If you are using donor eggs to build your family – you may be unsure of what type of relationship, if any, you would like to have with your egg donor. You might not have even realized that a relationship was possible, as you may have been told the process was supposed to be anonymous. But as more people are turning to egg donation to build their family, new research and changing laws are redefining these notions. Below I outline the different types of relationships that can exist between you and your donor, why true anonymity is not really an option and most importantly, why anonymity is not in your child’s best interest.
Disclosed vs undisclosed egg donation
With Cofertility, parents and their donors can choose whether their donation is disclosed or undisclosed. Both disclosed and undisclosed donations come with their own set of implications. In most cases, your desired disclosure status is discussed between the parties prior to being matched. At Cofertility, donors even have their disclosure preference listed in their profile so you know ahead of time what they’re looking for and you can filter your options based on this criteria.
- An undisclosed donation is one where you do not exchange contact information. Although you will have access to photos and other demographic information about the donor, you will only communicate through Cofertility. With an undisclosed donation, you could arrange to have the information available to your child down the road (this is sometimes called Open ID).
- A disclosed donation is one where you and your donor exchange contact information and communicate directly. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have a close relationship with the donor, perhaps you email once a year around the holidays. But this option keeps the door open for your child to more easily reach out to the donor with questions as they get older.
A major benefit of disclosed donation is that you may potentially get more information about your donor’s genetics and family of origin. Another advantage is the ability to provide information to your child. Experts agree that being honest with your child about their conception, and normalizing it early on is best.
In either case, the scope and degree of communication - both during and post-match - is what both parties agree upon. As with any relationship, this one will also evolve as time goes on. I know some parents who early on forged a very close relationship with the woman who donated her eggs, but as time went on, and everyone started getting into the daily rhythms of their own lives, the relationship slowly started to drift into yearly holiday cards and limited communication.
You can also have a disclosed donation with minimal to no communication today, but agree to share contact info and keep the line open in the event that the future child wants to reach out down the line.
Don’t let fears of disclosure stop you
Some parents fear that their child may become too close to their donor and reject them as a parent if they opt for an undisclosed donation. Even though they legally and by all other terms are the parent, this fear nevertheless exists for some. (Read this article to learn why this is an unfounded fear).
The fact is, studies show that children in egg donation families rate their relationships with their mothers as high in warmth and enjoyment (even more so than other types of families!). And when donor-conceived children were asked about whether they would change anything about their family, the vast majority said that they would keep their family the same as it is.
Undisclosed vs. anonymous egg donation
While identifying information, such as full names and date of birth, are not revealed in an undisclosed relationship, true anonymity can never be promised. Some people confuse undisclosed with anonymous, but it is important to understand that the two are not the same. An anonymous relationship implies that there will be no identifying information revealed to either party, and the donor and parents will never be in direct contact with each other or ever know of each other. Some anonymous donation contracts even have both parties contractually agree to never attempt to reach out!
However, now with a simple internet search or a reverse photo lookup, anyone can find out a lot of personal information. And with the advent of at-home DNA testing, the promise of true anonymity can no longer be guaranteed. There’s a chance that at some point, someone - whether it is your child, or a member of your family or your donor’s family - will find out that your child was conceived using donor eggs because of a DNA test.
Another major reason that anonymity is no longer a guarantee has to do with laws. Although donor anonymity is already illegal in countries such as Australia and throughout most of Europe, laws regarding anonymous egg and sperm donation are also being passed in the United States. For example, in California, a law that came into effect in January 2020 states that once the donor conceived child turns 18, the bank that collected the gametes will have to provide the child with identifying information of the donor. Even if the donor signed a declaration saying they want to remain anonymous, the gamete bank still has to make a good faith effort to notify the donor to see if they will agree to release the information. These types of laws are being put into effect all over the United States.
In June 2022, Colorado also signed new legislation banning anonymous sperm and egg donation. Beginning in 2024, donor conceived people can find out their donor’s identity and medical history when they turn 18. Individuals cannot donate unless they agree to have their identity released when the donor is of age. While this is limited to Colorado, other states are expected to follow suit.
So while anonymity does not exist, you and the donor can find a mutual agreement on the type of relationship that meets both of your needs and satisfies the curiosity of your child. Although it is important to create a relationship that you feel most comfortable with, it is even more important to have realistic expectations around what and how much information will be revealed or is made available.
At Cofertility, we highly encourage disclosed donations. Studies show that being open with your child about his or her conception is important for their identity formation. We also listen to the voices of donor conceived people, who believe it is their right to access the identity of the donor. However, if both the intended parent and the donor opt for undisclosed donation, that decision will be honored provided that both parties accept that anonymity cannot be guaranteed.
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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