Egg and Sperm Donation: How Intended Parents Feel About Disclosure

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Disclosure is a funny thing. It’s the first time parents have to decide what’s in the best interest of their kids.

The problem is twofold:

1. It is very hard for a potential parent to wrap their brain around the disclosure issue because, typically, the parent must start thinking about the issue before the child is actually conceived. When raising a family created via egg donation or sperm donation, disclosure is the primary issue, but it is hard to devise a strategy when you haven’t even conceived yet and haven’t met your child. I can’t tell you how many times I have discussed this with patients who experience pain in even considering plans for a child they may never have. If only we could guarantee the intended parents would be able to have the disclosure discussion at sometime in their lives with their children, they would be happy to endure anything. However, as mental health professionals, we can not make these guarantees, but we still ask intended parents to entertain these thoughts and consider making these decisions.
2. The second issue is that an intended parent has to make a decision about disclosure that — while it feels like what might be in the best interest of their “hoped for” child — might not feel like it is in the best interest of the parent. When considering disclosure, a parent’s first consideration is the child, but they must also consider how much they want to disclose to friends, family or acquaintances. When investigating how people feel about disclosure to others such as friends and family, we often find a major factor is where the intended parents are in the process when asked. When intended parents were asked about disclosure to others at two times — before conception and after birth — interestingly, the same people had different responses. When asked after birth whether they would change their disclosures to others, an overwhelming number — 60 percent — reported that they wished they had NOT shared their intention to use egg or sperm donation to others.

So it seems that the birth of the child has a profound effect on this issue of disclosure. And why shouldn’t it? Birth has a profound effect on parents in general, especially first time parents, so it would naturally have an impact on their thoughts about disclosure. As I think most of us will agree, how one feels about the issue of disclosure, will change over time depending on what stage the family is in.

Be prepared for the roller coaster!!







pascale

Claudia Pascale, Ph.D.Claudia Pascale, Ph.D., has been the Director of Psychological and Support Services at the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, NJ, for the past 10 years. As a psychologist and member of the treatment team at IRMS she helps patients and their families’ deal with the struggles of infertility; provides evaluations for donors and gestational carriers; and participates and oversees a myriad of educational services designed to help patients cope with the emotional, psychological and ethical dilemma’s of infertility.

Dr. Pascale received her Ph.D. in Counseling from Fordham University and her Behavioral Medicine training from Harvard Medical School’s Mind/Body Institute under Dr. Herbert Benson and Dr. Ali Domar. She is trained in cognitive behavioral psychotherapy specializing in the psychological aspects of health related issues with a concentration in infertility and women’s health.

Comments

  1. Is it psychologically easier on most children know they were donor conceived, or is it also acceptable for them to never know? If you reccomend they know, around what age is it best to tell them?

    We wouldnt want relatives and everyone elso to know, which makes telling the child difficult, since they would probably tell others.

    • Cindy Lucus says:

      Hi Emily-
      I think this question may be best answered by our psychologist who happens to not be here today.
      I know the position of the mental health community is that it is better to disclose to a donor-conceived child.
      Also with the mapping of the human genome and people’s ability to know everything about their genetic origins it’s somewhat of a false belief that the information can be kept
      from a child born via donor gametes. The mental health community also believes in sharing the information over time and recommends getting to full disclosure sooner rather than later.
      Could be as early as age 5 or 7. There is no “right” answer as to age. They believe if it’s always a part of the child’s reality it something they’ve always known. Not kept as big secret and disclosed all at once.
      I hope this helps and please feel free to reach out again.

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