If you are considering conceiving using donor eggs, you may have questions about it, particularly about anonymous egg donation and what the research says about families conceived using anonymous donations. In this article, I break down some of the emerging research behind anonymous egg donations and their long term outcomes including impacts on the parent-child relationship.
To start, should you use an anonymous egg donor?
This is a question that you need to strongly consider before choosing a donor. Although some agencies/centers tout anonymity, it is important to understand that true anonymity cannot be guaranteed. Because of relatively inexpensive and readily available at-home DNA testing, a child can easily discover their true origins. And now with changing laws, anonymity may not even be an option.
However, some parents are still wanting to work with donors who will be anonymous. But why is that the case? In a 2011 study, parents who intentionally chose anonymous donation over known donation said they believed that anonymity would allow them to establish clear boundaries between the donor, child, and parent. And because they wanted to minimize any potential links between the donor and child in order to protect the mother–child relationship. In contrast, parents intentionally did not choose known donation as it was viewed as complicating the donor–child relationship and undermining the recipient's (intended mother) ability to feel secure in her role as mother. But interestingly, the study also found that mothers could both express ambivalence and uncertainties about the non-genetic relationship with their child, but still feel confident and secure in their identity as the child’s mother. So in the end, the anonymity did not make a difference in how she felt about her identity or role as mother.
So if anonymity doesn’t really impact a mother’s identity or role as a mother, why would someone want to choose a known or identified donor? One major reason for choosing a known donor is that one can have more information about the donor specifically as it pertains to their medical history. Furthermore you can also be kept abreast of any changes to the donor’s medical history in the future. This is so important if your child gets diagnosed with a medical issue or needs some sort of medical treatment. Being able to contact your donor could potentially save your child's life.
What do donor-conceived people think?
We have also seen that donor conceived children are curious about their origins. So another advantage of using a known donor is that your child can potentially have knowledge or communication with their donor. Research has shown that adolescents who were interested in their donor mostly wanted to know more about why they had donated, and some had questions about the donor’s family, or other children (half siblings) conceived using the same donor. In essence, what they wanted was to just better understand themselves. In a study with donor-conceived people, 86.5% believed that they had a right to non-identifying information about their donors; several also believed that they had a right to identifying information. In the end, they all wanted to know something about their donor and not necessarily to establish a relationship with the donor.
In another study, donor-conceived people who were conceived as a result of anonymous donation and who had grown up knowing about the nature of their conception still perceived donor conception as an acceptable model of family-building, but only when an identifiable donor was used and where parents disclosed their use of donor conception from an early age. And approximatley 25% of the participants endorsed anonymous donation, subject to the availability of some non-identifying donor information. A 2018 study obtained first-hand data from a sample of donor-conceived and surrogacy-conceived children followed from infancy to adolescence, suggest that the concern that children born through third party reproductions (i.e. surrogacy or egg or sperm donation) would be distressed about their origins in adolescence was unfounded, and that children who were informed when young of their conception were accepting of this in adolescence. The majority of the participants were actually indifferent about their conception, and were either interested in, or enjoyed positive relations with, their surrogate or donor. Not one of the adolescents indicated that they were distressed about their conception.
A 2021 study recommends if future intended parents are considering gamete donation, for the future well-being of all involved, anonymous donation ought to be discouraged. If individuals want to proceed with anonymous donation, at a minimum they should inform their child about the nature of their conception to minimize any potential harm to their child. Also, whatever clinic or agency you are working with, it will be important that they explain how they plan on maintaining anonymity, and how they plan on keeping the donor’s information, and how the donor can be reached if a medical emergency were to come up.
When making your decision, only one key fact should weigh heavily on your decision and that is what will be best for your future child's mental, physical and genetic health.
Cofertility is a human-first fertility ecosystem rewriting the egg freezing and egg donation experience. Our Family by Co platform serves as a more transparent, ethical egg donor matching platform. We are obsessed with improving the family-building journey — today or in the future — and are in an endless pursuit to make these experiences more positive.
Dr. Saira Jhutty is a licensed clinical and industrial organizational psychologist in private practice specializing in fertility. She is also a Founding Medical Advisor for Cofertility, and has spent the last 11 years focusing on assisting people build their families using third-party reproduction. Dr. Jhutty’s expertise lies in the evaluation of and consulting with potential surrogates and egg donors, and meeting with intended parents to discuss their decision to use alternative methods to build their family. In the past, Dr. Jhutty worked as Director of Surrogacy and Egg Donation at Conceptual Options, previously leading all gestational carrier and egg donor assessments there. Through her work with Cofertility, Dr. Jhutty provides guidance to ensure Cofertility remains at the forefront of ethical standards, including egg donor screening, intended parent counseling, and support for donor conceived children and families. For all members of Cofertility’s Freeze by Co egg freezing programs, she also makes herself available for office hours, through which members may ask questions directly within our private community.
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