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Reprod Biomed Online. 2014 Jan;28(1):106-15. doi: 10.1016/j.rbmo.2013.09.021. Epub 2013 Oct 5.

'Of course he's our child': transitions in social parenthood in donor sperm recipient families.

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Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Law, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium. Electronic address:
Leuven University Fertility Centre, University Hospitals Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.
School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Law, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.
Institute for Family and Sexuality Studies, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.


This study examines transitions and consistencies in the views of donor sperm recipients on ‘parenthood’ and ‘family’ over time. A longitudinal qualitative study was carried out with 19 donor sperm recipients. Interviews took place during pregnancy, at birth and 1.5–2 years after birth and were analysed using a grounded theory approach. Participants intending to disclose the donor conception to their offspring (13/19) exhibited a transition from feeling anxious prior to birth to feeling more confident during the toddler stage about their parenthood. Previous anxieties about the lack of biological ties decreased as emerging social ties became more significant. Following birth, these participants (13/19) felt acknowledged by others as parents, which elicited feelings of normalization. Being able to engage in parenting and develop parental relations enhanced their confidence in their parental position. This confidence empowered donor sperm recipients to tackle future challenges and made them more convinced about their disclosure intention. Participants intending not to disclose the donor conception (6/19) reported viewing their parenthood as no different from parenthood experienced by naturally conceiving parents, no transitions were observed and insecurity about physical traits that could reveal the donor conception remained. These findings have implications for counselling throughout specific stages in parenthood.


gamete donation; parenthood; sperm donation; transition

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