How to Tell Your Child That You Used an Egg Donor
The debate on whether or not to tell a child conceived or grown through IVF is a hotly debated issue, and a decision you and your partner should deeply discuss and explore. Some key points in this discussion are whether or not the child needs to know this information for future health reasons (if they were conceived using donor DNA), whether or not it is fair and psychologically healthy to keep this information from the child, and whether or not the child should be allowed to have access to the identity of their egg donor, sperm donor or gestational surrogate- so tricky!
It is important for all humans to know if they are potentially at risk for certain health problems. This information can give them the chance to take precautionary measures in their life to help prevent the onset of these health issues. For example, if an Egg Donor’s mother had heart disease the donor-conceived child would have an increased risk of heart disease. If the donor-conceived child was aware of this information they could make sure to have regular check-ups, eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. It is possible for families to learn the medical history of their donor without the donor’s identity being revealed.
Humans also have a fundamental interest in knowing their biological origins. It is natural for a child to want to know the basics of the genetic code they came from. If you decide to disclose the use of a donor to your child you can give a physical description of the donor, such as eye color, hair color, body type, height, ethnicity etc., without disclosing the donor’s actual identity. A study of California parents, “Strategies for Disclosure: How Parents Approach Telling Their Children That They Were Conceived With Donor Gametes” found that most children who know they were donor-conceived are very well adjusted, and that it is best to have this talk with children as soon as they’re old enough to understand.
Although some donor-conceived children and their parents might have the desire to meet their donor it is not their choice alone. The donor must be comfortable and willing to meet the family. There are some cases where the donor legally agrees before donation to have his or her identity known to the parents and possible children conceived through the donation, but most donations are anonymous.
The decision of whether or not to inform donor-conceived children of their biological origins is a big decision that should be well thought out. You will have your own opinion on what information you should disclose to your children, and you should follow your instincts. When you keep the well being of your child at the forefront of your mind you can’t go wrong.
Similar emotional considerations should be taken in the case of a gestational surrogate. Although the child is unlikely to share DNA with the surrogate, they still spent a sacred period of time together during the child’s gestation. You and your surrogate may feel it is best for the surrogate not to be a part of your child’s life, but discussing what the surrogate was like, pregnancy-specific experiences she had during gestation and a (non-graphic) retelling of the birth can help to round out your child’s knowledge of how they came to be.
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