Alternative Family Building

Alternative Family Building

There is more to family than biology. While many men feel a deep connection the the biological lineage that they pass on to children, fatherhood is truly defined by the impact you have on a child as they grow. Fathers are role models, heroes and teachers to their children. There are several reasons why men explore building their families through alternative methods – each valid. If you are exploring alternative family building, it is important to do the hard work of getting in touch with your desires for fatherhood. It is also critical that you create a safe space with your partner to talk through emotions and ideas openly and honestly.

Getting started

Sometimes biology just won’t cooperate — untreatable azoospermia or rare forms of teratospermia — make biological fatherhood impossible for some men. For other couples, female issues can make biological conception difficult or impossible. Some men find themselves ready to become fathers with no “Miss Right” by their side and start looking into single fatherhood. Others are in a stable relationship but have moral, ethical or personal reasons that push them to pursue alternate means of building their families.

No matter what the path that leads you here is, we want to commend and support you for your passion to leave a lasting impact on the next generation. If you have a desire to father in your heart, then somewhere out there is a child longing for you to teach and mentor them. Continue in courage and you can be someone’s hero.

As you explore alternative family building here are some ideas for ways to get support as you form decision:

  • Fertility Coach: Fertility coaches are not therapists, nor are they advocates of a taking certain direction, rather they are helpful in helping stimulate dialog between you and your partner, laying out options, helping you dissect your motives and get in touch with you emotions. Fertility coaches also have several strategies and game plans for helping tackle some of the obstacles you might face along the way such as your friends and family, work, finances or unexpected outcomes.
  • Therapists: Most men don’t like asking for directions or going to the doctor. Therapy can sound intimidating and emasculating. But it is not as bad as it sounds. Often therapists help men verbalize emotions they have a hard time naming and can help you more clearly articulate your point of view in a way that your spouse will more clearly understand. They are also great resources to help you find ways to reduce stress and improve intimacy in your relationship.
  • Online forums: Fertility and family-building can be hard topics to talk about with even some of your close friends and family members. A growing number of men are creating online spaces to share thoughts and get perspective from other guys who are in the same boat or have been there.

Now let’s get to some of the nuts and bolts. There are a lot of options for how you might move forward with family building. Here is an overview of the current options available.

Sperm Donation

Sperm donation raises a number of questions in a prospective father’s mind — how would I feel or bond with a child conceived through sperm donation? Would I tell them that they are conceived by donor sperm? It is natural to feel uncertain and cautious when exploring sperm donation as a possible way to build your family and there is no right answer. Many men have taken this route and are happily raising donor conceived children. There is a pretty big group of guys that share their insights on the DI Dad’s Yahoo group.  There are also a number of men who for a number of reasons have chosen a different route to fatherhood. Remember, this is a decision for you and your partner to make together. There is no right answer.

Things to think about:

  • Known vs Anonymous Donor: There are pro’s an con’s to each approach both for you and your child. Known donors can be accessed by the child later in life to learn about their biological or medical heritage. 
  • Physical characteristics: Most sperm banks will have baby pictures of the donors as well as descriptive information like hair, eye color and height. You may want to think through how important it is to you to select a donor with similar physical characteristics to yourself or different ones.
  • Medical compatibility: You will want to look at things like a donor’s blood type and CMV antibody tests to ensure they are compatible with your partners.
  • Type of conception: There are a few methods of artificial reproduction that can be used with donor sperm based on the fertility profile of the female partner

Embryo Donation

Embryo donation has been gaining popularity over the past decade with the creation of great organizations such as the American Embryo Registry and the National Embryo Donation Center which have facilitated hundreds of frozen embryo transfers.

What is embyro donation?

During a typical IVF cycle multiple eggs are collected and fertilized. Embryos are grown over the period of something around 5 days and usually 1 or 2 top candidates are selected for implantation. Often there are several viable embryos left over which are frozen for future use or in case the IVF cycle fails. Once a couple determines that their family is complete, they may be faced with a dilemma for what to do with the remaining frozen embryos. This is of course a very personal, ethical decision.

Embryo donation is one option. A couple may elect to donate their frozen embryos to another couple struggling with infertility as a means for building their family. The couple receiving the embryo will have it transferred to the female partner’s uterus where hopefully it implants and grows into a healthy baby that she delivers 9 months later.

Things to think about

Known vs Anonymous: As with sperm donation and adoption, there are a range of situations for how connected you may be with the donating family. On one extreme, they can become a sort of extended family where siblings know and relate to each other on a fairly regular basis. On the other extreme, you could no nothing about the parents, their medical or biological history. As you work through this decision, it is important to think about your family and your child as they grow.

Natural vs Controlled Cycle FET: FET or Frozen Embyro Transfer also requires some medical decisions. One of the biggest medical decisions you’ll need to make is around the use of medication to prepare the woman’s body to receive the embryo. In a natural cycle transfer, a woman’s cycle is monitored carefully and the embryo is transferred at the exact right moment in her monthly cycle when her body is most receptive to implantation. In a controlled cycle, the woman is given medication to force her body into a controlled cycle. Regular hormone injections and regular monitoring forces the woman’s body to optimal conditions for receiving the embryo. Read more…


There are kids all over the world who need parents. The desire in your heart to father may be met by a special child who is out there waiting for you. But where to start? There are many different avenues to search down – domestic or international, open vs closed, fostering to adopt. Each method of adoption has its unique challenges, costs and potential heartbreaks. Finding your path through it, answering the hard questions, taking a risk, putting it out there can help you emotionally prepare to be hero your child needs you to be.

We’ve put together an overview of the various options for adopting to help you get the lay of the land and so that you can start putting together a plan. As you review the options, the main question that you really need to work through with your spouse is — what type of child are we prepared to parent? One that looks different from you? A baby, a toddler, a kid? A child from another country and cultural heritage? What about siblings — would you take on more than one child? Medical history? Relationship to birth family? Read more…


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