I'm a Fertility Psychologist. Here's What I Want You to Know About Growing Your Family Through Egg Donation.
Dr. Saira Jhutty
Once you are diagnosed with infertility, the medical team steps in and lays out all the available options. Their job is to give you all the facts which include the chances of a healthy pregnancy, delivery, and baby. One of those options, which entails the highest success rates in achieving a pregnancy, may be egg donation. Many times, once the relief of knowing that there is still a possibility of parenthood, the reality of what using an egg donor means sinks in. That is typically when a psychologist comes in.
The most common questions asked in a therapist's office are much different than those asked in an REI’s office. Questions for a therapist typically revolve around the importance of genetics, the fear of not bonding, how the parent/child relationship will look, and long-term impact of the donation on everyone involved. As an expert psychologist in this field, I have worked with thousands of families pursuing egg donation. In this guide, we’ll walk through common questions and what I want you to know.
Five common questions about becoming a parent through egg donation
Is the egg donor the biological parent?
No, the egg donor is not the biological parent. An egg donor is someone who provides 50% of what it takes to create human life. The other 50% comes from the sperm. The donor is genetically related to the child, but by no means is the parent. Read Will a Donor Conceived Child Have My DNA?
How does it feel to have a donor egg baby?
It feels just like any other baby. Although DNA is an important determinant of who we are as people, relationships are not formed by DNA. Think about the terms mother, step-mother, mother-in-law. All of these are relationships, but only one is formed by DNA. What makes a mother / child relationship is the bond that is formed over time while caring for a child.
Will they feel like my child?
Yes, but for some, it may not happen immediately. Just like with any other pregnancy, some women connect with their child while still pregnant, and for some it takes a few months post - delivery. Once the child is born, it is also normal to feel uncertain about not being genetically connected to your child in fact, one study found exactly that. The study found that many women pregnant via egg donation had concerns about whether the child would feel like their own, but by the end of the first year, most mothers felt secure and confident in their position as the child’s mother.
Will I bond with my egg donor child?
It is normal to grieve the loss of not having a child that is genetically yours. It is also normal to be afraid that because your child is not genetically yours, that you may have a hard time bonding. The truth is, regardless if your child is born via donor eggs or otherwise, bonding doesn’t happen overnight. Bonding takes place over time.
Will my donor-conceived child bond with my biological child?
Those facing secondary infertility (infertility after having a biological child) have concerns that the two children will not bond because they do not share 100% of their genes. They are afraid that their donor-conceived child might feel less than their biological child and may have difficulty bonding. Once your child arrives however, you will be a family, just like any other family. Because they are being raised together they won’t see each other as anything but siblings. Again, just like any other relationship, the sibling relationship will also grow and evolve over time.
Here’s what I want you to know
If you’ve been working to build your family through your own IVF cycles, you may have already faced grief and loss. For some people, the idea of increasing chances of success with donor eggs is a relief. But for others, it may take some time coming to terms with using donor eggs. Here’s what I want you to know.
Nurture is important, and you will truly shape this little human’s life
Nature refers to how genetics influence development, whereas nurture refers to how the environment, such as relationships and experiences, influence development. While some aspects of development may be strongly influenced by biology, environmental influences may also play a role. For example, heredity influences how tall a person will be but if a child grows up in an environment without adequate nutrition, then they may not reach their potential height. At the end of the day, DNA plays a role in your child's development, but the parent who cares, loves and supports their child, greatly contributes to the type of person their child will grow up to become.
Children in egg donation families do well
We now have evidence that both donor-conceived children (from early childhood to adolescence) and their parents are psychologically well adjusted and do not differ from families with spontaneously or own-gamete conceived children. One study found that "Children in egg donation families viewed their relationships with their mothers as significantly higher in warmth and enjoyment than did children in the control group of IVF families" and "it is possible that having waited so long to have their children, egg donation mothers are especially committed to parenthood when their children do arrive."
It’s okay to seek therapy and support
Talking openly and honestly in a judgment free space is an important aspect to processing feelings, and finding the acceptance and peace to move forward with your journey to parenthood. Speaking with a therapist who specializes in fertility can be an invaluable resource. So can speaking with others who have either already been through the egg donation process or are contemplating using a donor. Find comfort that everything you are feeling has been felt by parents before you. All your doubts and fears have surfaced in many parents as well. We are here to support you on this journey.
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
Dr. Jhutty is a Medical Advisor at Cofertility and psychologist specializing in fertility. She obtained her PhD from California School of Professional Practice. She has spent the last 11 years focusing on assisting people build their families using third-party reproduction.
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