Part 1: Donated sperm and eggs should grow loving families, not tear them apart
Using donated sperm and eggs during IVF, or other assisted conception treatments, is as accepted today as using the sperm and eggs of the couple that have come to us to have a child.
But that doesn’t mean you should decide to undergo treatment using donated sperm and eggs without considering the practical and emotional issues that you may need to face.
From the outset it is important to acknowledge that donation is not only about you and your partner. There are (at least) four key people to consider when using donated sperm and eggs:
- The child/children you conceive
- Your partner
- The donor(s)
If you conceive twins then you need to understand that the emotional reaction of each child may be different and, if you are using donated sperm and donated eggs, you have more than one donor to consider.
All of these individuals are involved, and they will (more than likely) all have different emotional reactions to the birth of a child (or children) following the donation process.
Telling your child about donation at a young age
Telling your child or children that they were conceived using donated sperm and eggs is an important part of helping them to understand their place in the world as they grow older. The Donor Conception Network, an excellent support network for families whose children were conceived using donated sperm and eggs, suggests that you should start the process of telling your child about donation before they reach five years of age.
Introducing the concept of donation into discussions such as ‘where do babies come from?’ allows younger children to take in this knowledge and apply it to their own birth and early life. The Donor Conception Network publishes their Telling and Talking booklets for children of all ages, from 0-7 years up to 17+ years, and these provide guidance on the best methods for introducing your child/children to donation, in a way best suited to their age group.
There are four main reasons for telling your child that they were conceived using donated sperm and eggs:
- To help them understand why they look or behave the way they do. Why are they the only one in the family with darker skin or black hair? Why do they love drawing when none of their family members have an ounce of artistic talent? Attributing these sorts of characteristics to a biological parent can help children feel content.
- To make them aware of any inherited medical conditions. Knowing that their biological parent(s) had a genetic weakness to a certain kind of illness can help children be more aware of early warning signs as they grow older.
- To help you strengthen the trust between you, your child and the rest of your family. Having an open, honest and supportive environment at home will help your child to confront all sorts of issues as they grow older; including those concerning their own identity.
- To protect your child’s future relationships. Although the risk of two genetic siblings (children born to different parents using the same donated sperm and/or eggs) meeting and having a relationship in adult life may be small, it is a risk that they should be made aware of.
There are, of course, one or two situations in which it would be detrimental to tell your young child about their biological parents. If your child has severe learning or developmental difficulties, the news could cause them a greater deal of stress than other children. Or, if you live in a community that disapproves of sperm and egg donation, it may be in the child’s best interests to keep this information from them until they are old enough to choose whether they want to take a less active role in the community.
The Donor Conception Network can provide individual support relevant to your circumstances.
Please call our donation nurse coordinators on 01992 78 50 65 or 01992 78 50 67, to find out how you can have treatment using donor sperm or eggs.