UPDATE: What to tell the children?

Last week, we published a post titled “What to tell the children?” It covered a study that confirmed what many people who use donor eggs to become parents struggle with: Whether they should tell their children how they were conceived.

The research, presented at a meeting of the International Federation of Fertility Societies and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), investigated 438 patients who received donated eggs between 2008 and 2012 about their plans to reveal or withhold this information to any children they had through the process. It found that about 60 percent of donor-egg recipients weren’t sure if they would tell their child, fearing disapproval by others in their community and causing confusion in their child.

Several readers have asked for more information on this study, so we are posting a link to the National Institutes of Health article about it here.

Clearly, this topic strikes a nerve with many. Please keep the conversation going and post your comments below.

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2 Responses to UPDATE: What to tell the children?

  1. Kathrine Eichenholtz says:

    My concern would be a male factor. Telling your child that they were conceived via donor sperm. Do you tell them or not? It’s not like adoption, but could be more of an issue.

    • admin says:

      The biggest concern among those pursuing donor conception is that of disclosure with their offspring. When a child is conceived using donor sperm or egg, there is always the question of to tell or not to tell and there is never a clear cut, easy, go-to answer.

      The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) is the internationally recognized leader for education, information, advocacy and standards in the field of reproductive medicine. The ethics committee of ASRM put together an ethics paper discussing disclosure to offspring of conception to through the use of donor. The committee states that the choice to disclose to one’s child is an individual and highly personal choice, but one that is ultimately encouraged by the Society. The Society believes benefits to disclosure include the encouragement of open and honest communication with the child(ren) and helps to avoid secrets that could ultimately strain relationships and create resentment. The determination of when it is appropriate to disclose to the child(ren) is debated, as it could be beneficial to tell the child when younger so they can absorb the information over time but it is generally based on the psychological readiness of the child. It is also deemed that unplanned disclosure would be more damaging than planned, intentional disclosure. If those outside of the parents and doctor (family and friends) are aware of the use of donor sperm (or egg), it can create a very difficult situation because what others talk about can not be controlled. Also, those who support disclosure reflect upon the trend of disclosure in adoption. Studies of adopted children demonstrate the need to know one’s origins as integral in the development of identity and that hiding the information could cause confusion and low self-esteem. Disclosing in a loving and supportive environment is always best. On the side of nondisclosure, it can prevent social and psychological turmoil and can protect the outside world from knowing about the fertility issues the parents experienced.

      Resolve: The National Infertility Network, is an organization with the only established, nationwide network mandated to promote reproductive health and to ensure equal access to family building options for men and women. Resolve also believes it is in the best interest of both children and families to be open about the use of a donor in conception. The reasons that support disclosure as identified by Resolve include: secrets are damaging, secrets do not always stay secrets, children often sense secrets, those who do assume something is wrong and assume it is about them. In regard to not disclosing, issues identified include your child questioning their attachment to you, your parenting abilities or your fertility issues could be disclosed on a broader level.

      In regard to disclosure, research suggests that those who disclose to their offspring early experience less stress, were more at ease with the process, able to introduce the topic gradually and children are able to receive and process the information in a factual and non-emotional way. Those who learned later in life experienced resentment, mistrust, confusion about identity and more negative feelings about their conception.

      In making the decision whether to disclose, it is important to discuss your values, morals and any religious beliefs you and your partner have. It is in the best interest of both you and your child(ren) to read as much as you can about disclosure, utilizing resources both for your benefit as well as your child(ren). There are many books written for adults and children that can help guide and advise you in the best way to speak to your individual child(ren).

      Attached are the websites for ASRM, Resolve and the American Fertility Association, organizations that conduct research and are the forefront of reproductive issues.

      http://www.asrm.org

      http://www.resolve.org

      http://www.theafa.org/home

      Also are several books for parents and children addressing conception by donation.

      Parents:

      Building a Family with the Assistance of Donor Insemination. Daniels, Ken. Dunmore Press, 2004. For those considering or who have built their families through donor conception. Includes the experiences of families who formed this way, their journey and their issues associated with talking to children about the family’s donor origins.

      Everything Conceivable: How Assisted Reproduction Is Changing Men, Women, and the World. Mundy, Liza. Knopf Publishing 2007. An insightful and fascinating account of the world of assisted reproduction, including interviews with mothers, fathers, infertility doctors, surrogate mothers, egg donors, sperm donors, and adult children conceived through surrogacy and IVF.

      Children:

      Hope and Will Have a Baby: The Gift of Sperm Donation. Celcer, Irene. Illustrated by Horacio Gatto. Graphite Press, 2007. The story of how mom and dad met, fell in love, and built a family with the help of donor sperm. (ages 3-6)

      Let Me Explain: A Story about Donor Insemination. Schnitter, Jane T. Perspectives Press, 1995. This lovely and warm book explains donor insemination from the perspective of a young girl with heterosexual parents; she is matter-of-fact about her conception by DI and her close connection to her dad. (ages 6-10)

      Mommy, Did I Grow in Your Tummy? Where Some Babies Come From. Gordon, Elaine R. Greenburg Press, 1992. Explains infertility, IVF, and alternate ways to become a family, including donor gametes and surrogacy. Nicely illustrated. Heterosexual focus. (ages 4 and up)

      Before you were born: our wish for a baby. Grimes, Janice Webster, Iowa : X, Y, and Me, 2004. A bear boy asks his father about his wish for a baby and the description of using a donor for “special cells” that daddy did not have.(ages 3-5)

      TELLING & TALKING’ BOOKS & VIDEOS
      Produced by the UK Donor Conception Network (DCN)

      A set of unique resources for current or prospective parents of donor conceived children, their families & friends, as well as for the professionals who support them.

      And an annotated bibliography on assisted reproduction for parents and children:

      http://www.reproductivefacts.org/uploadedFiles/ASRM_Content/About_Us/Specialty_Societies/Professional_Groups/MHPG/MHPG_Patient_Resources/FINAL_MHPG_Annotated_Bibliography_For_Children_and_Parents_of_Assisted_Reproduction_PDF.pdf

      Kristen Mulheren Levitt, MS, LCSW, Infertility Counselor for the Reproductive Science Center of New Jersey

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