors who may be responsible for 30 or more children even though they only underwent 6 retrievals.

      Secondly, one of the commenters to Julie’s blog provided this information which is certainly sobering:

      Following the Association of Reproductive Medicine ASRM guidelines of 25 children per donor per population of 800,000 ((population/800,000) x 25 children, how many siblings might a child conceived this way have within the US, North America or the Planet?

      307,006,550 pop/ 800,000 = 384 x 25 = 9,600 children per donor

      North America
      528,720,588 pop/ 800,000 = 661* 25 = 16,523 children per donor

      6,775,235,700 pop / 800,000 = 8469 * 25 = 211,725 children per donor

      One more time. The ASRM is really saying that each donor should have no more than 211,725 children world wide.

  • You know I am looking at the above equation and shaking my head and here’s why. Back in 2000 when I was in the process of creating my family via egg donation out of 20 mature eggs, 10 fertilized. We placed back two, had one child and there were none left to freeze. They all arrested. So while yes the potential to freeze I think is about 120 eggs, but the reality is that it’s much much less. You can’t just look at an egg donor and think automatically she’s going to produce roughly 30 off spring — you have to take in account all kinds of things. Male factor issues, the fact that 25% of all pregnancies end up miscarrying. Etc.. so it’s not black and white.

    I don’t understand the above equation, color me ingorant but that’s not making much sense to me at all. The idea that an egg donor world wide could have 211,725 off spring is silly, don’t you think?

    The CDC began publishing ART outcomes with donor eggs online in 2005 the following is what I found:


    6721 Positive Pregnancies
    5275 Live Births Via Egg Donation


    6315 Positive Pregnancies
    5393 Live Births Via Egg Donation


    6609 Positive Pregnancies
    5692 Live Births Via Egg Donation


    6843 Positive Pregnancies
    5894 Live Births Via Egg Donation

    I am still researching as from what I understand 1981 is when we had the first child born via egg donation and now I want to find out many children there are out there via egg donation.

    Thought provoking to say the least.

    • Hi Marna,

      I believe those calculations were for sperm donation based upon cited ASRM research.

  • Oh My God WHEW is all I can say Andy!

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