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Podcast Review: Sperm Series – I download an app

1 March 2021
Appeared in BioNews 1085

Dating hasn't worked out for Andrea Silenzi, and through running 'The Longest Shortest Time' podcast, she has decided that she is ready to become a single parent. In the first episode of a three-part miniseries, Silenzi explores using an app called 'Just a Baby' to find a sperm donor.

Described as 'Tinder for sperm donors', the app's developers pitch it as a 'brand new way to make babies'. This includes enabling people who want to have children to find an egg donor, a womb, or even a coparent. However, the podcast focuses on the host's interest in using the app to find a sperm donor.

Initially, when I tuned into the podcast, I was very sceptical of the whole idea. I had many concerns, most of which were highlighted during the episode, and in some cases, it did change my perspective. As someone in their mid-twenties, with no intention of having children any time soon, I realised there were points I hadn't even considered, such as the stigma and opposition many women – including Silenzi – face when going down non-traditional routes for having children.

Part of the podcast is recorded with Andrea's mother and brother, who both had different opinions on the subject. The brother did not approve and the mother explained that of course having a baby the traditional way is 'plan A', which would enable her to 'have it all'. I found this part of the podcast disappointing because who is to say single parents, or people without children don't 'have it all'? I would've liked to hear Silenzi challenge her mother's views and such stereotypes.

Later in the episode, Silenzi mentioned that the app was beneficial to reduce the stigma associated with sperm banks or donation. I thought this was an important point, and one that I hadn't initially considered. Silenzi likened it to online dating, which was frowned upon by many when it was first introduced, but now, is very common. The only concern I had was that with online dating, you can always change your mind and call things off, but making a baby is a lot more permanent.

Another point Silenzi made, which I agreed with, was that 'there's something a bit eerie about using the same device I use to order sushi or a car service to make a baby'. I also thought that using an app for this purpose could decrease the barriers that would usually give you time to think through your options; in theory you could match with a sperm donor and get pregnant the very next month. However, through listening, I realised that this is not really any different to people conceiving in the traditional sense, so why should it be any harder for people who want – or need – to conceive differently?  

The benefit of using the app, which the host pointed out, is that it makes the process more human. People can meet up with their potential donor, and talk things through before having a baby, which isn't possible with a traditional sperm bank. If people are already able to use donated sperm to have a baby, it makes sense that they might want the option to speak to the donor first, to inform their decision.

Another concern I had, which I actually jotted down whilst listening to the episode, was 'what's in it for the donors?' On the app, sperm donors can actually state their preference for artificial or natural insemination, which made me doubt the intention of some of the people using it. It was not clear to me what the benefits of using the app were for the donor, and what positive motives they might have for using it, rather than donating to a sperm bank.

My concerns were echoed by Silenzi, who had discovered very dark motives of some of the men using the app. An interesting point that was brought up as a result of this was the concept of self-sabotaging. Silenzi speaks to her friend about this as part of the episode and realises that maybe she is looking for reasons not to go ahead with sperm donation out of fear. However, they explain that uncertainty or fear is normal and part of the process, and that this is the same for couples not using sperm donors too.

Overall, I found the podcast interesting and learnt a great deal about a subject I had previously little awareness of. If you are considering sperm donation it could be comforting to hear about another person's journey and the worries that they had during the process. However, the host is not an expert on the subject and I personally found that I came away with more concerns than I started with. Perhaps this is more of an episode to listen to as a supplement to other research if you are considering sperm donation. 

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Sperm Series: I Download an App
The Longest Shortest Time |  3 September 2019
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