This is Infertility is a bi-weekly podcast where we fuse narrative storytelling with experience and science to give you a new perspective on what it’s really like to go through a family building journey. Each episode dives into the emotional, physical, and financial burdens carried by those who experience infertility on their path to parenthood. Be it IVF, IUI, egg freezing, surrogacy, adoption, etc., the path is never the same and it can be long, painful, and lonely. It’s our mission to give those struggling a platform to be heard, a community connection, and an opportunity to raise awareness of the 1 in 6 who, for many reasons, struggle with infertility.
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This is Infertility

Episode 184: Building Your Family; The Complete Guide to Donor Conception

In today’s episode, we explore the complex world of donor conception with experts Dr. Mark Leondires and Lisa Schuman, LCSW. They provide an overview of their book, Building Your Family; The Complete Guide to Donor Conception, which serves as a resource for those considering donor conception due to infertility, medical issues, same-sex partnerships, or gender orientation.

The book covers everything from initial considerations and emotions to the medical and genetic processes involved, selecting the right donor, and talking to children about their donor conception. Tune in to hear how to manage the challenges of a donor conception journey.

Guests: Dr. Mark Leondires and Lisa Schuman, LCSW, authors of Building Your Family; The Complete Guide to Donor Conception

Host: Dan Bulger, Progyny

For more information, visit Progyny’s Podcast page and Progyny’s Education page for more resources. Be sure to follow us on Instagram, @ThisisInfertilityPodcast and use the #ThisisInfertility. Have a question, comment, or want to share your story? Email us at

This episode is also a video! Watch it here:

A synopsis of the book

02:52 – 03:32

Lisa Schuman: The book is about donor conception, thinking about donor conception, how to start thinking about it, whether you’re a patient with infertility issues, medical issues, if you’re a same sex couple, if you’re somebody who is transitioning, no matter why you need donor conception, we cover it all. How to start to think about it, how different people feel about it. And then we start to talk about the process, the medical process, the genetic process, how to choose a donor and how to talk to your kids about being donor conceived. And then stress reduction, because of course, this is very stressful.

Choosing a donor

03:38 – 06:43

Mark Leondires: Parents naively go into the process of well, I’m going to find somebody who I like the way they look, right? But that’s not really the right way to search for a donor, the takeaway from the book comes down to, you know, flipping the script, on how to choose a donor.Medically choosing a donor, you want to think about your own family history, and the donor’s family history. You are not getting that person — you’re getting their paternal and maternal generations, probably five back. And, and it’s naive for you to think when you look at that nice picture on Facebook, you’re going to have a child that looks like that person. And looks are less important than medical well-being, right? Within our own genetic code, we have 46 chromosomes, 52,000 genes, and we all likely carry some genes that are broken. And using recessive carrier screening to look for genes like cystic fibrosis or Tay Sachs disease is essential to moving the needle towards your child’s health. You don’t want to magnify or replicate the risks that you have in your family, in the donor you choose. You also want to be sure that you’re not donating a broken gene in your family tree without being sure that the donor doesn’t have the same broken gene. Because in that case, there’s a 25% chance that that child has that disease.

Experiences and emotions down the line

06:45 – 09:38

Dan Bulger: One part of donor conception that is sometimes overlooked is the children themselves, but there’s actually a good amount to think about when it comes to communicating with children about their conception and backgrounds.

Mark Leondires: I learned from Lisa, because Lisa does a program for donor conceived adoption children, about the things that the kids struggle with. Right. And, you know, writing this book brought me back to some stories about my children being approached at the playground. We thought they understood how they came to life, you know, kids don’t always remember things. They came home one day and asked if they were adopted. Which is not their story.

Lisa Schuman: I think there’s a whole spectrum of grief. And yes, there are some people, I had a patient who said, you know if I had to make a cake, I would make the cake the same way from scratch as I would Betty Crocker, it doesn’t really matter, a cake’s a cake, and she really had no issue stepping into the donor conception world. But I’m sure there were moments where she felt: I’m not going to be using my genetics. And what’s it going to mean for me? What’s it going to mean for the children? What’s it going to mean for my relationship with my partner? And is the child going to love me the same? Am I going to feel the same about the child if I’m not genetically connected? So, I’m sure there were some moments. That’s on one side of the spectrum. And then you have people in the queer community, single parents, all kinds of people in this world who just kind of know that they’re going to use donor conception for a long time. They’ve wrapped their mind around it, and it’s part of their life, and they come into the office in a different way. And then you have people who are grieving over the loss of the genetic connection. And then you have people who can’t do it, who just say, you know, if I’m not going to parent with my own genetics, I’d rather not be a parent. So, I think there’s a very, very wide range of people’s experiences.

Dan Bulger


Dan Bulger
Producer at Progyny

Dan has been in the healthcare industry for the past ten plus years as a multimedia content producer. Better known as ‘Video Dan’ he has interviewed numerous doctors, patients and other experts in the world of fertility. He’s also the producer for this podcast, This is Infertility and the producer behind the Progyny YouTube Channel which features interviews with dozens of the nation’s leading fertility specialists. On a personal note Dan’s parents started fostering kids when he was four years old, and he considers himself a proud older brother to over 100 foster children.

Dr. Mark Leondires


Dr. Mark Leondires
Medical Director and Founding Partner, Illume Fertility and Gay Parents to Be

Dr. Mark P. Leondires is the Founder, Medical Director and Partner in reproductive endocrinology at Illume Fertility and Gay Parents To Be. He is board-certified in both Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility.

Dr. Leondires currently serves as a member of RESOLVE’s Physician Council and a member of ASRM’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Task Force. He is also the Past President of ASRM’s LGBTQ Special Interest Group. He has been selected as a Castle Connolly “Top Doctor” in CT & NY for many consecutive years.

For Dr. Leondires, medicine offers an opportunity to solve problems; each fertility patient presents a unique puzzle. This, combined with a wide range of interests and life events, is how Dr. Leondires came into reproductive endocrinology and infertility and started his own fertility practice.

Lisa Schuman, LCSW


Lisa Schuman LCSW
Founder, The Center for Family Building

Lisa Schuman, LCSW is the host of the Building Your Family podcast, co-author of Building Your Family: The Complete Guide to Donor Conception, an award-winning researcher, and therapist. She was the only mental health professional chosen to testify to the State Senate Judiciary Committee on the subject of legalizing compensated surrogacy in New York and is often called upon to lecture at corporations, schools, and advocacy groups.  As the founding Director of The Center for Family Building, she guides people around the world to build the families of their dreams. You can reach her at 

Music From This Episode:

Artist: Kai Engel
Title: Holiday Gift 

Artist: Jahzzar
Title: Family Tree