What it’s like to be a child of donor conception

What It’s Like To Be A Child Of Donor Conception

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Donor conception has been helping people become parents for decades – giving hope to couples facing infertility, same-sex couples and single women who choose to embark on their parenthood journey without a partner. 

Whilst this incredible form of assisted fertility is definitely something to be celebrated, going down the route of donor conception can initially be intimidating and overwhelming. A growing community of parents with experience of donor conception are sharing their stories on social media, on a mission to show people that this route to parenthood is just as wonderful as any other – and offer encouragement and support to people on the same journey. 

But the one thing that this community can’t quite do, is articulate what it’s like to be conceived using donor sperm or eggs. Enter Emma Grønbæk aka Donor Child – the young Danish woman sharing her story of being donor-conceived and becoming an author, public speaker and total inspiration in the process! 

Emma’s Donor Conception Story 

Emma’s story begins with her parents’ story, really. They were trying for their first baby for around 6 months when they realised that there may be an issue conceiving. Both working as doctors, they understood the potential for fertility challenges and took a proactive approach to identifying the problem. “I think my Dad got his sperm tested, as they had a feeling quite early on that his fertility was the main reason they didn’t become pregnant straight away.” Emma explains. 

Back in the 90s, assisted fertility treatments weren’t what they are today and Emma’s parents acknowledge fairly quickly that using donor sperm may be the best chance of them having a child. They went to many fertility clinics over the years and after 6 years of trying they successfully conceived Emma through IVF. 25 years later, Emma is sharing her experience of being a donor conceived child and the approach her family took to talking about that with her as she grew up. 

Transparency and communication 

Many parents going down the route of donor conception, worry about how they will explain the process to their child – when is the right time to tell them? And how do you explain such a complex concept? For Emma and her family, transparency was key and her parents were always open and honest about how she was conceived. Emma doesn’t really remember a time she didn’t know she was donor conceived and her parents were always willing to have age appropriate conversations with her to explain. “They would tell me a story about how they wanted a baby but it wasn’t easy for them, and when they had almost given up hope, a nice man helped us become a family. He didn’t play a role in my life but he has always been mentioned” Emma recalls. 

As Emma got older, her questions got deeper and less frequent – but her parents were always willing to tell her the truth and help her understand where she came from. “If anything popped up we would always talk about it openly as a family – I think honesty is key to a happy child and a happy family dynamic – and that’s definitely what I experienced.”

Love over genetics    

Emma’s family proves what so many donor parents hope for – that a family can be just as close, even if they’re not all genetically linked. For Emma, the fact her parents fought so hard to have her only makes her feel more valued and adored by them. “You feel so loved. That’s what I always try to communicate – on my platform and in my book –  that the most important thing, when creating a family, is love” 

When assisted fertility treatments became more advanced, Emma’s parents went on to have twin girls through ICSI.The three sisters are just like any other siblings and the bond Emma feels with them is no different, despite the different ways they were conceived. “The fact that my sisters are my Dad’s biological children and I’m not doesn’t impact our relationship – and actually, we were quite old when we sat down and realised we were technically half-siblings!”

Sometimes Emma does notice the genetic differences between her and other members of her family – “I’m lactose intolerant, which I definitely get from the donor and my Mum often comments that my mouth is a little different!” – but for her, it’s love over genetics every time. 

As Emma’s donor was anonymous she has never had any contact with him – and that’s not something that worries her. “I have never wanted to have contact or to know any more about him. I’m grateful towards him but I do not need him to be a part of my life. I If I ever want to try to get more information about him, I know I have my family’s support to go for it .” 

Writing the Book 

Being donor conceived had never formed a huge part of Emma’s identity – but that all changed a couple of years ago when she decided to start a blog and share her story. “I realised there 

wasn’t a voice like mine out there.” she explains “There were plenty of stories about donor conceived children who had had a bad experience, so I thought that it was important for people to know that that’s not always the case”. Through her blog, Emma wanted to give hope to couples going down the road of donor conception, be a positive advocate for the process and show how happy donor conceived children and their families can be – but she never imagined the impact it would have.

After the blog came the book – Donor Child: a child of love –  which has been translated from Danish to English – so Emma’s story can reach and help even more people. Her recent Instagram @donorchild was a result of wanting to interact more with people. Just as Emma’s family have been supportive of her opening up publicly about her experience, they played a key role in the creation of the book and Emma’s growing platform. “In writing the book I had to go a lot deeper with my questions and my understanding, but my family were there every step of the way” says Emma “My sisters even drew all the illustrations that are in the book and my parents helped me proofread the whole thing and also have joined me on my Instagram Lives, so parents can hear from their side of the experience too!”

Emma’s Fertility 

Emma is now a huge public advocate for – not only donor conception – but fertility awareness in general. She uses her platform to have important conversations around different routes to parenthood and to educate people on the realities of a fertility journey. “I’ve grown up knowing how big of a struggle fertility can be and the huge loss people can feel when they are trying for years,” she says. “It’s really important that your people get educated on this sort of stuff and realise fertility is not something to be taken for granted.” 

In terms of her own plans to start a family, Emma’s not quite there yet! But she is taking a proactive approach to understanding her fertility. “I’ve seen how hard it can be to conceive, and it has made me more aware of my on fertility – if I wasn’t in this space, I would probably not think much about it, but it is something I have in mind when I’m planning my life – I would love to have a family as happy as mine one day!” 

Emma’s book is available to buy here and you can follow the rest of her work on her blog and her Instagram

Considering using donor conception but don’t know where to start? Check out our handy guide to finding a sperm donor!




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Wearing tight pants and underwear

Studies show that men who wear looser underwear have higher sperm concentration and total sperm count compared to men who wear tighter underwear. So, lose the tight clothes and wear something loose to give your testicles some air.

CONCLUSION: learn more about how heat can affect sperm quality here.


Besides higher mortality rate and various diseases, stress is associated with low sperm quality. Stress is known to be associated with lower testosterone levels and oxidative stress with both playing an essential role in producing and maintaining healthy sperm cells.

CONCLUSION: If you feel stressed, we recommend you get some help so you can have a balanced mental health. For a stress management guide, download the ExSeed app for free and start your personalized action plan today.

Physical activity

Scientific studies show that men who are physically active have better semen parameters than men who are inactive. Fertility specialists also state that regular physical activity has beneficial impact on sperm fertility parameters and such a lifestyle can enhance the fertility status of men.

Prioritizing exercise can help improve your overall health and result in healthy, fast swimming sperm cells that have good chances of fertilizing an egg.

CONCLUSION: Try incorporating exercise in your weekly schedule to you ensure exercising at least twice weekly. We recommend a combination of cardio training and strength exercise. Read more about exercise and male fertility on our blog.


Fast Food
Processed foods damage the health of sperm-producing cells and cause oxidative stress, which lead to poorer sperm quality. Heavy consumption of junk food (every week) can increase the likelihood of infertility since men who consume vast amounts of unhealthy food are at risk of having poor sperm quality. Besides harming your fertility, junk food enlarges your waistline, harms your cardiovascular system, kidneys, and more.

Eating more fruit and vegetables can increase your sperm concentration and motility. It’s important that you consume a healthy diet filled with antioxidants and that you eat vegetables every day. Foods such as apricots and red bell peppers are high in vitamin A, which improves male fertility by nurturing healthier sperm. Men who are deficient in this vitamin tend to have slow and sluggish sperm.

Sugary snacks/beverages: several times a week Excessive consumption of high sugar items can lead to oxidative stress, which negatively impacts testosterone levels and sperm motility. Sugary snacks and beverages are also highly associated with obesity and low fertility.
CONCLUSION: To boost sperm quality, stay away from fast food, processed food, and sugary snacks or beverages. You need to implement a healthy prudent diet filled with necessary superfoods needed for good sperm production. Check out our guide to Male Fertility Superfoods. For personalized guidance and support on how you can start improving your sperm health, check out the Bootcamp.


Direct heat can inhibit optimal sperm production and cause Sperm DNA damage. Sperm cells like environments that are a couple of degrees lower than body temperature. Avoid overheating from warm blankets, seat warmers, heat from your laptop, hot showers, and saunas.

Cigarette smoking

The exposure to tobacco smoke has significant negative effects on semen quality. The damage of cigarettes and nicotine of course depends on how many cigarettes you smoke per day and for how long, but even low usage (up to 10 cigarettes / day) can inhibit healthy sperm production.  

CONCLUSION: Stay as far away from cigarette smoking as possible if you care about your general health and your fertility. Read more here.

Cell phone

When you have your cell phone in your front pocket, your testicles are exposed to electromagnetic radiation, which studies have shown to damage the sperm cells. Put your phone in the back pocket of your pants or in your jacket pocket.


There is a clear association between obesity and reduced sperm quality. At least part of the reason for this is that obese men may have abnormal reproductive hormonal profiles, which can impair sperm production and lead to infertility. 

A BMI higher than 30 can lead to several processes in the body (overheating, increase in oxidative stress in the testes, sperm DNA damage, erectile dysfunction) that can have a negative impact on male fertility. This can result in problems when trying to conceive.  

CONCLUSION: BMI is one of the risk factors that influence semen quality and, for example, sperm motility.  


A beer or glass of wine now and then do not really harm sperm quality. But excess alcohol drinking (more than 20 units per week) can reduce the production of normally formed sperm needed for a successful pregnancy.

CONCLUSION: If you want to stay safe, stay under 14 units of alcohol per week. For more information on how alcohol can affect male fertility, take a look at our blog: “Alcohol and Sperm Quality”.


Studies show that women younger than 35 and men younger than 40 have a better chance of getting pregnant. Men can produce sperm cells almost through their entire life, but the sperm cell DNA is more fragile and prone to damage after the age of 40.

As men age, their testes tend to get smaller and softer resulting in a decline in sperm quality and production. These changes are partly because of an age-related decrease in testosterone level, which plays a very important role in sperm

production. Higher male age (>40 years) is not only associated with a decline in sperm production but also with increased sperm DNA fragmentation and worsened morphology (shape) and motility (movement). These negative effects make the sperm cells less qualified for egg fertilization.

CONCLUSION: with an age under 40, you shouldn’t have to worry much about age as a factor in itself. However, studies have shown a slow decline after the age of 30-35 years

and if you are above 40 years of age, your sperm quality can be affected due to increased sperm DNA damage resulting in a decrease of sperm motility and concentration. Remember that you cannot evaluate the quality of a sperm sample by just looking at it – this requires a sperm analysis.