Medhealth Review

Emotional blocks in donor conception

So, you want to find a donor who possesses qualities you see in yourself, or perhaps even better?  That makes sense. Angelina Jolie adopted children before she had a genetically related child, but most people choose to have genetically related children first. It’s certainly natural to want children who will be connected to you and the people you love.

If you are part of a same sex couple, a heterosexual couple with infertility issues, or a single parent-to-be, it’s reasonable to feel sad about not being able to conceive with your own genetics.  The thought of not having genetically related children upsets some people more than others.  If you are able to seamlessly make this decision, you are fortunate, but for most, the concept is difficult to digest and may affect how you choose a donor.

When individuals and couples look at a picture of a donor it’s common to hear, “he looks like me when I was little” or “I was also athletic when I was a child”.  It’s natural to want to replace yourself or choose characteristics you wish you possessed. With this in mind, it’s understandable why so many people look for a donor with the perfect SAT scores or who has movie star looks. 

Yet, these choices are often driven by emotion.  I would not suggest that you disregard your desire to feel some connection with the donor.  A connection is important. You want to say nice things about your donor to your child, you want to feel good about your donor, and your child may meet your donor one day, so that makes sense.  However, it also makes sense to be practical. So, let’s look at that first.

It is not possible to choose temperament, as any parent will tell you, and extreme intellect is not necessarily heritable either. Think about Bill Clinton and his brother, or the two princes of England. They are very different from each other in many ways.  When you choose a donor, you may be getting your donor’s mother’s dimples or father’s musical talent.  It’s important to remember that you are not choosing your donor, you are choosing their genetic family tree.

This can be a difficult fact to accept.  Having children is such an intimate experience and choosing a stranger to provide the genetics for your future child can feel uncomfortable.  As a result, people often reflexively choose someone whose profile makes them feel more comfortable.

Accepting this is important, but where does that leave you? Why not choose the traits you have some control over first? Your clinic will ask you to see a genetic counselor to ensure that if you are a carrier for a certain difficulty, your donor is not a carrier for the same difficulty.  They do not want you to replicate that risk for your future child.  Then the clinic will leave you to choose a donor of your choice. Why not begin your search with the same strategy of not replicating health issues?

Your donor will be young and healthy. But what about his family? Medical history is more tangible than temperament or IQ.  Everyone has some difficulty in their family.  It’s rare for everyone in a family to die from old age. People usually die from cancer or heart disease, for example.  What about your donor? What did his grandparents die from?  If you have colon cancer in your family and your donor’s grandfather died from colon cancer, maybe that is not the right donor for you.  Perhaps it would be better for you to choose a donor whose grandfather died of heart disease (or old age).  

After looking at serious medical issues, you can move to less serious medical issues that you may not want to replicate. For example, maybe you wear glasses and want your child to have good eyesight.  Look at the donor’s family tree. Do many of his family members wear glasses?  What about asthma or allergies?

After reviewing medical issues, you can consider the more emotionally driven issues, such as cultural background or looks.  However, remember, you are choosing a genetic pool so if you like that your donor is tall, but everyone in his family is short, you are more likely to get the short genes.

Always remember that you are your child’s parent.  There is no question about that.  But your child’s genetics will be connected to people outside of your genetic family.  In the age of the internet, your child may be able to find valuable information about his or her genetics with the click of a mouse.  However, since you have the opportunity to choose a donor who may not replicate the same difficulties you have in your family tree, why not try to choose a donor who’s genetic pool does not include those issues? 

Once you have thought through your decision with health as your priority, then everything else is gravy. If you decide you want to choose an athletic donor because people in your family love sports, or you choose an Italian donor because you want to keep the Italian culture in your family going, then do so and embrace it! You will then choose the traits you like and give yourself the best chance of having a healthy child. Ciao!

By Lisa Schuman, LCSW and Mark Leondires, MD

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