Planning Ahead: Options and Implications of Anonymous vs. Known Egg Donation

My name is Janine Oakman, and I am a facilitator working with infertile couples, singles and same-sex couples to find the best possible solution to meet their needs. A facilitator’s role is to provide the clinic options available, their costs, what each is able to offer, their success rates and hopefully match Intended Parents with the right clinic for them. It often also means I am a researcher, hand-holder and sounding board through this very emotional journey.

When Intended Parents (IP’s) contact me to help them locate an Egg Donor, they’re most often hoping I’ll help them find an affordable clinic, without a lengthy waiting list and a donor database large enough to match the requirements they have for a donor.  Generally, those requirements are based on matching the recipient’s own physical appearance, or family ethnicity, as closely as possible.

My role is to provide the best possible options of clinics that can meet their needs and from that list the IP’s can then make their decision. While the selection of donors is important, the costs of the cycle and success rate of the clinic are often paramount.

However, there is a further and equally important consideration that many don’t think of this early in the process – and that is taking the time to envision the future implications for both yourself and your child.  Will your child want to know about their genetic history?  What do you intend to tell your chid about the circumstances surrounding their conception? Will there be medical questions that you cannot answer further down the line?  And this involves deciding at the very start whether the IPs want to work with a known vs anonymous donor.

Working with an Anonymous Donor

When looking for high success rates and large databases, popular destinations abroad for ED (Egg Donor) IVF include Spain, Cyprus and the Czech Republic among others. Success rates at these clinics can range from 50-75% and cycle costs start at 4,500 Euro ($5,660 USD app). While the costs are affordable for many, these countries have legal restrictions preventing the donor from being identified. You can request your donor preferences, but the most information you are entitled to will be her height, weight, age and coloring- sometimes the clinic will also provide her area of study or profession – but due to their laws, which stipulate donor anonymity – you will not get more background than this.

Of my IP’s that chose to proceed with an anonymous donor, some felt that coming to terms with using donor eggs had been a difficult enough process and choosing or knowing the donor’s details either added to their stress or was not a priority for them.

From one of my IP’s:

“I just want to come home and have a positive result after the stress, money, and worry.”

And:

“We are not concerned about knowing the donor, as I think it would be judging her face and not really getting to know her, or her genetic history…. as they are tested for diseases, I don’t really care”.

For others there may be family, religious or social reasons for not wishing to disclose that an egg donor was used and they do not plan to tell their child about the circumstances of their conception.

Equally there are the IP’s that are comfortable with using an unknown donor but plan to be open with their child and raise him/her with the knowledge that there was a third party. However, should the child want to know the details of who their donor was, this won’t be possible under current laws.  So you are limiting future options by choosing a country that legally requires donor anonymity.

Working with a Known Donor

Working with a known donor usually allows the IPs to see photographs, possibly full profiles of family history including medical history, character traits, etc., some clinics will also supply her full name.  Known donors are available in several countries including USA, India (from $4,000 USD), South Africa and Georgia ( both approximately $8,500 USD). There are also some excellent donor agencies who offer known donors and additionally some that permit their known donors to travel to the IP’s clinic of choice when legally permitted.

A known donor means that you have the choice over who you decide to proceed with. Your decision can be made from reviewing her profile and photographs. It may be that she resembles your family or some characteristic draws you to her over another donor. While there has been much in the popular press suggesting that people want ‘Designer Babies’, I’ve found this is rarely the case. IP’s want a say in whose genes their baby will have and often the first priority is that the donor bears a resemblance to their family. Her likes, personality, hobbies, profession, family history and donor history are also requested. Additionally, even if they have not decided ‘when or if ‘ they will divulge the details of conception to their child, having the details available, should they be needed, means that they, or the child, can decide when the time comes.

One of my IP’s commented: “I have recently concluded that using an anonymous donor programme isn’t for me even if it means we never get to have children!  I feel strongly the child has a right to know where half of their genes came from“.

And another: “I would have gone down the anonymous route but when I was looking at the donors myself I found it very very hard to find any that looked liked me….I didn’t really want to wait months to start this procedure-I feel like I’ve waited a long time already…. its just such a big thing and getting it right regarding choosing the right donor”.

Interestingly, Ms. Casey from The Centre for Family Research, Cambridge University, UK, regarding their 2008 study: “at the time of the child’s seventh birthday, only 39% of egg donation parents, 29% of donor insemination parents, and 89% of surrogacy parents had told their children about the nature of their conception. This is markedly less than the proportion of parents who, when their child was one year old, reported that they planned to disclose this information — 56%, 46% and 100% of egg donation, donor insemination and surrogacy parents respectively,” she said. (Source)

There are not yet many available studies on children born via egg donation, but we can possibly compare the effect felt by now adults conceived via anonymous sperm donors. Keeping an eye on websites such as ‘The Donor Sibling Registry’ – where people can list their sperm and egg donors and connect with other genetic offspring – may help us to understand possible future issues with donor-conceived children, their need to know their genetic roots, and therefore to plan in advance.

The miracle of Assisted Reproduction allows so many of us to become parents through donor eggs, but with so much focus on achieving a successful pregnancy, we also have to take the time to seriously consider what we intend to tell our children and the future rights of the children we are bringing into the world.

Janine Oakman
International Patient Coordinator
 
 

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