Is it Fair to Go Back Into Fertility Treatment After Adopting

Dawn Davenport


Is it fair to Your Adopted Child to go Back into infertility treatment?

Advances in fertility treatment and changes in adoption have led many adoptive parents to think about trying IVF, donor eggs, or embryo donation for their next child. Is this fair to their adopted child?

Guilt and worry, to some extent, are simply a part of parenting, right along with circles under the eyes and using spit to clean chocolate off of faces. But there is guilt, and then there is GUILT. I’ve been hearing a lot of the heavy-duty guilt lately from adoptive parents who are trying to decide if they should go back into fertility treatment for their second or third child after having adopted their first. To put it mildly, there is a lot to consider before making this decision, but few resources to help.

Many adoptive parents feel as if they are being disloyal to their adopted child—as if somehow he, or the way he joined the family, isn’t good enough. They worry that having a sibling born into the family will put an psychological burden on their child adopted into the family. They also fear judgment from the adoption world because for so long “the rule” was that you must be completely finished with infertility treatment before you adopt. Period. But modern medicine and shifts in adoption have muddied the water for making this decision.

Why Not Adopt Again

There are as many reasons why someone would consider going back to infertility treatment rather than adopt again as there are people considering it. Here are just a few that I’ve heard:

  • Medical advances have increased their chances of success with infertility treatment.
  •  “Treatments”, such as embryo donation (embryo adoption), are now more common and cost less than most adoption, other than foster care adoption.
  • The landscape of adoption has changed. International and domestic adoptions are not what they used to be.
  • The parents are older now and may be less likely to be chosen by birth families, so infertility treatment feels like a surer bet.
  • Egg donation is more common, may be less expensive, and has expanded the age that people can be successful with in vitro fertilization (IVF).
  • The grief over not being pregnant or having a genetic connection to your child has not gone away.

Fertility Treatment vs. Natural Pregnancy After Adopting

We’ve all heard of couples getting pregnant after adopting. In fact, we hear about it so often that you’d think that adoption should be offered as part of infertility treatment. The reality is that this doesn’t happen nearly as often as people think, we just hear about it every time it does. I’ve not seen any research on how the subsequent natural conception of a sibling affects an adopted child. Anecdotally, some adoptees and families handle it well and some don’t.  I wonder, however, if from a child’s standpoint it matters that their parents “accidentally” got pregnant vs. their parents actively seeking out infertility treatment in order to get pregnant. Something to think about when making this decision.

What’s the Right Thing to Do

Obviously, there is no one right answer for everyone; however, parents need to honestly assess how they think their unique child will feel about this situation. Each child’s temperament is different, and each child’s ability to handle this situation differs. You will need to weigh your reasons for wanting to have a child through fertility treatment against how you think your adopted child will feel. No child deserves to feel that they were wanted as a placeholder while their parents try for their “real” child.

If you decide to go for your second child through fertility treatment, consider the following tips.

Tips for Combining Children by Birth and Adoption

  1. Fill your child’s bookshelves with books not only about adoption, but also on all the ways families can be formed. The books are as much for the parents to get comfortable with talking about the topic as for the child to understand, so start reading them to your child before she is able to understand the concepts.
  2. Join in person and online support groups that include families where children joined the family in different ways. Most adoption support groups have families with kids from both birth and adoption. The Creating a Family Facebook Support Group does.
  3. How each family member joined the family should be a casual and easy topic of conversation in your family. Start when the kids are young so the parents get practice.
  4. The family attitude, which comes from the parents, is that differences are not just accepted, they are embraced. Look for children’s books that focus on diversity of talents, looks, tastes, etc.

Have you thought about going back into infertility treatment or are you glad that chapter in your life is closed? Do you worry how this decision will affect your adopted child?

Image credit:  Spamily

24/07/2013 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 15 Comments

15 Responses to Is it Fair to Go Back Into Fertility Treatment After Adopting

  1. Avatar Melc says:

    it can be such a tough decision. We have our baby through a double donor program and because of this we can’t give him bio. Siblings. I thought briefly about going back to IUIs with the sperm donor that was used so that he could have the connection with his sibling and if it took it would be a much cheaper route but then I worry about it taking and that child being biologically connected to me and maybe that upsetting my son. I’m pretty sure we will end up going the double donor route again but its not an easy decision and I get why people end up switching routes when it’s time for baby #2, 3 and so on.

  2. Embryo Adoption Awareness Embryo Adoption Awareness says:

    Yes, indeed, Embryo Donation and Adoption does draw people because the cost is lower than both adoption and donor egg IVF. For couples who are already adoption-minded and truly desire to carry a pregnancy, when they begin realizing that they need someone else’s eggs or sperm to achieve pregnancy the “leap” from adoption to embryo donation and adoption is much smaller.

  3. Avatar Maria says:

    We’ve definitely considered ART post-adoption and decided against it, but not because our son is adopted. Adoption is talked about freely in our home even though our son is 2. Just the other day he said randomly, “TWO Mamas, TWO Dadas!” We also talk about how his cousins came to be in their respective families…biologically, step, etc. If there was some guilt, I’d probably work first in me and remind myself that types of families is a super casual topic in our home, and he’d probably have questions, but we can offer answers. 🙂

  4. Embryo Adoption Awareness Embryo Adoption Awareness says:

    Yes indeed. We have many many stories of families who choose embryo donation for family building after a successful adoption. So many people still want to have the opportunity to experience pregnancy.

  5. The Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program has a lovely story about an adopting family who is caucasian, they adopted their first child domestically, and he is African American. When they turned to Embryo Adoption for their next attempt at family building they requested African American embryos so their children would share their genetic heritage.

  6. Sue Taylor Sue Taylor says:

    Yes, I do see it happen – and I think your comments were spot on about it needing to be decided based on what is right for each family and ALL members.

    I think that like anything that may raise questions/concerns for adoptees, parents need to prepare for the questions/concerns and address them head on and with ongoing open discussion. There are a lot of things parents can do to prepare the child(ren) for new family members regardless of how they came into the family. The services of a counselor that specializes in family building (adoption and third party reproduction) would likely be a very valuable investment as part of the preparation and decision making.

    It saddens me to see judgment on families who make the choices to consider ART after adoption; people putting them in the position of feeling like they need to defend their choice is pretty awful. All of these are all equally beautiful and wonderful ways to build a family, and all of those options are typically chosen with great deliberation and thought and should be respected.

  7. Sue Taylor Sue Taylor says:

    Dawn, I would highly suggest that you consider adding this book to your list – it is perfect for families who have bio, adopted and donor egg/embryo children all in the same family! Birds of a Different Feather My daughter calls it the “bird book” and has made it part of her favorite naptime book list. Kelley Wendel

  8. Avatar randi says:

    Thank you Dawn for posting this. It’s like a dirty little secret. Sue is right-“It saddens me to see judgment on families who make the choices to consider ART after adoption; people putting them in the position of feeling like they need to defend their choice is pretty awful. ” That is how we feel and you said it right when you said it’s as if we are dishonoring our kids and adoption by even considering another way of adding to our family. We don’t know what we’ll do, but I feel less embarrassed now so Thanks.

  9. Avatar Geochick says:

    What timing on this post! We went back to testing, and visited the best RE in our area to do it. While we aren’t pursuing treamtents and are sticking with adoption for our second child, it drives home the point to never say never. I said never, and I found myself in the stirrups once again looking for answers.

  10. Embryo Adoption Awareness, actually embryo donation and egg donation are the two infertility “treatments” I most often hear people talk about trying after they adopt. Do you hear that as well?

  11. Sue, we will certainly add it to the list. Any thoughts on going back into fertility treatment after adopting? I know you’ve probably seen it happen in your work.

  12. Embryo Adoption Awareness, I think with embryo donation, the low cost compared to adoption is a big draw. Again, just from what I hear, people who have already been involved with infertility treatment in their past are less intimidated with the idea of using donated embryos than someone coming to it totally “new”.

  13. Avatar Infertility Treatment Miss says:

    Your post is good. I’ve never thought of these points before and had always thought that if we adopt, we’d still try treatment again. I need to give this some more thought…

  14. Avatar Yoka says:

    We had just finshed the home study for our second adoption and decided to give IVF with donor eggs one last shot. It was our sixth time of doing IVF. Finally the lucky try. We have seven months old twins from that cycle and couldn’t be happier. Our first daughter is an amazing big sister and loves the babies so much.

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