One of the things that those considering using donor eggs may wonder about is whether any child born from those eggs will have their DNA. Every embryo will contain DNA from both the egg and the sperm in equal amounts, so any embryo made from the donor egg will contain the egg donor’s DNA. If this embryo was made from sperm from you or your partner, it will also contain that DNA.
Some of what is being asked here is, of course, what may it mean if your DNA is not part of the embryo (and your child’s) makeup? This is something that many may wrestle with as they navigate this journey. And understandably so — it’s complicated!
Concerns about connection
It can be natural to worry about raising a child that does not necessarily share your DNA. For years you may have dreamed about having “mini-me,” who everybody would know immediately was yours. And you’re not sure you can think of them as yours without this connection. This is a very valid concern, and one that so many intended parents face.
It may take a little time, but it is possible to overcome concerns about lacking a genetic connection. A 2014 Reproductive BioMedicine Online study shows that once the child is born, for many parents, concerns about genetics fade away. On the other hand, belief in the importance of parenting increases. This is what you hear of as “nurture” vs “nature.”
The idea of conceiving via donor egg may take some getting used to. But, it doesn’t necessarily impact how you and your child will interact. A 2007 Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology survey of women pregnant with donor-conceived babies showed that 80% of mothers had some concerns about not being genetically related to the child during pregnancy; however, that feeling dissipated after giving birth. For most mothers, having a donor-conceived child did not ultimately influence the relationship they had with their child. The concerns are real and very common. But take heart in the fact that others who were in your shoes are happily parenting children who got their start from donor eggs.
Strategies for embracing donor eggs
While conceiving via donor egg may initially be daunting, it is very possible to successfully navigate this. As the American Journal of Psychology discusses, there are some strategies that have helped other donor recipient parents successfully embrace their roles as parents:
Understanding the role that epigenetics plays in development
While the egg donor contributes 50% of the DNA to the genetic makeup of the child, research discussed in a 2014 Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology article shows that it is actually the birth mother or surrogate who determines which of these genes get turned on or off. Things like maternal diet, stress during pregnancy and smoking can all make a difference in what genes get expressed.
Leaning into the decision-making process about the type of egg donor to use
If the donor is part of the extended family, focus on the fact that there will be a genetic connection and possibly a future relationship between your egg donor and child. If this is an anonymous egg donor, you may feel good about the fact that there will be no outside relationship.
Emphasizing the importance of having carried the child during pregnancy
With this approach, you can focus on the fact that it was your body that supported your baby through the developmental process. Your body made it possible for your child to be born.
Thinking about the fact that there are all kinds of families
In a blended family, someone may feel closer to a step-sibling who’s nearer in age or more similar in personality than to a genetic one. Think about friends, in-laws, or step family in your life who you have strong ties to. As you know, biology is only one part of what makes a family.
Connecting with the baby
For most intended parents who use a donor egg, a strong bond with their baby begins in the womb or at birth, and helps them to feel a closeness, even without a genetic tie.
Embracing how wanted the child is
Focus on how much you have been through, how hard you worked to have this child and how irreplaceable this baby is. You may view this as meant to be, looking at all the steps that had to align for this specific child to be yours.
Emphasizing the importance of nurture
Think about how your parenting will influence your child. Knowing how important “nurture” is in the development of children, you can focus on how your parenting will shape who your child becomes. Perhaps, they will have certain mannerisms they have picked up from you or personality qualities that your parenting style may have influenced.
Thinking of egg donation akin to other types of donated tissue
This strategy looks at this as part of a medical procedure like an organ donation. With this approach, you may also consider the fact that the egg donor is just offering a very small amount of tissue as part of the process.
Summing it up
The donor egg selection process itself can make a difference here. The more you know about the donor, the better you can feel about her being the right choice for your family.
Hopefully, all of these strategies can help you feel comfortable with using a donor egg if that’s the path you choose. Not having DNA in common by no means lessens the parent-child relationship that you will develop. You will still be an amazing parent.