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Egg donation is anonymous in the short term but once the child turns 18 they have a legal right to know who their donor is. Find out more in our guide.
Confusingly, the answer to the question ‘are egg donors anonymous?’ is both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ as there are two different aspects to consider about anonymity:
1. Yes, egg donation is anonymous at the time of donation. You will receive only non-identifying information about the donor.
2. No, egg donation is not anonymous in the long term. In the UK, at 18, donor-conceived people have the legal right to know who their donor is.
In the UK, the legal position is that egg donors (and sperm donors) have no rights, claims or responsibility towards any child conceived with their help. They cannot find out who you or your family are at any point. Similarly, a donor-conceived person has no claim, rights, or responsibility for, or on, the donor.
Many Apricity donors are naturally interested to know a little about you and your journey to egg donation. For egg donors, it makes their donation important and personal and gives them the motivation to help someone they don't know. It is a big 'ask' of a woman to go through these procedures to donate eggs. We will check with you in the first instance what you might like the egg donor to know but we never give any information that could enable her to identify you, and neither will we reveal her identity. We refer you and the donor to the same clinic for your treatment cycles, and you can be assured that they will keep all identifying information entirely confidential and separate.
Being anonymous in this way makes the experience of egg donation much clearer for both you and the donor, keeping confusing emotions and relationships separate. However, this does not mean that it is any less special. The way that we match you with a donor, makes this a very personal donation and enables you both to feel a connection with each other despite not being known to one another.
The UK’s current law around egg, sperm and embryo donor anonymity came into effect in April 2005. It outlines that while donating eggs, sperm and embryos is anonymous at the time of donation, a donor-conceived child can discover their donor’s identity when they turn 18. This makes 2023 the first year that donor-conceived children can apply to find out their donor’s identity.
Before 2005, egg, sperm and embryo donation were anonymous in the UK. However, men and women who donated before then have the option to remove their anonymity, so that donor-conceived adults have the option of identifying them.
On the day the law came into effect, the then-health ministercommented, “We think it is right that donor-conceived people should be able to have information, should they want it, about their genetic origins and that is why we have changed the law on donor anonymity”.
In the UK, it is no longer possible to donate eggs (or sperm) anonymously. Donors are anonymous at the time of donation, meaning recipients can only find out non-identifying information like age, heritage, and hair colour.
Anonymous donation is legal in some countries abroad but is not for everyone. Learn more about the pros and cons of IVF with donor eggs abroad.
It is recommended that parents of donor-conceived children are open with their children about their origins. Experience has shown that, where this happens from an early change, the child grows up with a much more secure sense of their personal identity, so that issues about being donor-conceived become inconsequential. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and Donor Conception Network recommend talking with a child in early childhood (ideally aged five and under).
“Finding out suddenly in later life can be emotionally damaging to donor-conceived people and their families. This, coupled with a donor-conceived person’s legal right to find out about their genetic origins, means that it’s advisable to be open with your children from an early age.” – HFEA
It is also important to consider that the rising popularity and use of at-home DNA testing kits gives an increasing chance that donor identities may be revealed, often without any support being offered.
There are plenty of resources available to help navigate conversations around a child’s conception. For example, the Donor Conception Network has a list of suggested children’s books and runs regular workshops on talking to children about their origins. We also advise discussing the process with an experienced fertility counsellor to guide you through these implications.
Discovering the identity of the donor is no casual matter and there will be plenty of opportunities to handle the process sensitively. There is a definite process that the child (or young adult as they will then be) will have to go through. They will need to apply to the HFEA (the government regulatory authority) to get access to this information. The HFEA will then contact the donor to let her know that they have received such a request, and they will manage things from that point.
When a donor-conceived child turns 16, they have a right to find out certain non-identifying information about their donor, such as the person's ethnicity, marital status, medical history, and the year and country of their birth. The donor-conceived child can also request to find out whether they have any donor-conceived siblings.
When they are 18, they have the right to find out who their donor is. It’s not a casual matter – they have to apply to the HFEA for the information. This can be really helpful in gaining a sense of identity, even if they never reach out.
How the donor responds if they were to get in touch is their decision - there is no obligation to return the contact in any way. Still, it’s really important that donors fully understand the implications of this decision. This will be covered in an implications counselling session. Donors might also like to chat through their thoughts with previous donors or women considering egg donation. This can be done confidentially in our private Facebook donor information hub, Miracle Makers.
Speaking anecdotally, we find that most of our donors are open to the donor-conceived adult making contact once they turned 18, but do not have any expectations.
“I would be quite happy if they reached out at 18. I’m not holding my breath for it, because obviously it’s their life, if they don’t want to reach out for any reason, I completely respect that. But I feel like the journey me and her [the donor-conceived child] parents embarked on alongside each other, it’d be quite nice to finally meet and see the fruit of everything that we did. And if they keep in contact, great, and if not, then so be it.” – Apricity egg donor, Rachel
“I would be more than happy if they did, I would be understanding if they didn’t. If they want to come and find out a bit more about their genetics, that’s fine by me. I got the most beautiful card from my recipients. I have a bigger desire to hug her [the recipient]. I’m just so pleased that those children they go on to have are going to have the most wonderful lives, and I wish them all the very best.” – Apricity egg donor, Olivia
“I am a retired physician who donated six times in the 1970s. In 2017, I received an email from one of my donor-conceived children, who had spent decades trying to find me. This was not a surprise to me, and it turned out to be one of the best experiences in my life. […]
I would advise donors that there is nothing to lose and much to gain by letting yourself be known. If the law is properly written, it should protect donors from being on the hook for support and contact but leave open the opportunity to know a relative who may be someone you come to know and value as part of your family. Nobody, either child or donor, should have expectations beyond the simple knowledge of who their ancestors are.” – Name withheld, in a letter to the Guardian (2022)
Worrying about a donor feeling attached to the donor-conceived child – or vice versa – is a common recipient concern. Interestingly, some women and men choose not to donate eggs and sperm out of a similar worry: that the donor-conceived child will feel attached to them.
We find that many of our donors feel very sure about their role in the egg donation process: they are providing a way for another family to have a very wanted child, and nothing more. Egg donors often have children of their own and do not confuse any children born out of donation as their own. Many egg donors feel more affinity towards the recipients, who they know often have very difficult journeys on the way to egg donation.
On the other hand, donor-conceived children that grow up within loving families feel very sure of who their mums and/or dads are and find the details of their conception a minor detail.
"I know that when my mom and dad would try to talk to me about it, I was like 'I don't care, I want to play with Lego', so you kind of have to overcome that they're kids, and they just don't care. […] I think sometimes my parents maybe overdid it because they were so anxious to make sure I would be well adjusted and okay, and there would never be any kind of "you're not my real dad!", because I think that's a big, big worry. Whenever prospective parents talk to me, they're like 'But did you ever scream across the dinner table?" and I'm like, 'No, you know, I was a teenager, I screamed lots of things, but it was always like, you know, all my friends have mobile phones!" – Donor-conceived adult, Kate
This is a topic that our collaborator Becky Kearns (Defining Mum, Paths to Parenthub) regularly addresses on her social media and we also asked her what advice she’d give to someone before starting egg donation treatment. There are also plenty of resources online where you can hear from donor-conceived adults themselves. We asked donor-conceived adult, Kate, how she felt about her origins in one of our webinars, which you can watch here.
We encourage getting involved in the discussion to make sure you understand your fears and feelings before proceeding.
"It makes me so cross when people say to me 'Oh, but that's your child', and I say, 'No, my children are in my home. I've helped a family have a child. Without the baby's mum, that child would not be here." – Apricity egg donor, Olivia
Finding information about your donor in the UK will depend on when you were conceived, and how old you are now. This is because the information and consent collected on donors have changed throughout the decades.
The HFEA was set up in 1991, so if you were born before then, they would unfortunately not have information about your donor. The Donor Conceived Register might be able to help, but it’s worth noting that back then, many parents of donor-conceived children were advised by professionals to not divulge the details of their conception.
If you were conceived between August 1991 and March 2006, you can request certain information about your donor. This includes the year and country of their birth, a physical description and whether they had children or not at the time of donation. However, not every donor will have provided this information. People who donated during this time do have the option to remove their anonymity, so you may be able to request their identity from the HFEA.
Parents of donor-conceived children can also access some non-identifying information about the donor and whether they have siblings.
If your donor donated after April 2005, you can contact the HFEA and apply for a range of information. If you’re 16, you can apply for non-identifying information and whether you have any donor-conceived siblings. If you’re over 18, you can apply to find out your donor’s identity.
Information of all parties is handled very sensitively, and there will be a process to go through to apply for the information. Once your application has been processed, they will contact the donor to let them know.
The increase in donor conception within fertility treatment has helped thousands of people in the UK to create the families they dreamed of. The laws around anonymity in the UK are in place to protect donor-conceived children, allowing them to access genetic information and gain a sense of identity if they choose.
There are different arguments for and against donor anonymity, and it is important that you explore these before proceeding with egg (or sperm) donation in the UK, whether you are planning to be a recipient or a donor. Counselling is available to help you navigate thoughts and concerns and understand the implications of the law for everyone involved.
If you are thinking about becoming an egg donor, you can register your interest with us today to find out whether you can donate and receive an information pack. Or if you’re looking to build your family with the help of donor eggs and would like to know more about being an egg recipient, you can book a free consultation with one of our fertility advisors.
Written by our group of fertility experts and doctors consultants
Written by our group of fertility experts and doctors consultants
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