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Why more women are opting for sperm donors

Pregnancy
 The world is evolving and societal beliefs are changing (Photo: iStock)

Pierra Pish, a popular TikTok influencer takes to her social media space with a rare announcement.

“Hi, guys. Most of you know I do not do me. I am a Lebanese, in short, I am a ‘lile’ (lesbian) and I am looking for a sperm donor. My offer is Sh80,000. Am going to give you Sh40,000 after you get me the sperm and the other Sh40,000 after I get pregnant,” she says in a recorded video.

“You should be a Kenyan either Luo, Meru, Masaai or Kamba. You should be ready to visit a doctor and get tested and if your family has a history of twins, that will be an added advantage,” she says.

The post attracted a lot of comments with some men offering to donate their sperms for free while some women offered to have their men donate for her.

If you could choose what your child will look like, how would you want them? Would you want them dark? Light? Smart?

Would you want your son tall and athletic, perhaps even good in a sport or would you want him short and rotund? Would you rather have a fair, long-haired daughter, and would she have brown eyes?

The world is evolving and societal beliefs and practices are evolving with it. The concept of family and childbearing for instance gets redefined continually from generation to generation.

Traditionally in most African societies, children were meant to be born within marital unions most of which were officially and publicly formalised through marriage ceremonies, dictated by the individual’s community practices.

During that era, children born out of wedlock were frowned upon and became outcasts in the community; while the parents (often it would be a mother) would sometimes be forced into a marriage to save face or would be ostracized from the village, depending on the magnitude of the offence.

Today, however, women can have children when they want and with whoever they want. Furthermore, society has evolved to a point where women can choose how they want their children to look and the traits they would desire for them to have.

The latest trend is of women, often single, who are now opting to get and raise children outside the context of relationships (marriage or the equivalents) and how they intentionally seek certain desirable males (at least by their standards) to father these children.

Some of these women may settle on a male figure they know and are already familiar with, while others opt for anonymous men.

However, the common trait with these women is that rather than allowing the male with whom they have made the child raise the children, they intentionally lock them out from being present in the children’s lives - and instead raise them single-handedly without a male presence or input.

Simply put, these women want children, but do not want fathers for their children. These women are sometimes referred to as ‘Single Mothers by Choice’(SMC). There are many reasons why someone would want to have a child, but stay single.

For some women, they might fear the biological clock is ticking while they still have not yet found a suitable partner to settle with, while others might have decided they do not want a partner after all.

Some of these SMCs, however, have been trending for getting pregnant in a rather controversial manner.

These are the women who without disclosing their intentions, will get together with a man and have sex in the hope of secretly getting pregnant.

However, because their intentions are not to blackmail or trap these men into some kind of arrangement, most of these women will often keep the news away from the men if they successfully get pregnant.

Furthermore, once the children are born, they prefer to raise them alone without letting the men know about the children, and without any sort of input from them.

This is known as deceit sex, and it is steadily becoming popular among a certain class of women. Maurine, 34, for instance, got her baby Kimberly (turning two in July) with a former colleague.

“I sort of liked him. He was handsome and kind. We went out a few times. When I got pregnant, I cut him off,” she says.

“Why?” I ask.

“I did not think we would last. I have commitment issues; I often struggle with relationships. But I badly wanted a child and I could not wait for somebody else.”

“Did you eventually tell him?”

“No,” she says slyly, and it is the first time I see something other than joy in her eyes: “It would just complicate things for nothing.”

For such women, the first step is to identify the kind of traits they want their children to have. These often range from physical attributes, such as height, appearance and skin colour, to more complex and biological attributes like intelligence level, blood types, some even race, among others. Then they identify the desirable male figure with these attributes.

While others will ask openly to have children with them, most of these women prefer not to, often because not a lot of Kenyan men, or even mzungus, would agree even with a promise of ‘no strings attached’.

From clinics to individuals, the business of sperm donors is becoming a booming affair in Kenya. On average, a sperm donation goes for about Sh40,000 and can even go up to Sh100,000 depending on the specifications. This could vary from blood group to body features.

Still, sperm donation has largely remained an anonymous process due to the health implications connected with it. According to sources, young men have taken up sperm donation as a way of making income.

The process one has to undergo is a stringent one, one that takes medical screening to ensure the quality of the semen is good.

Many men fear the woman may still come after them for child support, whilst other women dread the man would actively want to be involved in the child’s life, and even seek legal rights (like visitation or joint custody).

Instead, they opt to have one-night stands or get into a short-term relationship with these men until they conceive, then cut off all contact.

Most of these women are often (financially and emotionally) able to raise their children alone without needing input from their fathers.

Maureen for instance, was at the time of Kimberly’s birth an accountant with a big local city firm before she moved to work with an international NGO.

This of course raises legal and ethical issues such as consent, and complications in cases of succession if it ever gets to that. There is also the moral question of whether or not it is okay to have children in such ways.

To avoid these entanglements, however, some women are now opting to get sperm donors instead. Women who are single, either by choice or by circumstance, and do not have a partner, but would like to become mothers can opt for sperm donation.

Donor insemination is a fertility treatment that involves using a sperm donor to conceive. Insemination typically refers to intrauterine insemination (IUI) with a donor or an intended parent’s sperm, but donor insemination can also be used with intra-vaginal insemination or as part of an IVF cycle as well.

Susan Mueni, 28, is single with no child yet admits she can consider getting a sperm donor.

“I get to pick who has the kind of genes I want rather than picking somebody who I met randomly,” she said.

“What kind of genes would you go for? I ask.

She laughs shyly. “The common things,” she says, “Handsome, maybe a little tall and smart, and with a good body.”

The sperm donation process is highly controlled. Other than being discreet, there is a thorough screening of donors to ensure there is no risk of transmitting infectious diseases such as HIV.

Before they are allowed to donate, potential donors undergo extensive psychological, genetic and STI testing. The sperm is then stored and frozen in liquid nitrogen for three months and finally tested again before it is cleared to be used.

Often, donors are anonymous to the recipients and are only identified by numbers. However, their pictures as babies can be provided to help the women select the donors they want.

The donated sperm is injected into a woman’s reproductive organs. It can also be used to fertilise mature eggs in a lab.

According to Dr Sarita of Myra Clinic, the number of women who visit the fertility clinic has risen gradually over the years. They get a lot of inquiries daily. Most women ask for strong, physically attractive men.

“The demand for the proverbial tall and handsome is very high,” she says, “Others may also consider specific factors such as age and the level of education or the profession of the donor.”

Technology has revolutionised the fertility world in unimaginable ways. For instance, John Gonzalez recently founded ‘Man Not Included’, which is an internet service that matches lesbian couples with potential donors without having to go through the conventional sperm banks (although donations are made through established clinics).

According to Dr Sarita, the process of insemination is simple, one that takes about 15 minutes. The younger one is, the more the probability of succeeding.

On average, most sperm banks go for donors who are between 18 and 39. One is required to provide a number of samples of their semen. Before giving a sample, one is required to abstain from ejaculation for at least two to three days.  

Cheap and popular DNA sets have also made it possible for a fast and direct transaction between willing sperm donors and the women, making anonymity a farce.

Furthermore, there are mobile applications for finding donors such as ‘Modamily’ and ‘Just a Baby’, which are accessible and available for use.

All these make it possible for women across the world to choose and get specific traits in the children they want to bear.

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