Terminology relating to donor conception


Artificial Insemination by Donor. This was the term used to describe sperm donation before the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act of 1990.

Biological parent

This is not strictly a scientific term. ‘Biologically related’ would be more accurate but it could be used to refer to any adult who has provided eggs or sperm to create a child. Where donor eggs are used, the woman who has carried and given birth to a child is sometimes referred to in this way. ‘Biological parent’ is often used by donor conceived people to refer to ‘my biological mum or dad’, ie. the donor. In the latter case it tends to be shortened to ‘bio mum or dad’. It is also sometimes used to refer to a host surrogate mother whose eggs have not been used to conceive the child.

Co-parent or Co-parenting

A parenting arrangement where two or more people who are not in a formal relationship and may or may not share a sexuality, commit to parent a child conceived via donation.

DI (Donor Insemination)

A term commonly used for sperm donation following the HFE Act 1990. It is used less often these days.


Donor conceived adult / person


Someone who voluntarily gives a part of themselves (such as sperm, eggs, an embryo, blood, an organ) for use by another person

Different types of Donor

Altruistic donor

Those men and women who give their sperm or eggs without needing treatment themselves. In the UK they may receive expenses but not payment for their gametes.

Anonymous donor

Donor to whom a donor conceived child or their parents has no right to identifying information. Some non-identifying information may be available. Since April 2005 UK donors cannot be anonymous. Most donors abroad are anonymous.

Egg share donor

Egg share donors are women under 35 who are having IVF treatment themselves, often for male fertility issues, and who agree to share their eggs with one or two women who are in need of donated eggs. This is usually in return for a reduced fee on their own cycle of treatment but many women are also happy to help other women going through similar difficulties.

Identifiable (at 18) donor

Donor who is anonymous to the recipient at the time of donation but is willing to be known to the child from age 18. All donors at UK licensed clinics have had to be identifiable since 2005.

ID release donor

Donor whose identity will be made available at a specified time to the recipient and/or offspring. See above for UK rules on when the identity of the donor may be made available. These rules may differ in other countries

Known donor

Donor whose identity is known at the time of donation. They can be a friend or family member and may donate at a licensed clinic or, if a sperm donor, privately outside the licensed clinic system.

Private donor

These are sperm donors who donate outside of the regulated system (either anonymously or identifiably). They may be recruited via introduction web sites or through friendship networks.


Term developed in the States to refer to half-siblings by donor conception being raised in other families or half-sibs in the family of the donor. Many donor conceived people are uncomfortable with this term.

Donor conceived

Created via the donation of sperm, egg or embryo.  

Donor conception

The act of creating a baby using donated sperm, eggs or embryos.

Donor offspring

Babies, children and adults who have been conceived with the help of donated eggs, sperm or embryos.

Double donation

Where eggs and sperm from donors chosen by the recipient are used to create an embryo and used in IVF.


Material that carries all the information about how a living thing will look and function. It is found in every cell of the human body. DNA is short for deoxyribonucleic acid.

DNA testing

Increasingly available via kits sent to your home, these tests can help with a search for genetic relatives and/or be used for health information or genetic background.

Egg donor

A woman who donates eggs in order to help another woman conceive a child.


A collection of cells developed from a fertilised egg, in the early phase of development towards becoming a foetus.

Embryo donation

There are two types of embryo donation. The first, sometimes available in the UK, is where embryos that are not going to be used by the couple or individual who created them are frozen and then donated to another person or couple. Donated eggs or sperm may or may not have been used in the creation of the embryos. The second, common in clinics abroad, is where an embryo or embryos are created by a clinic with eggs and sperm from separate donors and then used in an IVF cycle.


The union (coming together) of a human egg and sperm to produce a zygote – a fertilised egg.


The unborn young of a human from the end of the eighth week after fertilisation to the moment of birth.


Term used to refer to both eggs and sperm. Although embryos are not strictly gametes they are often included.


A particular section or portion of a cell’s DNA. Genes are coded instructions for making everything the body needs, especially proteins.

Genetic connection

Term used to refer to people who share some DNA, often, though not inevitably, through using the same donor or having a ‘blood’ relative in common.

Genetic parent

Scientifically accurate term used to refer to a person whose eggs or sperm are used to create a child. It is often used in relation to one of the partners in a parenting couple, a solo mother who has used sperm donation or by a donor conceived person in relation to their donor. It could also refer to a surrogate mother in a ‘traditional’ surrogacy where the surrogate's eggs have been used for conception


People that have been conceived with the help of the same donor but raised in different families or children in the family of the donor.


IVF stands for In vitro fertilisation. It is the process used to create an embryo (potential foetus) outside the body. A woman’s eggs and man’s sperm are placed together for fertilisation. The fertilised egg or eggs (now embryos) are then used in an IVF cycle.


Intra-cytoplasmic Sperm Injection: A procedure used to extract a single sperm from the ejaculate or testes of a man in order to inject it into a woman’s egg with the intent to create an embryo. It is largely used in cases of severe male fertility problems and requires the IVF process as well.

Selective reduction

A procedure to reduce the number of foetuses being carried by a woman in order to give the remaining ones the best chance of survival. It happens most often following the replacement of more than two embryos in IVF treatment. Clinics in the UK and the EU rarely transfer more than two embryos. See One at a Time


A solo mother by choice. A single woman who chooses to become a mother without a partner via donor conception.

Sperm donor

A man who donates his sperm in order to help a person or couple conceive a baby.


When a woman carries and gives birth to a baby for a couple or individual (referred to as intending parents) who are for a range of reasons, unable to carry a child themselves.

Surrogacy – different types

Host or gestational surrogacy

This is when IVF is used, either with the eggs of the intended mother or with donor eggs. The surrogate mother therefore does not use her own eggs and is genetically unrelated to the baby. Sperm is provided by the intending father.

Straight or traditional surrogacy

This is the simplest and least expensive form of surrogacy. The surrogate mother uses an insemination kit to become pregnant using the intended father’s sperm. The baby will be conceived using the surrogate mother’s egg and she will, therefore, be genetically related to the baby.

Tandem cycle

A fertility procedure involving embryos being created using a woman’s own eggs and eggs from a donor at the same time. If there are viable embryos from both sources then a mixture may be transferred to a woman’s uterus. This can result in the recipient not being sure if any resulting pregnancy and child has been created with her own eggs or those from a donor. This treatment is banned in the UK and Europe for ethical reasons.

Twins – fraternal

Two babies born from the same pregnancy who developed from two separate eggs fertilised by two separate sperm cells. They will have nonidentical genetic codes.

Twins – identical

Two babies born from the same pregnancy who developed from a single fertilised egg that split, creating two embryos. They share an almost identical genetic code. Always the same gender.


A surgical procedure for men used as a method of birth control – meaning they can no longer be a genetic parent. The process can sometimes be reversed via a surgical procedure.