Taryn Cumming and her fiancé gave birth to Piper and Ryan (pictured) four days apart using donor sperm found on Facebook Photo / Dean Purcell.
A woman who used a sperm donor she found on Facebook to get pregnant is about to launch a matching website for others looking for a donor.
Auckland couple Taryn Cumming and her partner made headlines in 2020 when they both got pregnant within weeks of each other using the same sperm donor they found online.
The couple gave birth within days of each other, with son Ryan and daughter Piper fulfilling their dream of being a family.
Now, with two toddlers at home, Cumming wants to help others unable to get pregnant the traditional way find the perfect sperm donor.
Spurred on by a three-year waiting list for a donor and high prices at fertility specialists, Cumming launched The Gift of Family website last night.
“It’s been a long process getting him ready. I think it’s going to be a bit of a game-changer,” Cumming said.
“After our experience, I wanted to create a safe platform where people can get information, find a donor and connect with others who are going through the same process.”
Instead of navigating the minefield of social media groups, donors can create a profile and include their family background, ethnicity, height, eye and hair color.
“They can fully customize it so they don’t have to repeat themselves over and over again,” Cumming said.
Despite profiles that include physical attributes, Cumming said most couples are more looking for a personal connection.
“Some want a donor to match their ethnicity but are open to all other attributes.”
Once an initial match was established, the donor and recipient would meet in person or via video call to determine if they were a good fit and to work out a contract.
Most contracts contain details about finances, what will appear on the birth certificate, and when and how many donor details will be passed on to the child.
The site will also connect surrogate mothers and egg donors who will then be referred to a clinic.
The website will contain information on the legal process and model contracts between donor and recipient drawn up by a lawyer.
Cumming said there would be strict community standards on the site to keep recipients safe.
There were already donor groups on social media, but Cumming said the site would be safer, with strict monitoring and more scrutiny.
“We heard men in other groups pressuring women to come together and naturally inseminate while the woman said she would only consider AI, which is artificial insemination.
“If men do this on this site, they will be blocked from the site.”
She had also thought of safeguards to prevent serial donors and inauthentic people
abuse the site.
“Hopefully with this, we can eliminate this with the site and look at who made a successful donation.
“I would eventually like to propose laws so that private donors can only help five or seven families.”
Cumming said it was to stop serial donors such as American Kyle Gordy who was refused entry to New Zealand this year after planning a “donation tour” to create Kiwi babies. Gordy is considered the biological father of dozens of children around the world.
Cumming said serial donors were only “worrying about themselves” and using them risked forming donor-conceived children unknowingly into a sexual relationship with a sibling.
“We will remove as much risk as possible from the site with the aim that only genuine people register and use it.
“I will do everything I can to make sure this process is safe for everyone involved.”
Cumming said her site was a happy medium between using a donor from a fertility clinic and looking for a donor on social media like she and her fiancé had done.
“We want to help people who can’t afford clinic prices but want to avoid social media where there are fake profiles and misinformation.”
She also runs the Hapu Helpers site which provides advice and support for people trying to get pregnant.
At New Zealand’s largest clinic, Fertility Associates, intrauterine insemination costs around $3,500 per attempt or between $13,000 and $15,000 for in vitro fertilization.
In New Zealand, same-sex female couples can access IUI or IVF but must pay for it themselves.
Cumming met with Fertility Associates this week to discuss his concerns.
She said it was a positive meeting and although the organization would always be against private donations, there was great discussion.
Dr. Andrew Murray, medical director of Fertility Associates, said that despite the best of intentions, other donor platforms don’t have as many safeguards as regulated clinics.
He understood that women might look elsewhere because of wait times, but he “would strongly advise against this.
“For their own health, there is a risk of infection if donors have not been properly screened for things like STIs, hepatitis and HIV.
“To protect women from these things, donor sperm at clinics are quarantined until infections have been ruled out.”
He said Fertility Associates donors were screened for 289 genetic conditions.
They are also financially protected.
“By going through a clinic, women and donors are protected by HART (Human Assisted Reproductive Technology) law, which means that donors are not financially obligated to raise the future child and, importantly, they do not have no custody rights.
“We know that donor-conceived children generally want to know their biological origins.”
Murray asked if donors found through a website or online service would be willing to be identified in the future.
“Thanks to the clinics, they are.”
He also warned of problems with serial donors such as Gordy and Australian Adam Hooper, who is currently in New Zealand and has donated sperm to Kiwi women.
“My experience is that most donors are amazing guys driven by selflessness to help others,” Murray said.
He said serial donors donate for the wrong reasons.
“Skiing that they’ve fathered over 40 kids like this is kind of a badge of honor, or using desperate women to fund their trips under the guise of helping them.”
Murray said there have been examples of non-clinical donors trying to get involved in recipient families’ lives later when that attention is not wanted.
“Through clinics, future relationships are carefully crafted with pre-treatment counseling for all parties involved.”
He acknowledged the long wait times, citing a shortage of sperm and sperm donors.
“I encourage any man who would like to be a donor to give us a call. We want to hear from you.
“We need more donors to help reduce wait times, but don’t short-circuit the protections that are there for everyone involved – the donor, the recipients and especially the children who might be conceived.”
To register on the site click here.