'I used Facebook to find a sperm donor': the 'unprecedented' rise of online sperm donation

Photo: Lataya Berg became pregnant via a sperm donor she met on an online Facebook group.
Photo: Lataya Berg became pregnant via a sperm donor she met on an online Facebook group. Photo: Supplied

When Lataya Berg, 22, decided she was ready to have a baby and had no partner instead of going down the traditional route of finding donor sperm with a fertility clinic she looked online.

"I was ready to have kids now and not in a relationship.  

I preferred to do it online and it worked out.  It was more personal, and I got to meet him and talk with him," she explained.

Adam Hooper set up a Sperm Donation group on Facebook in 2015 and is inundated with requests from men to join the group. ...
Adam Hooper set up a Sperm Donation group on Facebook in 2015 and is inundated with requests from men to join the group. Pictured here with his own son. Photo: Supplied

The Gold Coast mum saw her donor's add on the Facebook group Sperm Donation Australia and felt he was well informed about his health history and seemed like a nice guy when she messaged him.

For six months they met once, occasionally twice a month at shopping centres and sometimes the donor's house.

Lataya would come armed with syringes and a urine collection cup from the chemist, hoping to become a mum.

The day it was successful they'd met at a shopping centre. Her donor went to the toilets and returned with the collection cup of sperm which Lataya took and inserted into herself in her car.

Ten days later she took a pregnancy test which revealed she was pregnant.

"I didn't think it would be positive and it was. I just started bawling my eyes out and it was great," the new mum shared. 

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Kenai is now three-and-half weeks old and is the light of her life.

"I definitely feel like I made the right choice for me and I couldn't ask for anything better."

Lataya doesn't know where the donor's other recipients live and hasn't thought about what might happen if the children were to meet as adults and unknowingly form an intimate relationship, however, she is on a group chat with the donor and six of his other recipients.

Photo:  Lataya Berg decided to look for a sperm donor online rather than at a fertility clinic.
Photo: Lataya Berg decided to look for a sperm donor online rather than at a fertility clinic.  Photo: Supplied

She said her donor also got her to sign a donor agreement saying she wouldn't seek child support and it would be her child.

'It's a very pleasing experience'

Scott, 42, from Adelaide, is one of a growing number of men wanting to help people create a family through the online group.

He said demand for donor sperm is enormous and has grown significantly since gay marriage became legal.

The father of two children in their late teens began donating privately two years ago after same sex couple friends persuaded him to help them and then suggested he join Sperm Donation Australia.

He has now fathered four children and said the desire to help people have their own children drives him.

"It's a very pleasing experience. I remember the first one. I was lying in bed and got a message at 10:30 at night. That first one was just amazing. You get a really positive vibe when you get the ultrasounds and it is healthy," he explained.

But he said the downside when it doesn't work also hits him hard. 

"Part of being a donor is you need to be a psychologist.

"You do feel connected because you've put so much time and energy into helping them.

"There is a huge need out there.  I have seen what people go through with IVF and it's not a lot of fun and the expenses are astronomical.  It is relatively inexpensive to buy an AI (Artificial Insemination) kit."

Scott takes his role as donor very seriously, even giving up sugar, which he said for a lolly addict is hard.

"It involves supplements and fitness. I have joined a gym and got fitter. I avoid alcohol and sugar."

'Less satisfaction' through a clinic

He said it is much easier to donate at a clinic, because it can be done in a shorter period, but feels it lacks the satisfaction and connection he has with his recipients.

"You do get to know the people over a period of time.  It often doesn't work first time.  

I seek updates and photographs and even when they are pregnant they send me ultrasounds and I have a good relationship with the people and I work hard to maintain that," he explained.

He doesn't plan to meet the children but does want to know they are doing well but  is happy to meet when they are young adults.

Scott also plans to connect all his recipients together so the siblings will know where everyone is.  

He agrees clinics have their advantages but said donating privately gives him a lot of satisfaction and allows "all parties (to) write their own rule book."

"In a clinic it is very clinical. You get a notification that you have had a success and you get the gender and that's it. The child has no idea who you are until they are 18."

Scott also said he is very conscious of the legal aspects of donating and has sought advice from lawyers and ensures each party's expectations are very clear from the start.

Inundated with requests

Adam Hooper set up Sperm Donation Australia in 2015 and is inundated with requests from men to join the group, with about 30 applications coming through each week.

"The number of people wanting to have babies at this time has just exploded.  The activity in the group has skyrocketed.  It is at unprecedented levels," he said.

He said finding a donor online offered donors and recipients the ability to choose the sort of relationship they desired, was more rewarding for the men and took away a lot of the wondering that came from anonymous donation.

"You don't know who you have helped (through a clinic) and wander around a shopping centre wondering if the child is yours.  This way everyone is at peace and some of the children from different families form relationships with each other.

For a child to be able to even just see a photo of the father reduces any questions the child may have.

There is something for everyone.  If you want a donor that wants a bit of contact you can choose one, if you want a donor that meets once a year you can find one," Adam said.

He screens every man's application to join the group and tries to ensure their posts are honest and include any health conditions. 

"Safety in the group is paramount. The process of getting men in can take a couple of weeks," Adam said.

'We are living in a sperm shortage'

Associate Professor Anusch Yazdani, Medical Director at Queensland Fertility Group said the huge demand for sperm over the last few months combined with a pandemic has created a perfect storm, leaving clinics across the country short of sperm.

"We are living in a sperm shortage. It is an issue donation is falling off the radar. We need to encourage more men to donate," he stressed.

Associate Professor Yazdani said he welcomes men who want to be known donors, but it is up to the recipient if they want to meet.

He said many people came to the clinic having met their donor online and it definitely had its place.

However, he cautioned people doing themselves to ensure they go through the precautions of checking family history and health screening.

He also warned that recipients needed to be cautious donors were donating for the right reasons and that vetting them from a profile can be difficult.

"Having a child is a big responsibility and it starts with making sure both the people are as healthy as can be.  

It is not just an exchange of sperm it is an exchange of destinies and a life," Associate Professor Yazdani stated.