Telling about egg/double donation: yes or no?

Telling about egg donation: yes or no? Are you concerned whether to tell your family, friends and the future child about egg/double donation? Then this article is for you!

Some patients find it easier and others find it more difficult to tell other people that their child was born via egg/double donation.

Using egg/double donation, is of course an intensely private matter, and who patients choose to share it with may vary widely. Viewpoints on egg/double donation vary widely, and only you can decide whether, who, where and when to tell.

Why mention egg/double donation at all?

People who can conceive their children without medical assistance aren’t even faced with the question of what they should mention about how their babies entered the world. It is taken for granted — by the parents and those around them – that the mother has a genetic as well as a gestational link to the child. If the mother has a husband or partner, it is similarly assumed that he is the biological father.

People who conceive their children via egg/double donation, on the other hand, often wonder what and whom to tell.

There are several categories of people whom you may want to tell about eg/double donation:

  • the child itself
  • close family members
  • more distant family members
  • close friends
  • more distant friends, acquaintances and neighbours
  • colleagues and business relations
  • medical professionals
  • authorities (e.g. the registry office)

At O.L.G.A. Fertility Clinic, we consider it our task to provide patients with the information they need to consider this subject carefully. 

You may decide to tell some people or some categories of people but not others. We believe you should have the opportunity to decide for yourself what model of family relations fits you best.

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Should you tell your child about his/her conception through egg/double donation?

The most important question is whether you tell your child about being “a donor egg baby”. Egg/double donation is almost never the first choice of a way to have children, but it can be viewed positively. Unlike a large number of children who are conceived without medical help, any child born via egg/double donation can be sure that he or she was very much wanted. Parents of such children tend to be very strongly motivated to have a child, and have usually overcome many barriers to get there. Children born through egg/double donation are usually highly cherished and surrounded by love. Because of this, they are likely to grow up in good psychological as well as physical health, to be ably supported by their parents throughout their childhood, to form good relationships with other people and to be able to make the most of their lives.

The advice from most fertility organizations and professionals is to be open and honest to the child about its origins right from the start. By bringing the message positively and in a normal way, you can help a young child understand that it is especially loved because mummy and daddy had to try so hard to make a baby. As time goes on, you can add more information appropriate to the age of your child. There are also story books which you can use to explain the very special way that the child was conceived.

Wondering how to tell the child and when?

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However, you may prefer not to tell your child about being “a donor egg baby”, and there are good reasons for this too. You may feel that your child will become insecure and confused if you explain that mummy is not his or her genetic mother, or that disclosure will lead to your child wanting to find the egg donor. You may not have told even your close friends or family about the need for egg donation, and not want to start telling them now. Another reason for not telling is that you may wish to avoid insensitive remarks or questions to yourself and/or your child about who is the “true” mother.

Should you tell other people about egg/double donation?

Should you tell other people about egg donation? Some recipients don’t discuss egg/double donation with anyone except their partner, some tell certain people but not others, and a number of recipients feel able to mention the subject to everyone. The tendency these days is for people to be more open about the whole subject of infertility, and this has partly come about through increasing awareness. Many magazines and newspapers have published articles on infertility and egg/double donation, and this continued publicity is helping to make people more sympathetic with regard to the issues involved. However, everyone is an individual and the same solution may not be appropriate for all.

To help you make up your own mind, we have listed various reasons that people have given for and against disclosure. These have been compiled with the help of extensive research over the last 20 years.

Reasons for egg/double donation disclosure:

  • donor egg recipients felt no reason to feel ashamed of egg/double donation;
  • they wanted to get support from their family and friends;
  • their family and friends already knew about their infertility problems;
  • they didn’t want any secrets within the family;
  • they didn’t want to run the risk of the child finding out by accident about being “a donor egg baby”
  • they wanted to assure their child that he or she was truly desired
  • they believed the child had the right to know about his/her origins
  • they wanted the child to know there was no risk of getting a particular hereditary disease
  • the child’s medical history or treatment could be compromised by not giving its doctors accurate information

Reasons against egg/double donation disclosure:

  • fear of being misunderstood by those who live around you;
  • conviction that infertility is a solely personal problem;
  • embarrassment or sorrow at the need for egg/double donation treatment;
  • desire to avoid the question about who is the “true” mother;
  • child's well-being (to avoid him or her being treated by other people as "peculiar" );
  • religious/culture-specific motives (leading to lack of acceptance within the group)
  • wish to forget the egg/double donation treatment and the difficulties leading up to it

Concerned whether to tell others or not?

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What do the professionals think?

What do the professionals think? The Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) strongly supports the principle that parents ought to tell their children about the fact that they were born using donor egg The Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) strongly supports the principle that parents ought to tell their children about the fact that they were born using donor egg/sperm. The Committee also considers that informing the child about non-identifying characteristics of the egg/sperm donor is in the child’s best interests. In addition, in those cases when all parties come to an agreement, it's advised to disclose personal data on the egg donor. The committee acknowledges however that such decision is of exceptionally personal nature and that it can be made only by the parents themselves (ASRM Ethics Committee, 2004).

The Task Force on Ethics and Law of the European Society for Human Reproduction (ESHRE) proposes a procedure of “double track" During this procedure an egg donor is provided with two options – to participate in the programme either as an identifiable/contactable or as a totally non-identifiable/non-contactable egg donor. A donor egg recipient is also authorised to choose between these two groups of egg donors. So, when selecting an egg donor, all preferences expressed by egg donors and donor egg recipients should be taken into consideration. (ESHRE Task Force on Ethics and Law, 2002). However, whether this concept  is usable, depends  on legislation in each country.

In certain countries, anonymous donation is not (or no longer) allowed. This means that children born via sperm or egg donation may obtain personal information about their sperm or egg donor when they reach a certain age. However, for this to happen, the children must first be aware that they were conceived in this way. Most countries leave disclosure of this fact up to the parents, but some specialists believe that couples who conceived a child through sperm or egg donation should disclose this fact when the child reaches a particular age. A survey carried out in the UK showed that children searched for information on their donors primarily in order to satisfy their own curiosity about those whose appearance and habits they could share, rather than to establish long-term relationships (Howe et al., 2000).

We are the only egg/double donation clinic in Europe, which provides our donor egg recipients with the unique opportunity of telling their child as much as possible about the egg donor, of course if they want to tell and at the timing they find appropriate. Each egg donor has written for you and your future child a letter explaining, which personal motives and reasons guided them to becoming an egg donor. Each egg donor at our clinic has children of her own and more than anything values the main gift in life — a baby, an opportunity of becoming a mother. You are very welcome to get in contact with us to receive your login and read about our egg donor’s life story, education, families, hobbies and interests, view their own photos… If in the future you become a mother with the help of donor egg, you will have an opportunity to save and keep all these details to tell your child if and when you feel appropriate. 

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Supporters of disclosure claim that each human being is fundamentally interested in and has the right to know about his or her own biological origin, as it takes a central place in personal development. Supporters also claim that disclosure of the egg/double donation fact is an essential part of open and fair interaction with children. Among other things, disclosure about egg donation helps to avoid secrecy in family life, which may create tension in relationships between those family members who know about the conception through egg donation and those who don't. Also, telling the child about its creation through egg/double donation at an early age avoids the risk of the child finding out by accident, for instance when overhearing a conversation or during a family argument. This has happened to many adopted children, who have experienced great upset and confusion as a result of having not been told the truth previously. Their resentment at the secrecy, and the breakdown in trust that they may feel at not having been told before, can have a far greater emotional impact than if they had simply been told the facts.

However, non-disclosure about egg/double donation allows parents to keep their infertility secret, which may be important for them for various reasons. These include anxiety that the child could reject the non-genetic parent; and fear of depreciative reactions from members of the family, especially in cultures where sperm or egg donation are seen as unacceptable. Even in social environments where egg /double donation is an understood concept, you may feel that you and/or your child will be regarded differently or even looked down on. Once the information is in the public domain, you don’t know who knows about it and who doesn’t. 

Russia is a conservative country especially in the areas connected to the family. Many of our patients prefer to keep the matter of egg/double donation entirely private. More than anything in our clinical practice we respect privacy of our patients and medical secrecy of all their data.

Similarities and differences between egg donation and adoption

In egg donation, the father is a genetic parent and the mother is not a genetic parent but definitely a biological parent, whereas in adoption both parents are social. They are neither genetic nor biologic parents to an adopted child! An adopted child becomes a member of the family as an already existing individual. Unable to live with one family and adopted by another, an adopted child may need accurate information about its background. Depending on the adopted child’s circumstances and previous traumas, therapy may be required to achieve good psychological health.

However, in the case of egg donation, the child is nurtured by its future mother’s body from a very early stage and becomes a much-loved part of the family even before it is born

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