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The use of donor eggs is an increasingly popular path to parenthood. It has many benefits, but there are also some tough questions that potential donor egg recipients need to consider before moving ahead with the procedure.

“Help give the gift of life. Become an egg donor,” a popular egg donation company calls out to women. They go on to thank potential donors for their interest, and say that it's the generosity of women “like you” that makes parenthood a reality for couples with infertility struggles.

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Potential recipients of donor eggs are simply told that they can review more than a thousand egg donor profiles at no cost, and that the donors used by the agency are “healthy, intelligent, attractive and responsible”. The donors, apparently, are compensated between $5,000 and $10,000, while the site does not mention how much egg donor recipients pay for the service which includes counseling, screening, medical and other vetting processes.

This site, and many others like it, make the process of egg donation seem so simple and perhaps comparable to shopping around for a plastic surgeon who can give you a new nose and some liposuction. Egg donation is, however, fundamentally different. It creates a child. No matter how desperate infertility may make you — and I know from experience — it is essential to review the possible impact of using an egg donor.

Egg donation will affect you, the prospective social parent. It will affect your partner if you have one, and your surrogate if you use one. It will affect the woman who donated her egg; the biological mother of your child.

Most of all, it will affect the child you create.

What questions should you consider before you choose to use an egg donor?

How Will Egg Donation Affect Your Child?

The first egg-donor produced birth occurred way back in 1983, giving the practice of egg donation a longer history than many people are aware of. Still, there is surprisingly little information about the psychological impact the practice has on egg-donor conceived children. Fortunately, we can learn much from sperm donation — the only comparable practice.

In a survey titled “My daddy's name is donor”, young adults conceived with the help of a sperm donor shared their feelings. Two thirds felt that their donor is “half of who I am”, while nearly half are disturbed by the idea that money was involved in their conception. More than half say that, every time they meet someone who looks like them, they wonder if they are related to that person. Almost as many fear that they could be sexually attracted to a relative, without knowing it.

Two thirds believe donor-conceived children have the right to know about their genetic origins, while half objects to the very practice of sperm donation — even when the child is told the truth.

Perhaps even more alarmingly, young adults conceived through sperm donation do worse than peers raised by their biological parents in areas such as depression, deliquency and substance abuse.

Prospective parents may see gamete donation as a way to have a child that is genetically related to one of them, and often gestated by the other. Some may even see the process as being “cleaner” than adoption — there is more bonding right from the start, and a lower risk that you will not hold your child in your arms after having high hopes.

But how will your child feel about his origins? The “My daddy's name is donor” survey, and blogs written by donor-conceived persons, are the closest you can come to predicting this. It is clear than many donor-conceived people are extremely disturbed by their origins, especially when their donor was anonymous and they will never know who their biological parent is.

Not all donor-conceived children experience the circumstances of their conception as negative, but taking the possibility that yours might into account makes sense. 

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