Donor Conception – Do you Tell your Child?

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donor conception

In my practice, I see more and more clients who struggle with infertility. Many have tried intra-uterine inseminations, or in-vitro fertilizations, using their own gametes, but to no avail and are considering donor conception.

It is no secret that the emotional affects of infertility are profound. Research has shown that the psychological stress experienced by women with infertility is similar to that of women coping with illnesses like cancer, HIV, and chronic pain. 

While researchers once thought that stress contributed to infertility, more recent studies do not make this connection.  

On their journey toward parenthood, clients are increasingly seeking out donors…whether they need sperm, or eggs, or embryos. This process is becoming more common practice in the fertility field. 

Much of the work that I do is focused on couples who are already involved with fertility clinics.

Most fertility clinics require couples considering third party donations to seek counselling and consultation prior to any procedures taking place.

Although much of the consultation is centred on expectations around the procedure itself, there is also a lot of discussion about disclosure. Who does the couple plan to tell that their child was donor conceived? Do they plan to disclose at all? Will the child be told? What are the pros and cons of disclosure?

When the subject of disclosure is brought up, many couples admit that they never actually thought that far ahead. Others, from the get go, admit that they would be afraid to disclose, for the following reasons:

Fears of Disclosing Donor Conception

  • Worry about being rejected by their child and fear that their child seek their biological parent.
  • Fear of losing their child’s trust.
  • Fear of their child experiencing stigma associated with being donor-conceived.
  • Fear of confusion for their child. Having an anonymous donor may lead to unanswerable, plaguing questions.
  • Fear of being judged by loved ones and friends and a reluctance to disclose their struggles with infertility.
  • Feel threatened about being perceived as less of a parent to the child.

Although it is imperative to reinforce to couples that their fears and concerns are valid, therapists have an obligation to point out the benefits of disclosure. As with adoption, early disclosure is believed to be the best approach with donor conception.

Benefits of Disclosure of Donor Conception

1) Openness and honesty help build secure relationships.

2) Secrets can create a sense of mistrust and insecurity between family members.

3) By knowing their genetic roots, many donor-conceived children are able to build healthy and secure identities.

4) As genetics play a greater role in medicine and in assessing risks for inherited diseases, revealing the truth to donor-conceived children is considered a medical necessity.   

Parents often need guidance and advice and more intensive counselling to navigate this very sensitive topic. Although it is not the therapist’s role to tell their clients how to proceed, part of their job is to point out the facts, to provide the information, and help their clients weigh the pros and cons of their dilemmas. 

So, do children have a right to know if they were donor conceived? Regardless of cultural identity, do parents have an obligation to tell them? What are your thoughts on this very sensitive subject? 

Until next time,
Sari

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About Author

Sari Shaicovitch is a professional Social Worker and therapist whose calling is to spend her days helping clients with all sorts of issues. Sari's personal experiences and adventures in motherhood have helped her to find her professional voice. Follow Sari as she talks about the pleasures and pains of intimate relationships, the complexities of raising children, and discover insights into what it takes to make family life run smoothly. You can find Sari at sarishaicovitch.com or by email at sari.socialwork@rogers.com.

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