After years of not being able to build your family through conventional methods, you may have found yourself here because you're considering conceiving using gamete donation. Understandably, you likely have many questions about it, particularly the psychological aspects of the mother-child relationship, questions about how it might feel to use donor eggs, or if the child will even feel like yours. All of these are valid questions and are probably just a few out of a million questions running through your mind. But when using assisted reproductive technology and donor gametes to create your family, there is no such thing as too many questions! The more questions you ask and the more knowledge you gather, the less scary it will feel and the more confident you will be about your decision to use egg donation. So let’s dive in.
More women are turning to egg donation
Aside from health/medical issues, women are turning to egg donation because they have medically “aged out.” Sadly, age is not just a number. The stark reality is that age is one of the most important aspects when it comes to getting pregnant with your own eggs. Women are delaying childbirth for many reasons, but no one talks to them about the consequences of doing so.
In 2019, there were almost 20,000 IVF transfers using donor eggs. And as topics such as egg donation and surrogacy become more mainstream in the media, more families are starting to share their experiences with third party reproduction and how they are raising their donor conceived children. More resources for families are also becoming available, but still, many continue to struggle to navigate, understand, and experience parenting a child conceived in this way.
The mother-child relationship in egg donation families
A common question for many is regarding the impact of using a donor egg on the relationship between mother and baby. Many are afraid they will not bond with the baby or that the baby will not feel like theirs. But, studies have shown that most mothers using donor eggs to have their baby felt secure and confident as the child’s mother by the end of that first year. Which makes sense since during that first year your entire existence revolves around the baby and not much else. And making it to that first birthday is a huge milestone, not just for the baby but for the parents as well. In that same study, it was also found that even though over 80% of mothers did think about the non-genetic aspect during pregnancy, two thirds of them reported that egg donation had not influenced their relationship with their child. The bond that was built during that first year only cemented the mother-child relationship.
Other questions include the idea of anonymity of the donor versus knowing the donor. What, when, and how to tell the donor conceived child about their beginnings, along with deciding on what, when or if to tell family and friends.
Psychological aspects of using donor eggs
Many parents also want to know about the psychological aspects of using donor eggs. For some the idea of having to surrender one's own DNA and all that entails in order to bring a child into the world can be a difficult idea to process. Even though the United States has one of the highest rates of blended families – consisting of half or step children, step mothers and fathers – where love and family is not based on DNA, this idea of not being genetically related to your child, can still be a difficult one to grasp. But once the longing to be a parent speaks louder than the urge to procreate, that feeling slowly begins to take a back seat.
But once the longing to be a parent speaks louder than the urge to procreate, that feeling slowly begins to take a back seat.
The emotional journey of finding an egg donor
Another emotionally charged piece can be the process itself. The process of choosing an egg donor can feel impersonal and uncomfortable. The screening process for the egg donor to ensure she is medically and psychologically fit can be time consuming. And waiting for the results of the retrieval can be anxiety provoking. And because using an egg donor comes with extra costs, some families feel that egg donation is out of reach. And for many, the cost to build the family of their dreams may lead to mounting debt that seems daunting.
Despite the challenges, people are still choosing to use egg donation to build their families due to the high success rate and probability that they will become parents. Typically, for a woman over 39, using her own eggs has a success rate of about less than 10% per IVF cycle. Whereas an IVF cycle using donor eggs averages almost 50%. And because egg quality and age are the main reasons for miscarriage, those using donor eggs have lower rates of miscarriage. Also, if you are having the embryo transferred to yourself, egg donation can also give you the experience of pregnancy and childbirth and starting the connection with the baby from day one.
The decision to use an egg donor to conceive your child is not easy. Fortunately, parents using third party reproduction are not alone. Cofertility recognizes and understands the sensitive nature of conceiving using donor eggs. We also understand the longing to be a parent. Our team works really hard to make the egg donor experience a warmer, more human centric process, by offering community and support throughout this journey. Create a free account today to get started.
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.
View all articles