DSR Counseling

Consult/Advice/Support Call or Video Chat with Wendy

Experience, Expertise, Empathy, and Empowerment.

Educational, informational, and supportive.

Wendy is available for phone or video consult/advice/support sessions when a licensed therapist might not be necessary. In addition to raising a donor-conceived son, she has 22 years of experience speaking with thousands of parents, prospective parents, donors, donor-grandparents, donor's wives and family, and donor-conceived people. With dozens of research studies and 30 published papers in peer-reviewed academic journals, she is equipped to assist!

Half-price 1st Phone or Video Consult Session for DSR Members! If you're a DSR member, contact Wendy if you are interested in a $75 (no time limit) phone or video consult.
Non-members pay $145 for a phone or video consult session (no time limit).

Read Wendy's Monthly Psychology Today Articles here.

2023: Family Twist Podcast:

Join us as we welcome Wendy Kramer, the visionary co-founder of the Donor Sibling Registry. Wendy shares her poignant journey into the world of donor conception, offering unique insights into a realm many of us know little about. Her story is not just about creating a family but also about the complexities and unexpected challenges that come with donor conception.


Summary of Episode 1 Highlights:

  • The Inception of the Donor Sibling Registry: Wendy discusses how personal experiences led to the creation of this groundbreaking resource for donor-conceived individuals and their families.
  • Understanding Donor Conception: Delve into the initial steps and decisions involved in donor conception, as Wendy narrates her personal experience.
    Conversations on Origin and Identity: The episode highlights crucial conversations between Wendy and her son about his origins, emphasizing the importance of honesty in donor-conceived families.
  • The Emotional Landscape of Donor Families: Explore the varied emotions and challenges that families face in navigating donor conception.
  • The Impact of DNA Testing and Social Media: Wendy talks about how advancements like DNA testing and social media platforms have revolutionized the way donor-conceived individuals connect with their biological relatives.
  • Ethical Issues in Donor Conception: Wendy sheds light on the lack of proper education and counseling in the sperm and egg donation process.

Summary of episode 2 highlights:


  • A Team Approach to Donor Conception: Wendy emphasizes how she and her son tackled the challenges and questions of donor conception together.
  • The Evolving Age Range of Half Siblings: Fascinating insights into the age diversity within the community of donor siblings and its implications.
  • The Shock of Discovery through DNA Testing: Wendy discusses recent cases where individuals discover their donor-conceived status unexpectedly through DNA testing.
  • Counseling and Support for Donor-Conceived Families: Wendy talks about her role in counseling families who are navigating the complexities of donor conception.
  • The Impact of Secrecy in Family Life: An exploration of the emotional turmoil caused by the lack of transparency in donor-conceived families.
  • Understanding and Respecting Children’s Curiosity: Wendy highlights the importance of acknowledging and respecting a child’s curiosity about their biological origins.

2022: Jewish Fertility Foundation Interview with Wendy, Ryan, and Ryan's Half-Sister Jami: Finding & Re-Defining Family with the Donor Sibling Registry.

2020 interview with Wendy: Fruitful Fertility Video Podcast: The Scoop on Using Donors

Some feedback received after a phone consult with parents who were about to tell their adult kids the truth about being donor-conceived. It might inspire others who might be on the fence about telling: 

“We wanted to get back to you in regards to our conversation with the boys last night. Well, we have to say, it went better than we expected. 

At first, they thought we were kidding. Then, of course, when I started to cry, they knew this was a 'reality' and not the opposite. The first thing our youngest said, was...'Well, this doesn't change anything.' That made me cry even more. Our oldest was a comedian throughout the entire evening making us all laugh with his family and half-family analogies.  Even though we sometimes disagreed on how things were said, we all still managed to get through it with levity, patience, open hearts, and laughter.  No matter how many times we rehearsed what we were going to say, it would come out in different ways and it did. The bottom line, it was ok. 

We showed them their paperwork and talked about half-siblings. We also pulled up your website, mentioned that we had a conversation with you, and let them know they could do the same. Both boys were interested in seeing who else might be out there. One son seemed a bit more curious, the other wanted to take it slower, but in the end, the numbers came out for both. 

Wendy, we want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your guidance, support, and uplifting conversation that went such a long way in setting us on a positive and light-hearted path. We were at a tremendous loss as to how and when to approach this topic.  We mentioned to the boys that they can reach out to you individually, with each other or with us, together, as a family anytime.  

Thank you so much for all you do in making families feel comfortable with a subject that sometimes is not so comfortable to talk about. 

PS. I probably would never have said anything if I wasn't pushed. I was always torn as to what to do...tell or not tell. I was afraid of losing them. However, I know it was the right thing to do and it's a relief. I don't have to hide it anymore.  Now the boys will know more about where they come from and how, with the help of others, it was made possible for them to bless our lives."

And from another family: "Thank you so much for taking the time to connect with us yesterday morning. The time we spent with you was invaluable! Thank you so much for your compassion, understanding, support, and wisdom."

Here are just a few of the issues that Wendy can chat with you about:

I just found out that I am donor-conceived ... help!

My adult donor-conceived child just found via DNA testing that they are donor-conceived ... how do I best support them?

Maneuvering through the issues of disclosure, a child’s right to know, and when and how to tell.

How to move forward in connecting with a half-sibling’s family (or many families).

Coping with donor family members who have different comfort levels and desires to connect.

Non-biological parents who may be feeling uncomfortable with their children reaching out to biological relatives.

Helping to make the distinction between privacy and secrecy in the families we connect with.

Couples or single moms deciding to use donor insemination and wondering about open or anonymous donors.

For donor-conceived people — how to cope when you have a burning desire to know your genetic/ancestral history.

Donors — how to move forward with connecting when your family members may not know of your donations or may not approve of your reaching out to your genetic offspring (and how to manage when there are many of them).

Parents/donors/offspring coming together from different socio-economic/political/sexual orientation/religious backgrounds who need assistance in moving forward in the most healthy way possible.

Over the years, we have heard some disturbing accounts of DSR parents, donors, and offspring being counseled by therapists who do not seem at all well-versed or experienced in the importance of early disclosure, the intricacies of donor families, or the potential complications (and joys) of connecting with donors or half-sibling families.

Wendy's Psychology Today Monthly Articles

Counseling Donor Family Members: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals

Donor families are unique, and the challenges of forming and redefining family as you make new biological connections can seem overwhelming. As you maneuver through this uncharted territory, it's important to understand the issues, take advantage of the available resources, and ask for help if you need it.

2022: We published our new counseling book for mental health and medical professionals: Counseling Donor Family Members: A Guide for Mental Health ProfessionalsOur Donor Sibling Registry community can get a 40% discount by entering DSR40 as the discount code while checking out! 
2023: you can now also purchase this book in paperback.


As the mother of a 3-time egg donor and a researcher in the field, I’ve had the opportunity to learn a great deal from Wendy Kramer. She is undoubtedly one of the most knowledgeable experts regarding all the emotional and practical issues that donor-conceived individuals, their families, and also the gamete donors and their families experience.   After some 22 years of running what has become the world’s biggest online resource for connecting donor-conceived offspring with their half-siblings and with their egg or sperm donors, as well as her extensive actual experience counseling and supporting donor-conceived offspring and family members, and also her participation in research, she is the ideal person to share her clinical and research experience with others who counsel any of the complex group of people affected by donor conception.  This practical, extensive, empathetic, and inclusive guide can be an essential resource for mental health professionals in counseling such individuals. I highly recommend it to all.—Jennifer P. Schneider, M.D., Ph.D 

The world of donor gamete conception is novel for many mental health professionals and becoming well-informed about the unique features of donor families can be challenging as practitioners begin working with this population. This guide provides a concise overview of the unique historical, social and emotional aspects of donor gamete conception for all parties involved and advises counselors about how to navigate exceptional psychosocial realities that each member will face.  This text utilizes a breadth of research, and professional and personal experiences to make a compelling argument for understanding what is currently known about the challenges donor families face as they attempt to foster and maintain distal yet uniquely intimate relationships among biological and non-biological members.

Wendy Kramer has been a trailblazer in the world of donor conception for over 20 years. As the co-founder of one of the largest donor family organizations, she passionately advocates for supporting and educating families to be well-informed as they navigate donor conception. She uses her unique positionality as a biological mother of a donor-conceived child and a pioneer in the field of connecting donor families to highlight the gravity of the psychological complexities for donor families.

A strength of the text is that it is well-organized and structurally appealing for any learner. The language used is easy to understand as the authors clearly define terms used and avoid medical jargon. The chapters are organized in such a way that scaffolds seminal topics such as disclosure, legal and medical concerns, problems perpetuated by gamete vendors, and the inevitable loss of anonymity with commercialized DNA technologies. Chapters 2 through 6 specifically describe the different perspectives of each member of the donor family, which makes it easy to reference a particular client type. Additionally, the bulleted format allows for information to be accessed with ease and quick reference. The inclusion of references at the end of each chapter, rather than at the end of the book, allows the reader to source relevant literature as needed.  Another strength is the author's inclusion of direct quotes from donor family members. These anecdotes are captivating and heart-wrenching, as they truly evoke empathy from the reader. The quotes also offer insights that can be used to validate and normalize clients’ experiences, especially those who may feel isolated, alone, and worried about the future of their well-being and familial relationships.

Overall, this book serves to fill the gaps of knowledge in working with donor families. This text centralizes years of research, advocacy, and interdisciplinary practice into one cohesive text that will be referenced for years to come.  Mental health professionals trained in any modality can learn from and apply the information offered in this guide.  Therapists who interface with donors, intended parents, donor-conceived people, and their extended families will find the information provided truly valuable, no matter their training or years of experience. — Breanna N. Beard, MA, Health Psychology Intern, Duke Fertility Center, Duke University Health System

Education and competency in the issues related to donor-assisted reproduction should be required of any professional working with parents, donors, or the donor-conceived.  And by this, I mean healthcare workers, legal professionals, teachers, spiritual care workers- people who interact with humans.  Especially now, as this medical technology advances its accessibility, and as more people find out later in life that they were donor-conceived.  This is another intersection of diversity, equity, and inclusion for which professionals and families alike need resources for education and understanding.  This handbook is just that source.  As a healthcare professional, beneficiary of an egg donor, and mother to a young donor-conceived person, I can say this book is a great start.  I extend gratitude to Kramer and Bertisch for their hard work in sharing this with us.
 Laurie N. Baker, PhD, ABPP, Director of Psychology, Shepherd Center

Finally! After years of working as a mental health professional specializing in the emotional aspects of infertility, I have struggled to convey to my colleagues the importance of truly understanding the experience of using a donor to create a family. With one out of every eight heterosexual couples experiencing infertility and many single women and LGBT couples using a donor to conceive, it is imperative that mental health providers understand all aspects of the decision. This guide will provide insight into the world of donor-conceived families: the parent(s), children, siblings, and the donor. Our culture has promoted secrecy behind this decision and after you read this guide, you will learn how important it is for ALL parties to not live under the shroud but rather to be fully informed on how to be open and honest with no guilt or shame about the decision to donate, or to have a child or to be a donor-conceived person. Truly a must-read!! — Harriette Rovner Ferguson, LCSW, Co-author Experiencing Infertility, member of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine's Mental Health Professional Group, mental health consultant to fertility clinics

Based on their extensive first-hand experience of donor conception, Wendy Kramer and Hilary Bertisch have produced a highly readable, timely, and comprehensive guide. It should be required reading for all mental health professionals working in donor conception.
— Eric Blyth, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Social Work, University of Huddersfield, England   

Kramer and Bertisch's groundbreaking handbook details the common, but often unspoken and profound impact of assisted reproductive technologies on the lived experiences of donor-conceived children, their parents, and other family members. By weaving quantitative and qualitative data, as well as clinical insights and personal narratives, the book provides a compelling and accessible framework to help families navigate the cognitive and psychological aspects of assisted reproductive technology. Their book fills a much-needed gap for recognizing and addressing these issues that are deeply rooted in the core of the families' evolution.  — Suzie Bertisch, MD, MPH 

This is a therapist handbook that should not be put on a high shelf; it needs to be readily available. While focusing on the needs of all members of donor families, the handbook is also an intelligent, accessible, and practical guide for offering high-quality therapy to all clients who want to address issues related to their families. —  Liz Margolies, LCSW and ​​Founder, National LGBT Cancer Network

Like the Donor Sibling Registry itself, this handbook is destined to be an invaluable resource. And like the DSR, it is replete with wisdom, empathy, and lived experience. — Misha Angrist, PhD, Duke University Initiative for Science & Society

This handbook relays the practical importance of this topic, particularly how mental health providers can help donor-conceived people navigate such complexities. Although discourse is shifting and stigma is decreasing, there needs to be greater awareness around assisted reproduction and its impact on individuals, couples, and families. — Dr. Elizabeth B. Lozano, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Sociology, California Northstate University

This is a tangible guidebook filled with a wealth of evidence-based information as well as useful and personal anecdotes to humanize the complexities that go into donor-assisted reproduction. Not only should this be readily available to all practitioners and patients but also to all learners studying the field of reproductive medicine. — Dr. Dana Siegel, Obstetrics and Gynecology Resident, University of Colorado

Given continued advances in assisted reproductive technologies, Counseling Donor Family Members: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals meets a critical need. Kramer and Bertisch provide a welcome and indispensable resource for practitioners, especially those working with people with infertility or seeking gamete donation, donor-conceived children, and their biological and non-biological parents. In this book, unique themes that can arise in donor family situations, such as disclosure and redefining family, are carefully and sensitively reviewed, as are the feelings and needs of all involved parties. Practical recommendations are also offered for intake assessment and talking points during therapy. This book is essential reading for therapists across a variety of settings who encounter donor family members. Students of ethics would also find this book informative and a useful reference. — Lynn A. Schaefer, Ph.D., ABPP, Fellow, American Psychological Association, Fellow, National Academy of Neuropsychology, Director of Neuropsychology, Nassau University Medical Center

I’m always struck by the parallels between the realities of donor and adoptive families, so Kramer’s excellent new handbook struck very close to home. More importantly, the information and insights within it are applicable to all sorts of families. And, of course, it’s necessary reading for everyone who works or might work with any member of a donor family. I think that means it’s a must-read-and-use for all health professionals. — Adam Pertman, President of the National Center on Adoption and Permanency and author of Adoption Nation 

Wendy Kramer writes from the wise and compassionate perspective of a parent who has navigated the complexities of assisted reproduction. Kramer and Bertisch plant their flag firmly in support of truth and transparency for the long-term benefit of children who become adults. This book is not only a useful guide for counselors, as those considering selling their gametes to a vendor, or creating a child through assisted reproduction would be well-served to read this practical guide before making their decision. — Rich Uhrlaub, President, Adoption Search Resource Connection, Coalition for Truth and Transparency in Adoption

Wendy is a true visionary and leader in this field and sheds light on subjects important for everyone involved in donor conception to understand. — Lisa Schuman, LCSW, Director, The Center for Family Building

This book is a must-read. As a mental health clinician, I find the book to be comprehensive and engaging. Each topic is well organized and coverage is in-depth. As a donor-conceived person with a rich family fabric of donor siblings, step-siblings, and adopted siblings, I found the book comforting and stabilizing. The authors share their passion and expertise in a style that is practical, accessible, and applicable.
 James Holmes, LCSW

Wendy Kramer has long fought for openness and disclosure in the donor conception world. Having spoken to many thousands of trailblazers — and having been one herself — she offers guidance to today's counsellors on how to help people navigate this challenging terrain. — Alison Motluk, Freelance journalist and publisher of HeyReprotech, a weekly newsletter about assisted reproduction

Omg, I would have begged for this in the 2000s. Thank god I had you! You were my lifeline once we found the connection, after lots of years of strife! — DSR Mom

My name is Kris A Probasco, LCSW and I have practiced in the state of Missouri and Kansas since 1972. I specialize in adoption, fertility, and reproductive issues. I have been following Wendy Kramer in the Donor Sibling Registry since their conception in 2000. As a social worker, I have felt like the lone wolf in the crowd of reproductive mental health professionals. I spoke often of the rights of the donor-conceived person to know of their genetic history and birth by donor conception. Only the adoption professionals understood the damage to families in maintaining family secrets. The Adoption Reform Movement started in the 1970s and the adoption professionals learned from the Adoption Triad of all the mental health factors connected to secrecy. We also acknowledged that families work best in being open and honest and having and giving the knowledge of one's genetics throughout life. Thank you, Wendy, for your dedication to keeping the needs of all of the donor population at the forefront. Education is mandated for all mental health professionals. This book is an easy read that is full of knowledge and experience. The Donor Sibling Registry has always been a guiding light. Thank you again, Wendy. — Kris A. Probasco, LCSW, Adoption & Fertility Resources

Expert Witness testimony is available.


2022: Argentina Counseling and Psychotherapy Association

2022: The Colorado Counseling Association

2022: You can take the half-day course that was presented to the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association

2022: A one-hour webinar was presented to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy at their "Systemic Family Therapy Conference".

2023: The British Fertility Society Annual Conference

2023: The European Fertility Society: Counseling Donor Families a 1-hour webinar

2023: RESOLVE Pursuing Egg Donation Support Group




Following are some frequently asked questions, with answers that may help guide you through what can be an exciting, but sometimes confusing, journey.

For donor-conceived persons, parents of the donor-conceived, and donors themselves, making these connections is uncharted territory. Please know that these questions have been asked by many members, and as we fine-tune the questions, hopefully we can all figure out some answers together here on the DSR. (We have partnered with Liz Margolies, a licensed psychotherapist, to answer some of these questions.)

(Note: For questions about how to use the DSR site, please consult the Site Help page.)

Why Should I Tell My Child They Are Donor-Conceived?

Some parents are reluctant to tell their children that they were conceived with the aid of donor gametes (eggs or sperm). They view this information as "private" or "confidential." According to the research, married couples are more likely to feel this way than either single women or lesbians who use donor sperm. In some cases, heterosexual couples have not shared the information with any close friends or family.

Parents who believe their children deserve to know their genetic origins tend to frame the issue in terms of "honesty" versus "secrecy." They value openness in the family and believe that secrets are dangerous and uncontrollable. For example, in cases where there are some other people who do know the circumstances of a child’s conception, there is always the risk of unplanned disclosure by someone besides the parent.

Children need to be told about the circumstances of their conception for two primary reasons: They have a right to know their genetic origins, and it is damaging to family relationships when important information is withheld or revealed too late. It can damage trust between family members.

Some children who had not yet been told that they were donor-conceived reported that they already felt different within their families, based on either physical characteristics or personality. They lacked facts to substantiate their strong feelings. Even without being told, children often pick up hidden clues from the family. In the studies that have been completed with donor-conceived children, many reported a powerful sense that some valuable information was being withheld from them.

The ability for parents to find half-siblings through the DSR raises new issues about disclosure. Parents who have always told their children that they were donor-conceived have to now decide when and how to tell their children about the new relatives that have been found.

"It is wise to disclose what cannot be concealed."
—Johann Friedrich Von Schiller

"Secrets are like landmines, you know. They can go off at any time, but until they go off you’re sort of treading around them."
—Barry Stevens, Donor-Conceived Person

When Is The Best Time To Tell My Child That They Are Donor-Conceived?

It is never too early to begin telling your child the circumstances of their conception and birth. Small children love to hear the story of their beginnings and often ask to have it repeated. Don’t worry about having the right language or perfect terminology. The way you tell this story should reflect the way you always speak in your house, with the same tone, length, and level of seriousness. When the story of the donor-conception is told from the beginning of your child’s life, the information becomes embedded in the relationship between your child and you. It is shared, and it is a non-event — compared to the experience of disclosing the information for the first time at a later date.

"One of the first things that a child learns in a healthy family is trust."
—Mr. Fred Rogers

It may at first seem odd to be talking about issues of fertility to a young child, but remember that children only absorb the parts of the story that are meaningful to them at their current age. They simply disregard the information that is too advanced for them. When told about their donors, young children tend to ask very practical questions and usually show little emotional response.

The story should grow with your child, increasing in detail as they are able to understand more. In response, the questions your child asks will also change as your child develops. Children vary greatly in how important this information feels to them. Some children show little interest for years and then have a period of time where they are thinking about the donor or possible half-siblings all the time. There is not one way that all children respond, and even the same child reacts differently over time. So, even if your child does not bring up the subject, you should do so from time to time, reminding them that this will always be an open topic for discussion between you.

Oftentimes, telling is not the end of the story. Many donor children are very interested in learning about the other "half of themselves" and may have a strong desire to connect with their genetic relatives. Please be careful not to minimize this desire for connection, as your child could end up feeling resentful or guilty if they have these curiosities that you ignore, minimize, or negate. To you, the donor might just be a "piece of genetic material," but to your child, it is one-half of their genetics and their ancestry.

Remember -  you’re setting the tone for all future conversations. Not only the conversations between you and your child, but you are also modeling the conversation that your child will have with others. Allow your child to see you speaking with doctors, teachers, family, and friends so that they can learn to feel confident when sharing the story of their origins when you are not around. Practice the conversation with your child giving both the "nutshell" short version and the more detailed version for closer friends.  A very positive tone is recommended when explaining the wonderful blend of both nature and nurture that resulted in your child being the very special kid that they are.

Advice from two DSR moms about telling:

"I am a Single Mother by Choice, and I started this conversation with my kids when they were in the crib, so I wouldn't get tongue tied when they asked. I would often tell them their story, something along the lines of, "You were born out of love. Some kids are born from the love of a man and a woman, but you were born directly from the love I felt for you. I always wanted to have you, but I wasn't married, so I went to the doctor and the doctor put mommy's cell with the cell of a man who is your genetic dad (term we use, since we are pretty medical/scientific in my family). So you were born just like every other kid in the world, from the cell of a man and the cell of a woman, and you have a genetic dad but he is not part of your family. You family is mommy, your brother, grandma and grandpa, and we all love you very much." My 6-year-old twins are very used to this story. I also have a picture of the donor in their room, with their pictures next to it. If I show it to one of my sons he will say that's his Daddy (I neither encourage nor discourage that word)." 

"I am a single mom by choice and my daughter is 8. She has always known she has a donor, not a dad. Don't worry about having a "good approach" ... just talk. Be real. Be honest. If the conversation starts to go in directions you think your child is too young for, simply let them know that they are too young to know some things right now, but they will know more as they grow older and you will be right there with them. Let your child know they are not the only child to come from a mom and a donor — there are lots of others. And make sure to emphasize that even though your family is different from most, it is the same "where it counts" — in love."

I Want To Tell My Child That They Are Donor-Conceived, But My Spouse Doesn't Want Me To. Or, My Spouse Doesn’t Want to Connect With Our Child’s Genetic Relatives. What Should I Do?

It is very difficult to feel torn between the needs of different members of your family. You love them both and want to do what is best for each of them, even when those needs seem to be at odds. Up until this point, your family has "protected the privacy" of the donor and "maintained the secret" from your child. The difference in opinion you and your spouse now have can be a source of conflict in your marriage.

In some families, spouses place a different importance on the facts of conception. However, most people who have not disclosed have done so in order to protect their spouses. Infertility brings with it a social stigma and, in many cases, shame. Non-bio parents often fear that their children will feel differently about them once they learn that there is no genetic connection between them. Speak with your spouse lovingly and respectfully about their feelings and concerns. We also recommend that your spouse take a good look at whether or not they have sufficiently dealt with the grief of their own infertility and not being able to give your child a genetic connection. Many people do not adequately process through this grief before their child is born, and then have difficulty not passing this along, in some way, to their children. When this grief is not verbalized, validated, and fully processed by both parents, every member of the family can suffer.

Some parents are also fearful that their kids might look at them differently and that their parenting might come under much more scrutiny. They worry that they may not be perfect parents and if their kids know that there isn't a genetic bond, that they will view them as less of a parent. It's important for these men to know that all of us worry about our parenting at some point! Until these issues are addressed sufficiently, your husband is less likely to change his mind about disclosure.

Parents will also need to put aside their own feelings of guilt. If parents are feeling guilty about holding "the secret," they may be incapable of dropping their defenses to be in an open emotional state to honor and acknowledge their child's pain.

The two of you have to weigh your spouse’s strong feelings against the potential problems you will encounter from withholding the information from your child. When your child finds out the truth, there is a great likelihood that they will be angry at having the information withheld until now. This feeling will be directed toward both parents. Your ongoing conversations with your spouse must focus on your child’s needs.

In same-sex parent families where donor gametes were was used to conceive, the non-biological parent may also feel insecure about their lack of genetic connection to their child. While the facts surrounding the child’s conception are more likely to be shared in that family arrangement, the non-biological parent may, like the heterosexual parent, be resistant to searching for a donor who might threaten their role in the two-parent structure. They may even feel threatened by their child’s half-siblings and not allow contact to be made with them. It’s important for this parent to know that their child’s genetic relatives are no threat to them and that it’s in the best interests of their child to acknowledge the importance of exploring these new family connections.

After telling, some parents may feel the need to minimize the genetic connection between their child and the donor. If a child grows up in a family where half of their genetic, ancestral, and medical background is minimized or negated, they can feel a lot of guilt if and when they do become curious. Parents need to be very careful not to put their own biases onto children and allow them to process and define these connections for themselves as they mature. We don’t want our children to feel like they are betraying their parents by having normal feelings of curiosity about their unknown genetic family and we don’t want our children to wonder why they were not allowed to know their close genetic relatives while growing up.

Is It Too Late To Tell Our Child? We Haven't Told Them Yet.

It is never too late to be honest with your child.

If you have waited this long, we recommend that you now allow yourself ample time to carefully consider what you will say. It is a good idea to get professional help in preparing for the disclosure and determining how best to phrase your ideas in language that is tailored to your child’s current age and developmental stage. We are always available to help you through this process.

The talk you have with your child should have several components. First, you need to convey the facts you want your child to know about the circumstance of their conception. This part may include some science about sperm and egg, and almost always stresses how much you wanted a child like them. Second, you may want to explain why you did not tell them previously. Did you believe it was best for the family? Were you protecting their father? Third, it is a good idea to let them know why you chose to tell them now. Do they now seem old enough to know? Did you change your mind about disclosure? Is there something about to happen in the near future that makes this telling essential now? Finally, allow room for your child to express their feelings about this news. They will probably have many contradictory feelings, and it can be extremely hard to hear them all.

Remember, disclosure is not a one-time act. The meaning of the news will change over time for your child. The first few weeks will bring many changes and then, as your child makes important transitional steps in their life, they will keep reassessing the meaning of being donor-conceived. The only thing you can count on remaining constant is your willingness to be there with them and listen to their feelings as they express them.

See this blog post by Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP: The Cost of Secrets: Understanding the Impact on Self and Others

Secrets are costly. Often motivated by fear, an illusion of protecting self or others, or a blatant attempt to hurt or manipulate another, they have been demonstrated to burden us and take their toll cognitively, physically, and emotionally. Essentially they preoccupy us, compromise our health, and jeopardize our relationships. Although we often keep secrets to prevent the loss of love, respect, and connection, too often that is just what they cost.

My Child Just Found Out They Are Donor-Conceived. How Can I Best Support Them?

The new disclosure has multi-layered meanings for your child. They will likely experience complicated and even contradictory feelings as they try to assimilate the new information. Give them plenty of time and a willingness to hear what they have to say. Expect confusing feelings at first, and don’t mistake today’s expression for the long-lasting impact of disclosure. Certainly, how you handle this next phase will have an enormous impact on the duration and outcome of the disclosure in your family.

First, your child needs to adjust to the fact that they were living under false assumptions about their biological origins. Everything they understood about their genetic continuity has to be rewritten. This is not easy work for your child. The best way you can help them through this is by allowing them to feel their entire range of feelings, including anger, confusion, liberation, and shock. Offering some information about how you came to choose donor insemination will help them as they struggle to rewrite their past.

Second, your child must make sense of the fact that this information was kept from them for so long. They are likely to focus their feelings about this onto you. They may feel deceived, mistrustful of you, extremely angry, and accusatory. In a family with a mother and a father, you can expect that a child will have altered feelings about BOTH parents. Again, you can best help them through this by a combination of explaining why you originally decided not to tell them about their genetic origins and, more importantly, allowing them to express these feelings without becoming defensive or distant.

This could undoubtedly be a hard storm, but the key to weathering it is to stay connected, remain open to what your child needs to say or ask, and, ultimately, show them through your consistent behavior that you are the same mother and father who have always loved them and always will. Many donor offspring back off from moving forward with the conversation because they fear it will hurt their non-biological parent too much. Make sure they know that this conversation is safe and that you are open to discussing these issues whenever and however your child wishes. Be aware that the pain they are feeling might be hard for them to articulate. Most importantly, your child needs the freedom to express all of their conflicting emotions without any fear of judgment. Staying connected is not limited to talking. If your child won’t speak about the subject, be open to alternative forms of contact that they may prefer, such as email.

Honor and support any desires they have to search out their biological family. Even though you may have a very close relationship with your child, they may wish to learn about and meet their unknown genetic relatives. This doesn't mean that you will be any less their parent, it only means that they desire to connect with others with whom they share genetic ties. There can be great satisfaction for them to see some of their physical characteristics, personality attributes, and academic and artistic interests reflected in others.

We Just Made A Match With A Half-Sibling/Donor. What Do We Do Now?

First, take a deep breath. This moment is likely to bring up feelings you had not anticipated when you first registered on the website, and, therefore, you may no longer be sure about what you want to do next. Try to have no expectations of yourself for action. Allow yourself or your child enough time to figure out what you are seeking at this point. Are you interested in a simple exchange of information? Are there questions you want to ask? Is your desire to be "known" to the donor or half-siblings? Do you hope to meet in person? My best advice is to follow the old carpenter’s adage: "Measure twice, cut once."

It is perfectly normal to feel ambivalent, meaning that you may experience two simultaneous and contradictory feelings. The strong desire to find a half-sibling or donor can exist alongside the equally intense fear of the unknown changes this experience can bring about in yourself, your child, or your family structure. After having hoped that a match would be found, you may now have a strong urge to back out. The same holds true for the donor or half-sibling who came forward.

If you decide to move ahead with contact, go slowly. Email is a good way to begin. You can offer some information about yourself and see what kind of response you receive. If you ask questions, frame them gently, allowing for the other person’s ambivalence about contact and exposure. Allow yourself time after each exchange to assess your comfort level and that of the half-sibling, parent, or donor. This is a process, and sometimes patience is needed. Donors are often especially cautious because of the possibility of multiple offspring. We recommend permitting donors to take the lead in determining the speed and depth of the communication.

NOTE: When you match with your donor on the DSR, we recommend asking a few pieces of information from the donor profile that have not been posted, that only they would know.

Here is some additional advice on contacting your donor:

All you can do is reach out to them, preferably in writing, so that you don't put them on the spot. Tell them that you would like to gradually initiate a relationship; you don't expect them to turn their life upside down, you simply want to ease into some communication, if they are amenable. Be thoughtful in your note: Let them know how you feel, what you need, and why this is so important to you. Make it very clear also about the things you are not looking for; i.e., money, great demands on their time, disruption of their family, etc.

Before you send the letter, it's critical that you adjust your expectations so that you aren't setting yourself up for failure. You are opening a door, but that doesn't mean your donor will come through it. As difficult as it may be, you have to remember that they may not be in a position to react in a way that may satisfy you. There could be any number of reasons that your donor is not prepared to connect at this point in time. At the very least, you will have opened up the possibility of communication, be it immediately or when the donor feels ready.  Here are our 10 Tips for Contacting a Donor for the First time.

What Can I Expect From My Contact With The Other Families I Meet?

You can count on finding another family who is also experiencing deep feelings, but just as the circumstances surrounding each child’s conception are unique, so are the variations in family structure and reactions to the match. Try to be open to who the new family is and what they are looking for now. If you can’t be, perhaps this is not the time to make contact.

Many donor-conceived children have gay or lesbian parents. While the actual numbers are not known, these families are more likely to share the facts of their conception with their children and are, therefore, well-represented among the members of the DSR. Similarly, many single mothers by choice are interested in expanding their families through the DSR. For some heterosexual families, this may be their first exposure to different kinds of families, adding an extra layer of stress to the anxiety and excitement of making a match. It is OK to be nervous or unsure about the terms or language that the other family uses. However, heterosexual families that are not open to contacting lesbian, gay, or single-parent families, due to religious or other values, may want to think about that before making a match.

In addition to family structure, there is a large range of expectations among DSR families. Some are interested solely in information sharing with the parents of their child’s half-siblings. Other families desire a limited exchange of photos and email, but not face-to-face contact. And some families are hoping to develop an ongoing relationship that will become a friendship or resemble extended family. It is best to be clear about the level of connection you are seeking when you make a match, and try to express that early on to the family of your match. Understand, too, that comfort and expectations often change over time.

My Child Is Planning On Contacting Their Donor/Biological Parent. How Can I Assist Them As They Prepare For This?

We need to be very careful when our children are curious and plan on reaching out to their biological parents/donors. Children have the tendency to idolize their donors and think of them as perfect people. If you make someone out to be perfect, you are guaranteed to be disappointed. People can get hurt when they have unrealistic expectations — our hopes must be realistic when connecting with donors.

When reaching out, you can tell the donor that your door is open and that you hope to get to know each other so that you can build a friendship/relationship. Be very sensitive to their needs and boundaries as they might be unsure about what you actually want from them. You will need to respect their privacy and their need to put up some boundaries, even if only initially.

Because they have not been adequately educated on the reasons that donor children wish to connect, some donors might be fearful. They may even turn away because they feel inadequate and think they won't be good enough for the kids. And there might be other reasons why donors might not be open to contact — they may not have told their families that they donated, and sperm donors might be embarrassed that they were donors. Some might not have the emotional bandwidth to connect with unknown offspring.

Remember that prior to contact, your donor might have had no idea that you existed and they may now be doing all that they can mentally and emotionally to adjust. For donors, it's not like there is the bond created when you hold an infant in your arms, and watch the first baby steps or have been through ups and downs together. There might not be an immediate social, psychological, emotional, or behavioral bond. You might have to build it and grow into it.

After meeting, there can be a "pain of adjustment" because everyone has different lives and different agendas. The challenge is to acknowledge where everyone is at emotionally and respect their limitations and boundaries. These connections work best when we come with few expectations and an open heart as to how the other person is supposed to behave. Meeting a donor (or a half-sibling) is a major event, but the relationship is a process that needs time and patience to unfold. It's good to start out at a place where everyone is comfortable and then build from there. Take it slow and expect bumps in the road. Be patient and let it unfold naturally. It's a marathon, not a sprint!

Sometimes people pull back after a connection. Communication is cut off, which leaves people wondering what they did wrong. Sometimes people pull back to re-group. And sometimes it's because they feel like they need more control in the situation. Again, patience is needed.

People who are best able to move forward in a connection are those who are able, to be honest with each other right from the start about their expectations, availability, fears, and hesitations, instead of pulling back without warning or explanation.

For older donor-conceived people, it's important to prepare yourself for any response and to not take it personally if a donor doesn't reply, or isn't willing to be in touch. A donor's "no" is no reflection on you, only on their personal perspective and current situation. You should be very clear in your initial contact letter/email that even if the donor isn't ready right now, that they can reach out to you at a later time. Feelings and circumstances can change over time.  Here are our 10 Tips for Contacting a Donor for the First time.

Tips for Parents of Donor-Conceived Adults

The following tips are for parents of donor-conceived adults — either parents who are about to tell their child the truth of their conception, or parents whose child recently found out on their own (typically through a DNA test). We also have tips for donor-conceived adults who just found out; see the "Tips for Donor-Conceived Adults" below.

Tips for Parents of Donor-Conceived Adults Who Are About to Tell or With Children Who have Just Found Out on Their Own

The following tips are for parents of donor-conceived adults who are about to tell or who have DCP who have found out on their own.  Also available as a downloadable PDF.

When is the best time to tell? Now. This is not a parent’s secret to carry. There will never be a “perfect” time, so the sooner, the better. It’s important that parents do the psychological work necessary to be emotionally capable to have the conversation and adequately support their children, including talking about and understanding the reasons why they haven’t told before now.

Remind them that this process can be very positive, affirming, and lead to a more honest and open family system with relationships now based in truth.

Parents can tell their stories and how they decided to use donor conception. Remind these parents that they are setting the tone for all future conversations about their children’s conception, and should try to keep the conversation light, using some humor if possible. They need to be as grounded, calm, and as level-headed as possible because their donor-conceived children will look to them for answers about why their conceptions stories were kept from them. Openness and honesty are crucial.

Explain very honestly why they haven’t told before now. Parents shouldn’t be defensive or use their personal stories as an excuse. Donor-conceived people want and deserve to hear the truth and the emotion behind why they were not told earlier. What were they or their spouse afraid of? Knowing all of this can help their children adequately process through their own emotions, which might include anger, sadness, confusion, or even relief, while also feeling empathy towards their parents.

Parents can let their children know that they made the best decisions they could with the information they had at the time. Many parents were advised by their gamete vendor or doctor to keep the secret. They can tell their children how it has felt to carry this information as a secret and how they’ve recently come to learn about the importance of honesty. Parents should also tell their children who else knows.

Share any and all information. For parents with children born before the 1980s (fresh sperm), they may have little, if any, information about the donor, while most parents with children born from the 1980s through present time (frozen sperm) usually do have a donor profile or some other non-identifying information about the donor that can be shared.

Most important: Apologize. Own it. In both scenarios where DCP learned the truth on their own, or when parents disclose it to them as adults, it’s important for parents to apologize. This was their children’s information to know, and the parents kept it from them for too long. Parents can keep apologizing to allow their children to move freely through their emotions without getting stuck in anger.

Recognize the negative implications of asking children to keep the “secret”. Secrecy can imply shame and/or guilt.  DCP can respond negatively when asked to carry on the shame of infertility in the form of secrecy. This is a burden that should not be not passed along from parent to child.

Parents should be ready to continue the conversation. This is not a one-time conversation between parents and their donor-conceived children. Some parents make the mistake of telling, but then never talking about it again. This gives their children the idea that the topic of their conception story is unwelcomed or too shameful to discuss. It’s very important that DCP know that their origin stories are a welcomed, ongoing conversation and that they will be there for them as they process this new information, tell family and friends, and incorporate it into their identity. It’s ok for parents to disclose their own discomfort while admitting that they too are on a healing journey. Parents can gently broach the topic regularly if their children don’t, so they know they’re there to help them understand what this new information means to them and their life.

Telling is just the first step. Parents must make sure their adult children know that any curiosities they have about their half-siblings and/or their unknown biological parents, their ancestries, and their medical histories are normal and to be expected. If a parent is not fully comfortable with this, it’s important they understand why, so they can continue to grow and heal in this area.

If their children are curious… If their children desire to know more about their origins, parents can offer to walk side-by-side with them to find the information and genetic relatives they want to know about. Parents should understand that their children’s curiosity is not a betrayal in any way. If they are uncomfortable helping their children learn more, they can honestly express that in a way that lets their children know their discomfort is not their fault, and that they’re working on it. This is especially important for the non-biological parent.

It’s important for DCP to know that many other DCP have also walked this path before them. Parents should share that although their children’s conception stories may be different than most, their stories are not rare and there are opportunities to connect with other DCP via the Donor Sibling Registry and on various other social media groups.

Tips for Donor-Conceived Adults

The following tips are for donor-conceived adults who just learned the truth of their conception. We also have tips for parents of donor-conceived adults; see the "Tips for Parents of Donor-Conceived Adults" above.

8 Tips for Donor-Conceived Adults Who Just Found Out

1. Talk to your parents.

Take some deep breaths, and try to relax. Many people have walked this path before you, and although the road can get a bit bumpy for a little while, they have all survived. Secrecy implies shame, and you have nothing to be ashamed of, so do not let the “secret” persist. Set aside time as soon as possible to discuss the situation with your parents. Talk with other close family members and friends who can provide good support.

2. Ask questions.

Ask your parents why they used a donor and what the experience was like for them. Ask them why they kept the secret. Most parents don’t tell because they’re afraid of how the truth will affect the family. Often, the non-biological parent is afraid of being looked at as not the “real” parent. You can assure your non-bio mom or dad that this news changes nothing in your relationship. Your parents will always be your parents. This knowledge doesn’t change that fact or diminish your love for the parents who loved and raised you.

3. Explain very honestly how this news has affected you.

Tell your parents what you are feeling. You might be experiencing a wide variety of emotions, including anger, sadness, confusion, or even relief. Understand and explain that your feelings are valid and to be expected — and that working through these emotions might take some time. Have patience with yourself. If you’re upset, don’t feel guilty. This was your information to have, and it was kept from you.

4. Listen.

Your parents may have made the best decisions they could with the information they had at the time. Many parents were advised to lie to everyone, including their children. Find out what they know about the donor or any half-siblings. Gathering information about the other half of your genetic identity and relatives may help you better understand yourself. Many offspring report feeling a sense of relief as they reassemble the puzzle of their physical, emotional, & intellectual selves.

5. Be willing to forgive.

You may never fully understand or agree with your parents’ reasons for keeping this information from you. However, staying angry doesn’t help you move forward. Empathy and compassion will be extremely helpful in repairing any damaged relationships. Work through your emotions, with the help of a therapist if necessary. Understand that forgiveness is the only path to true healing. It’s important for your parents to know that you can forgive them for not telling you the truth, even if this might take some time.

6. Continue the conversation.

This is not a one-time conversation. Let your parents know that you will ask them to continue the conversation as you process this new information, tell family and friends, and incorporate it into your identity. Invite your parents to walk beside you as you explore your genetic roots and figure out what it means to you and your life to be donor-conceived. There is great opportunity for a stronger family bond if you can keep the lines of communication open. Let your parents love and support you.

7. Accept your new reality.

Feel good about the fact that your family will now have a basis in truth. Understand that any curiosities you have about your half-siblings and/or your unknown biological parent, your ancestry, and your medical history are normal and to be expected. It’s an innate human desire to want to know where we come from. You can’t change the past, but you can control how you move forward. This is your story to own and share as you see fit.

8. If you are curious...

If you do desire to know more about your donor family, give yourself permission to search for the information and the genetic relatives you’re curious about. Your curiosity is not a betrayal to your parents, particularly your non-biological parent, in any way. Adding new family members or ancestral information doesn’t take away from or diminish the importance of your family of origin. Let your parents know how important it is for you to have their support as you look to discover more about your ancestry, your medical background, and your genetic relatives. Join the Donor Sibling Registry for connection and support.

10 Tips for Contacting a Donor for the First Time

Contacting your donor for the first time can be an exciting yet scary experience. You might be nervous about making a good first impression, or you might be worried about scaring them away.

Here’s some advice for contacting your donor for the first time:

1. Be gentle and respectful.

This can be a scary situation for donors who haven’t yet been contacted, or who haven’t told their families they donated, or who have family members who are against contact. You want to get your foot in the door as gently as possible.

2. Reassure them so they know you will allow them to set the boundaries.

It can be very important for the donor to know they’re in control of the situation.

3. Let them know that you don’t want to disrupt their family in any way.

You just want to give them the opportunity to know you. This should be an invitation, not a demand.

4. Let them know that you don’t want anything from them — not time or money or another parent, just the chance to know more about where you come from.

For starters, explain the importance of knowing about your ancestry and medical background.

5. You can also let them know what type of relationship you’d be open to.

A friendship? A more familial relationship? Tell them why you think this connection could be fulfilling for both of you.

6. Appeal to the donor’s heartstrings.

Tell them about you (or your kids); it’s helpful to make yourself more than just an idea — an actual human being, and one to be proud of.

7. Send photos.

Again, this appeals to the donor’s emotions. Seeing similarities with the children they helped to create can be profound for a donor who wasn’t sure about contact.

8. Know that if a donor doesn’t reply or says “no,” it isn’t because of who you are.

It’s likely because of their family situation, their lack of emotional bandwidth, or a lack of understanding about what connecting might mean for them and their family. Their hesitation might also be about their own health issues, fear of not being “good enough,” etc.

9. Have patience.

Sometimes a donor needs some time to work things out with their family members. If you get no reply, try again in a few weeks/months. If they say no, let them know you’re always available if they change their mind. Give them space to hopefully work it out and come around.

10. Keep the focus on yourself (or your kids), even if you know about other half-siblings.

Consider sharing that news in upcoming correspondence.

Getting to Know Your New Family Member(s)

Here are some questions that can help you get to know a new biological family member:

Given the choice of anyone (living or dead), whom would you want as a dinner guest?

Would you like to be famous? In what way?

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?

When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future, or anything else, what would you want to know?

Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?

What do you value most in a friendship?

What is your most treasured memory?

Share an embarrassing moment in your life.

When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?

Other Resources

Sample Letters

Here are some sample letters to guide you through acquiring your donor information from a sperm bank or clinic, as well as a sample letter to your donor to request medical updates.

Video Webinar

Watch the 2014 video webinar we did for the Family Equality Council! Wendy talks about the DSR, who we are and why we do what we do, what we have learned over the years, moving the industry forward in a more ethical and responsible manner, and how to create healthy and happy families.


WENDY KRAMER'S MEMOIR.  Donor Family Matters: My Story of Raising a Profoundly Gifted Donor-Conceived Child, Redefining Family, and Building the Donor Sibling Registry. This is the story of Wendy Kramer and her donor-conceived child, Ryan, who eventually found his biological father and 28 half-siblings. Wendy and Ryan created the Donor Sibling Registry, the world’s largest platform for mutual-consent contact of sperm, egg, and embryo donors, donor-conceived children and adults, and their parents. Order on BookshopBarnes & Noble, or Amazon!

BOOK FOR DONOR KIDS! Your Family: A Donor Kid's Story. This book goes beyond the simple question of "Where did I come from?" to address donors and half-siblings. Order on Bookshop, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon, or mail a check for $17 (which includes shipping) to PO Box 1571, Nederland CO, 80466.

BOOK FOR DONOR FAMILIES: Finding Our Families: A First-of-Its-Kind Book for Donor-Conceived People and Their Families. It covers everything from disclosure to donor offspring's curiosities, to connecting with donors and half-siblings, to redefining these new relationships. Order on Bookshop, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon!