Egg & Sperm Donation-Only 1 Parent Genetically Related?

Dawn Davenport


I’ve been blogging on infertility issues for quite some time now, and while I often see a unique take on an issue, it is seldom that I hear a brand new topic. That changed a couple of weeks ago with a comment on “Will You Tell Family & Friends You Used Egg Or Sperm Donation“. I’m kind of embarrassed to say that I hadn’t thought about this issue before. I’m still mulling it over, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Egg Donation/Sperm Donation: Problems when only one parent is genetically related?

When using either donor egg or donor sperm, is it better for neither parent to be genetically related to the child vs. only one parent having a genetic connection. What is best for the child?

If Not One, Then Neither

Someone had commented that he and his wife had agreed that if only one of them could be genetically related to their child, they would go with an infertility treatment option in which neither of them would be related. Specifically, if they had to use donor sperm in order to conceive via in vitro fertilization, they would use both donor egg and donor sperm so that they would both have an equal genetic connection (or lack thereof) to the child.

I have heard this before. In fact, when I consult with couples considering either egg donation or sperm donation with IVF, I encourage them to think about and discuss the issue that one of them would have a genetic connection while the other would not. This is neither bad nor good, but worthy of discussion when the option of egg or sperm donation is being considered. After this discussion some couples opt for using both donated egg and sperm to “equal things out”, while others go with only one donated gamete, but with an awareness of potential potholes (or puddles) of non-shared genetics.

What’s Best for the Child?

In the discussion in the comments to the blog on telling friends and family that your child was conceived with donor egg or sperm, an adult adoptee suggested that deciding for neither of the parents to have a genetic connection if one could not, may not be in the best interest of the child.

Perhaps the conversation I’m envisaging is thus:

Parent: Now dear, you were conceived by donor egg and sperm.

Child: Were both of you infertile?

P: No, only dad was but we didn’t think it was fair on you if one of us was biologically related and one wasn’t, so we decided to do it so that none of us was biologically related.

C: I see. So you mean instead of me not knowing half of my biological, I now know none of it – I can see how that is fair on me. Do I get to find out anything about my biological roots?

P: Well we have some information but the donations were anonymous so you’ll never really know anything about your biological roots. But we did it for you.

Can you perhaps see why a child might be skeptical that it was done for them?

Hummm, food for thought to be sure. I understand that only one parent being biologically related to the child could pose a problem for some couples. Parents for whom biology is very important might feel an imbalance in their relationship to the child. While this feeling is not in the best interest of the child, the commenter has a point that it is a decision being made fundamentally for the parent, not the child.

I preach all the time that our first thought in all decisions in family building should be what is in the best interest of the child. Not sure how to think on this one. I’d love your feedback while I ponder. 


Image credit:  Tampa Band Photos

19/11/2013 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 43 Comments

43 Responses to Egg & Sperm Donation-Only 1 Parent Genetically Related?

  1. Avatar A Jones says:

    After 10 ivf rounds and 4 IUI we have finally decided to go through egg donor. But we have some questions. As the person donating can not donate eggs to the same clinic they can however donate to other clinics. So what are the chances of having other children looking exactly the same? You know how some kids look like a copy paste of there Mum, well what if mine was to be like that and we walk down the street and see another child that looks exactly the same. It concerns me as at the moment we don’t know how we feel about others knowing we are going down the donor road. Also we live in a very small town in a small island where people love to gossip and everyone knows everyone. Just so many strange questions going through in my mind i am so confused!

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      You can get donated eggs from the clinic or from an egg donation agency or a frozen egg bank. With the issues you are concerned about ou might look into an egg donor agency or bank. You can usually specify that the donor not be in your geographic area.

  2. Avatar Fertilitynewyork says:

    Interesting information I got from this post. Thanks for sharing it here.

  3. Avatar Marilynn No says:

    marna – I’m wondering why your organization would refer to the woman that is biologically related to the born child as genetic mother and not biological because there would be no part of that born person’s biology connected to anyone but her. There is no part of ones genes that are not part of one’s biology. Why make this distinction if nobody else is able to claim to be the bio mother but her – I mean even according to the ASRM it would be inaccurate to refer to the woman gestating as the bio mother because there is no shared biology between the born individual and the woman that gave birth. Is it just touchy so you don’t want anyone to use it? You don’t refer to gestational carriers as bio mothers do you as that would be spreading false information and your a pretty well known organization, I’d think you’d have to stick to facts grounded in science and medicine.

  4. Avatar marilynn says:

    “Catherine Tucker, on November 20th, 2013 at 9:30 am Said:
    The issue I have with the above scenario is that mom *is* biologically related to the child (I’m assuming they did not use a surrogate). Therefore, the child does know 1/3 of his biological origins. ”

    Catherine please visit the American Society of Reproductive Medicine for information on biological motherhood.

    “Biological Mother
    The woman from whose ovum a child developed and who is therefore genetically related to that child. ”

    “The recipient will not be biologically related to the child, although she will be the birth mother on record.”
    We all know that a pregnant woman is just a pregnant woman or at best is referred to as an expectant mother. Motherhood does not begin until there is a born child to be the mother of. Same with fatherhood and parenthood in general it all begins once a child is born and that cord is cut and there is a person existing to have that parent child relationship with. So a person with biological offspring is a biological parent. A person has to physically reproduce to be a biological parent – that is to say half a person’s biology came from their biological mother and the other half from their biological father. Those people’s relatives are their maternal and paternal relatives.

    A woman who carries another woman’s pregnancy is not at all biologically related to the child she delivers. They don’t share any blood and she does not alter the cells or genes of the child she carries unless through illness or stress she damages the developing fetus somehow. Her motherhood would be obtained through child rearing socially. She’d also be the legal birth mother of record. Generally birth mothers are assumed to be biologically related but if given a maternity test this can be proven false. The State Department refers to it as maternity fraud in cases of births abroad when the mother of the child is a foreign egg donor.

    This belief that a woman who gestates another woman’s pregnancy is either the biological mother or one of two biological mothers is incorrect and I believe this is misinformation is rampant and deliberately fed to infertile women to get them to buy into the idea of raising another woman’s offspring. It is not fair to infertile women to let them believe this type of lie. It’s really quite predatory on the part of the fertility industry.

  5. Avatar Greg says:


    I wasn’t implying that you were unsympathetic if that’s what you thought. You’re a good intentioned person. I just think our disagreements are a matter of us coming from different places. I respect that place that you come from and don’t take offense at all. You know me I don’t think your perspective should ever be ignored. I want to learn from it.

    Best wishes to you and your family during this holiday season.

  6. Avatar c says:


    “It’s funny you talk about responsibility in family building because the topic came up on another blog I found. The thing is the infertility journey takes so much out of couples to just become parents that it’s very easy to forget that their baby will one day become an adult and there will be questions and conversations the parents will have with the child that will shape the person they become. I’m not trying to defend some parents actions that are questionable, I am just trying to help you and others recognize where infertile couples are coming from and what might lead them to do the things they do”

    Hi Greg. Despite what you think, I do understand. I’ve been on forums for years now and I do understand that many of the newbies that come on the forums to post are just all excited about the chance to “build their family” so when they sometimes inadvertantly “cross the line”, then other members usually gently and kindly remind them that there are other people involved and they usually appreciate it. I will say that there are times that things are best said by fellow APs, especially when more established members cross the line, because the adoptee/bmother view will be ignored even if it is exactly the same as the views of fellow APs.

  7. Avatar Greg says:

    Divorce separates families there is no other way to argue it. One parent will get main custody and raise the children while the other parent has visitation rights. These are things couples should think about when they have children and them get divorced how they severe families. Rarely are divorces civil between parents most of the time they selfishly use their children against their spouse. There are many cases where divorced parents severe ties with their children. No one looks to the way divorce parents behave is a model for any set of parents to behave. Do you all see how I can take the logic that is being used with regards to family separation in donor conception and how the same thing happens in divorce?


    I am with you (yay we agree on something) on the anonymity. I think there has to be a way for a child to contact their donor at some point if they wish. It should not require the work that it does. I am not sure if in your country you have MTV and have the ability to watch their shows but there is a new show called “Generation Cryo” about a group of donor conceived children trying to find their sperm donor. I watched the first episode today and was really sucked into the emotion from all angles. I feel bad for these kids and hope they do find their sperm donor.

  8. Avatar c says:

    I am with you (yay we agree on something) on the anonymity. I think there has to be a way for a child to contact their donor at some point if they wish. It should not require the work that it does. I am not sure if in your country you have MTV and have the ability to watch their shows but there is a new show called “Generation Cryo” about a group of donor conceived children trying to find their sperm donor. I watched the first episode today and was really sucked into the emotion from all angles. I feel bad for these kids and hope they do find their sperm donor.”

    Thanks, Greg, it is good to see that we can agree on something. In fact, I have noticed that from previous posts that you understand that there does need to be responsibility in family-building. Really, that is all I’ve ever been asking, that people be responsible in their family-building.

    Also, one tends to get jaded after years of being on forums and reading blogs written by prospective adoptive parents and feeling like an object rather than a person. I understand that it is not deliberate but even so it can become a bit soul-destroying after a while to realize that one is not the most important part of an adoption.

    We do have MTV out here so I will watch out for that show, thanks.

  9. Avatar Greg says:


    It’s funny you talk about responsibility in family building because the topic came up on another blog I found. The thing is the infertility journey takes so much out of couples to just become parents that it’s very easy to forget that their baby will one day become an adult and there will be questions and conversations the parents will have with the child that will shape the person they become. I’m not trying to defend some parents actions that are questionable, I am just trying to help you and others recognize where infertile couples are coming from and what might lead them to do the things they do.

    I desire to become a parent to raise a child with my wife from their infancy to an adult. I would hope we were able to create an open comfortable encouraging environment that helped them become a well adjusted productive confident member of society as an adult. I would also want them as an adult that my wife and I are always there to support them when they need us to be. It takes a lot of work once infertile couples become parents but when you add that on top of what it takes to become parents it is very overwhelming which makes it easy to forget the parenting part of the picture which is most important in the big picture.

  10. Avatar marilynn says:

    When someone is raised separately from their maternal or paternal relatives it means they were separated from their family physically, socially and probably legally as well. The parents cause the family to separate by being absent and not fulfilling their parental responsibilities. Others may influence the parents to separate the family for their own reasons, they may even underwrite the abdication of parental responsibility for their own personal reasons. Cause and influence are two different animals, the guy who yells shoot and the guy who buys the bullets are culpable, though not to the same extent as the guy who pulled the trigger.

    Donor offspring often look to divorce as the model for how their parents should have behaved and how the law should treat their situation like any other person whose parents are living separate – their spouses should be step parents and both parents should have to maintain their parental responsibilities in the child’s best interests get along even if not under one roof, work together to ensure the child grows up with equal time with both parents and their families. Why don’t donor offspring have the benefit of that kind of logic why don’t the laws of child support and child custody apply to them as well. People who divorce don’t cost their children or their relatives legal kinship and people that divorce don’t deprive their child of the physical and financial support of the non custodial parent either. So while divorce separates the spouses legally it does not separate the parents from the children legally and that is what is important here. Acts that legally separate people from their parents and bio parents are what is important here. You can sever your contractual ties to a spouse without severing your ties to your children.

  11. Avatar marilynn says:

    J you are in a good and unique position where the kid your raising as full unobstructed access and that is awesome. Your kid is unlikely to have anything to say about it that would be different behind your back than in front of your face.

    The only remaining issues are ones where the law does not recognize has legal kin in his bio family as well as the family he’s raised in. Adopted people have this same problem. At some point the laws should change so that everyone born has the exact same rights to accurate medical and vital records and full legally recognized kinship with their own relatives too.

    You are in a great position. Good for you. You should do as much talking as you can to encourage other people to make a real effort to be ethical in their handling of other people’s family relationships.

  12. Avatar c says:

    “Anonymous, in my experience some people are curious by nature and some are less curious, or simply more laid back and accepting. I don’t think it is a good or a bad thing, it’s just part of the wonderful mosaic that is human temperament. We parents need to be prepared to provide info regardless how curious our kids are.”

    Whether or not the child is curious, one needs to chose a course of action that takes into account both the curious and non-curious child.

    Thus choosing a totally anonymous donation, i.e. one where there is no hope of the child ever finding out who the donor is, is a selfish act by the parents – they certainly aren’t doing it for their child. At the very least, there should be the opportunity at age 18 for contact with the donors – if the child wants contact, then s/he can make contact; if s/he doesn’t want contact, then s/he doesn’t need to make contact.

    In fact, totally anonymous donations should be banned. There is no real argument against banning totally anonymity as the person making the donation is doing so totally willingly and not due to circumstances. Thus, if one wants to donate sperm or egg and one decides against it because of anonymity not being guaranteed, then that person doesn’t get to donate – simple as that. Does it mean fewer people will donate their egg or sperm? Maybe, maybe not – I still think there would be people willing to donate and who would be OK with the child contacting them after age 18. Even if it does reduce numbers, then that’s just too bad.

    Btw I did post the “anonymous” post – I just forgot to fill in my details.

  13. Avatar Greg says:


    While my wife and I have decided not to go in the donor sperm direction like you I would rather our child in that scenario have a curiosity that they felt comfortable enough to ask questions. It would tell me that we have created an open comfortable environment. For me I would worry if they weren’t asking questions as I would have concerns that they had issues they were uneasy about discussing. So I would definitely prefer having the scenario that you have with your son. It sounds like your friend was right that you’d make a great parent. 🙂

    Like you I don’t believe using donor gametes is “family separation”. If that is family separation then any time a married couple with children gets divorced a family is separated. And in most cases children whose parents are divorced are raised by one biological parent and if that parent remarries that spouse is a genetic stranger to the child. They may have visitation with that other biological parent but they are hardly being raised by them. Depending upon the relationship between divorced parents a child can be caught in the middle and have a whole set of emotional issues that arise. So if the argument is going to be made that adults using donor gametes are making the decision to separate families for their own selfish reasons, by using that logic I can easily make the argument that married couples making the decision to get divorced are separating families for their own selfish reasons. Let me be clear I don’t believe either is separating families just think if you are going to say one is separating families you have to say that the other is as well.

  14. Avatar J. says:

    I absolutely LOVE the intense curiosity of my donor-conceived child – it’s a trait that I share with him, even though we have no genetic connection to each other. I am delighted by how curious he is about everything in the world, his own origins included. I am thrilled to be able to provide him with answers to his questions, as well as ongoing open access to half of his genetics in the form of calls, emails, skype and visits. Our donor isn’t really separated from our family – he’s a part of it, just not in a parental role. So, I’m not sure that “family separation” has really occurred, and it doesn’t feel unethical to any one of us.

    Our donor specifically ASKED US if we would consider accepting his donation because he and his wife felt that we would be great parents, and we were deeply honored and thrilled to accept (we had been considering asking when he brought it up). There was no commercial transaction, just dear long-term friends offering help, and it being gratefully accepted. This is pretty much the definition of a gift, right? I love our kids’ origin story, and they seem to likewise feel very positive about it so far.

    I think that’s what really matters – that parents think about their future kids when they make decisions about how to build their family, and that they try to navigate the decisions in a conscientious way that is thoughtful of the fact that their future kid might have a variety of different temperaments and have their own opinions in the matter as well. I do however think that if the parents and the people who helped to contribute to the genetics of the child are all very positive, open with each other and excited about how the family building took place, that is a good place to start and increases the probability that future children also grow to feel excited and positive about their origins.

  15. Avatar marilynn says:

    Anonymous touches on something that is true in my experiences reuniting families. The trend *toward* openness and honesty telling people that one or both parents were gamete donors, is good because if information effects someone other than yourself, it is not yours to keep private – it belongs to whomever is impacted by it.

    Anonymous mentions that the goal in this trend toward telling seems to be to have the person grow up thinking that it is no big deal and that its just part of their personal story. The other goal seems to be that they would at most have curiosity but would not think of their biological relatives as being their family because they have not been raised up within their biological family.

    It’s a pretty tall order to ask a person to act like they don’t have a family of their own separate from the one they are being raised up in. If only just for the health and safety factors its important to know who your relatives are at least through first cousins – better if you can identify 2nd and 3rd as well though that gets more difficult.

    The bigger question is why are people being sequestered from their families at all? Why are their vital records allowed to be medically inaccurate? Why would anyone have the right to prevent them and their relatives from obtaining one another’s vital records and identifying information when that is a right we are all supposed to have?

    When it comes to getting someone to grow up thinking of all this as no big deal – thinking of not knowing their very own relatives and siblings possibly ever – telling early and often does work. I think that people just make the necessary adjustments to cope with an unpleasant situation the way people who work on a cattle ranch can’t smell the bs they’re standing knee deep in. They have to shut down the part of their brain that knows it stinks otherwise they could not get through the day.

  16. Avatar Anonymous says:

    **OR The scenario could like to go like this-
    Mom and Dad: hey honey I want to talk to you about something.

    Kid: Okay mom and dad would you want to talk about?

    Mom and Dad: you know when you were hearing grandma and I talk about my pregnancy with you and how you were born and you wondered what grandma meant by embryo donation?

    Kid: Yeah what about it.

    Mom and Dad going to this lengthy discussion about how they wanted to have a baby and couldn’t and that in this scenario mom had the egg issue and dad felt it was better if nobody was genetically related so they found embryos through an embryo donation program and that’s how their child was born.

    Kid: oh okay – that’s nice can I go to Rogers to go play now?**

    I suspect that is the scenario that many prefer – a child who asks no question and seems to just accept things as they are. Whether they do or not, it can often be hard to tell – are they just not interesting in knowing more or are they scared of knowing more? Whatever the case, it seems that curiosity in an adopted or donor conceived child is not a good thing – I’ve certainly found that out over the last 3 years of being on adoption forums.

    • Anonymous, in my experience some people are curious by nature and some are less curious, or simply more laid back and accepting. I don’t think it is a good or a bad thing, it’s just part of the wonderful mosaic that is human temperament. We parents need to be prepared to provide info regardless how curious our kids are.

  17. Avatar Greg says:


    You proved my point with your response. Your prospective of being an adoptee who went through infertility and was able to have a child is very different than a non adoptee who went through infertility and was unable to have a child. You had the option/ability to conceive and have a biological child, whereas myself and many others who utilize third party reproduction don’t. You were not there with me, you do not understand what I am going through. Just as I have no understanding of the perspective of couples going through infertility treatments or ones that have dealt with miscarriages. I only have the perspective of a man who is infertile with no cure of my infertility. There is no way to manage my condition.

    If by some miracle I was able to get my wife pregnant naturally my perspective would completely change because my circumstance changed same would be the case if I wasn’t born with a genetic condition. Let me be clear I am not trying to minimize your or anyone’s experience or say that you didn’t or still don’t hurt. Nor am I trying to stay my pain or others pain is greater than yours because you eventually were able to have a biological child. All I am saying is that our situations are different and cannot be compared to your situation and what ended up happening for you.

    While the concept of the fantasy loss of raising a biological child may seem silly to someone who was able to have a biological child, but for those who are unable to do so it’s devastating. Just as while a non adoptee may think that adoptees are silly for mourning the loss of being raised by their biological parents in reality it’s not silly at all. In both cases it shows that unless you have dealt with those circumstances you would not understand it. It’s important for us to recognize and not dismiss others perspectives. We also shouldn’t judge others when we don’t understand the circumstances those people have been dealt.

    Out of respect for Dawn and this discussion this is the last comment I will make to you on this off thread topic. I don’t want to take another blog piece out of control.

  18. Avatar Christi says:

    epigenetics – fascinating! And makes a lot of sense. Does this cross-post back to the blog? I wish I cold hide Marilynn’s comments. She makes my head and worse, my heart, hurt. A mother is a mother from the moment she finds out she is pregnant. Loving and nurturing starts early – not just when a baby is born. As a mother via adoption and biology, my love as a mother started when I felt the possibility of adoption was real. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t know her, that I wasn’t carrying her, that I wasn’t biologically connected. I’m also not illogical because I use my heart to make decisions and relate to the world of parenting. It’s not all science. It’s not all black and white. And babies are babies, whether they’re ‘born people’ or not.

  19. Avatar marilynn says:

    Yes but Greg when I was there I was really there just as you are. Imagine if tomorrow you got your wife pregnant. Could you not speak about having faced the situation and the choices you had to make? My opinions are not shaped by having finally been able to deliver a living child (deliver is a bit of a lie she was extracted top side). My opinions are shaped by having been exposed to hundreds of people with falsified birth records trying to locate their families and getting a real solid understanding of the specific legal rights they don’t have under the current laws. I was mindful of all that when I was facing those decisions.

  20. Avatar Marilynn says:

    Catherine you also said And this brings us back to the question of whether it is better to be born under less than ideal circumstances or not be born at all.” Why is that a question? Once a person exists they exist and it really makes no difference why their parents wound up reproducing does it? What matters is that all people born are treated equally and fairly and it is very difficult for people whose parents were gamete donors to access the vital records of their relatives and vice versa. It’s hardly fair to falsify their birth records with medically irrelevant information, right? So existence vs. non existence is not even an issue, its fair treatment under the law that is the real issue here for people once they are born.

  21. Avatar J. says:

    I think it makes a lot of sense to pursue embryo adoption if one felt this way. Somehow, getting a sperm donor AND an egg donor separately seems a bit harder to wrap my head around, but I feel like I could craft a narrative around, “Well, we thought that if one of us couldn’t have a biological connection, it would be lovely to grow our family in a way that was based entirely on love rather than on genetic links, so that we could all be on equal footing with another.”

    I could imagine a couple where one party is infertile deciding not to do any kind of fertility treatment and instead decide that they’d like to move to traditional adoption, and I don’t think the child would say, “Well, why didn’t you just do egg/sperm donation so I could have at least had a tie to one parent, huh?” (And yes, a lot of adoptions are open, but so are a lot of gamete donations.)

    I think the people best in place to judge whether it would be awkward or not are the prospective parents — if they can work it out in a way that feels like it would be a positive narrative for their future child, then I think I defend their right to make those decisions (to abandon a genetic link to one parent) accordingly.

  22. Avatar Marilynn says:

    I think people may be looking at this situation not very logically; a person cannot “give up a biological link” to their child. If you have offspring you are a biological parent and if you don’t raise your child you are giving up your child, not your biological link to your child. People raising someone else’s child have not “given up” anything or anyone that actually exists. The only people in the equasion who give up anything are the estranged or absent parents and the only people who are loosing anything would be them, the child they are not raising and of course all their relatives – meaning that they loose contact and legal kinship with one another. I think to say a fertile person “gives up a genetic link” just makes no sense. If they don’t have biological children they have not lost anyone or anything – they’ve gained an adopted child a step child etc, but they have not lost anyone or anything. We want to be careful that we are not looking at this from the perspective of an infertile person or looking at it as a fertile spouse saying “i don’t mind giving up the biological link” you know because its not them that is loosing family. The person they are going to raise is loosing real live family that they are related to and of course that is a tragic loss that can’t be compared to someone who lost merely a dream of biological children – the kid they are raising is loosing or being kept from their bio parents and bio family so it really is kind of silly to even think about how someone’s spouse feels about the loss of a link to someone who was never even born.

  23. Avatar marilynn says:

    Don’t they mean if the child can’t be related to both then they’d just adopt an unrelated child? That’s ethical and that makes sense. That way the couple is not involved in, and had nothing to do with the child being abandoned by his or her parent or parents.

  24. In our organization we make a distinction between genetic connections and biological connections. It’s all about the language:). So for instance an egg donor would be a genetic parent. Not a biological parent.

    This is all so very complex and the decisions here are personal. To me this really is no different than couples who have struggled for years to have a child via Egg Donation and have failed cycle after failed cycle after failed cycle.

    And many times couples will give their last to try with embryo donation by receiving embryos that neither parent are genetically related to and a child will be born from that cycle.

    In regards to information sharing with your child and truth telling I could envision a scenario like this:

    Mom and Dad: You know when mom and dad were first married they wanted nothing more than to have an amazing kid just like you. However, we learned early on that we were having problems and having a baby wasn’t going to be easy for us. So we went to a special doctor who told us that dad’s sperm was broken and didn’t work right. Mom and dad talked about this and decided that for our family that embryo donation would be something special and the best way for us make that incredible kid which is you!

    Kid: What does that mean mom and dad? Does that mean I’m not related to you and your not my parents?

    Mom and Dad: Tht’s a great question – what that means is genetically you don’t share DNA with your mom and I – but of course we are your parents. Mom carried you in her stomach for nine long months:) and I was right there with the catchers net to catch you when you were born!

    Kid: Do you know anything about my genetic background or my origins – like where I came from? Who I might look like?

    Mom and Dad: These all great questions and I’m sure you might be a little confused. Many years ago when we were trying very hard to have a baby there were not a lot of options for us. The doctor in the clinic that we worked with had an embryo donation program that was anonymous. That meant that the embryos we received were donated from another family who had leftover embryos from when they were trying to have a baby. What we do have is a really big file that has a complete health history and several pages that talks about the family that donated embryos to us. And in this file is a letter from the donating family that invites you to know who they are when you feel you’re ready.

    Kid: I think I would like to see this file it would answer a lot of questions for me.

    Mom and Dad: we are happy to share this file with you and talk about this information anytime you want.

    Kid: does this mean that you might love me more if I were genetically related to you?

    Mom and dad : no way! We love you more than the sun and the moon – we just can’t imagine loving you anymore than we do you work our child forever and ever and ever.

    *hugs all around*

    OR The scenario could like to go like this-

    Mom and Dad: hey honey I want to talk to you about something.

    Kid: Okay mom and dad would you want to talk about?

    Mom and Dad: you know when you were hearing grandma and I talk about my pregnancy with you and how you were born and you wondered what grandma meant by embryo donation?

    Kid: Yeah what about it.

    Mom and Dad going to this lengthy discussion about how they wanted to have a baby and couldn’t and that in this scenario mom had the egg issue and dad felt it was better if nobody was genetically related so they found embryos through an embryo donation program and that’s how their child was born.

    Kid: oh okay – that’s nice can I go to Rogers to go play now?

    I think the bottom line here is that how we create our families is incredibly private and personal and it’s a complex decision. I don’t feel that not being related to your child genetically is in anyway not in the best interest of the child. And require love, dedication, consistency, and structure and as Carole Lieber Wilkins so wisely says love not genes makes a family.

  25. The issue I have with the above scenario is that mom *is* biologically related to the child (I’m assuming they did not use a surrogate). Therefore, the child does know 1/3 of his biological origins. And the family may well have information on both the male and female genetic contributors that will sufficiently satisfy the child’s curiosities.

    And this brings us back to the question of whether it is better to be born under less than ideal circumstances or not be born at all. That’s not a question I feel qualified to make a blanket statement on.

    • Catherine, when you say the mom through egg donation is biologically related and therefore will know 1/3 of his biological orgins, are you referring to the intended moms epigenetical (is that a real word??) connection. (Or maybe the better way to phrase that would be her connections through epigenetics.)

  26. Avatar Anonymous says:

    My husband and I have actually given this a lot of thought. We’re already using donor sperm due to azoospermia and, after multiple failed IVF’s due to diminished ovarian reserve, currently facing the decision whether or not to also use donor egg or embryo. Because we’re already using donor sperm, we both feel a greater responsibility to fight a little longer and a little harder for my eggs so that our child will have at least half of our genes. As a child, we can imagine there being a greater sense of security knowing you’re biologically linked to at least one of your parents. If we can provide this, especially during those early years when learning of and dealing with the news of donor, we will (or will at least try). To take away that biological link just because the parents want an even playing field for themselves, seems selfish on some level. I would rather the parents with these feelings seek counseling to move past their fears and doubts for the sake of their child. Seems they’d be giving something incredibly precious up for the wrong reasons.

    Having said all that, it’s such a personal and extremely complex decision and I don’t fault or judge any parent for their feelings. And I don’t believe the child is worse off if not biologically linked to either parent. In our case, we might not have a choice. And like Greg said say, some that have genetic issues on each side, don’t have a choice either. It just presents a more delicate situation that requires the same amount of love and care as using donor on just one side.

    Thank you for raising this topic. I’m also curious how others in my situation feel and think it’s important to hear different thoughts and perspectives on the issue.

    • Anonymous, I agree that it is such a personal and extremely complex decision. I appreciate your sharing your thoughts and I hope others who have thought about this will share theirs as well. I think there is such benefit from bringing some of these complex issues out of the closet to air. They seem less overwhelming that way.

  27. Avatar Greg says:

    I think everyone is different. It comes down to what each couple is comfortable with. Yes, I think some couples feel that if a child couldn’t be biologically related to both parents then they shouldn’t be biologically related either. But, I also believe some couples would rather have the child biologically related to one parent so they have at least half the biological story.

    For me I had no issue with the idea of a child being related to my wife but not myself. I would know where half of that child prior to birth and the child would likely have some of her traits. Unfortunately our situation is more complex than just my azoospermia so we decided to not go down that road.

    Very interesting topic and I’d be curious what couples who pursued donor gametes or decided not to pursue that routes reasoning was for deciding what they did. Not that they have to justify it to anyone except the child.

    • Greg, you raised a point that I didn’t get into in the blog. As you said, it may not be simply that the parents wanted an “equal” genetic connection to the child. In some cases they are concerned about some genetic traits or problems on both sides.

  28. Avatar AnonAP says:

    Knowing that it is not the same, it reminds me of a decision my parents made about language. One of my parents speaks an uncommon language that is rather difficult to learn as an adult. My parents made the decision when we were young not to teach us that language because they didn’t want us to have a “secret” language that we could only speak with the one of them. It feels a bit silly, but it actually hurts that they chose to cut us off from that part of our family heritage. As I said, it’s difficult to learn as an adult, which means that for all intents and purposes, that language has been lost to our branch of the family. I think there might have been times when the non-fluent parent felt a bit at sea and times when we might have used it to be deliberately rude, but it would have been better overall to have taught it to us.

    I think you’re right. I think that, while each parent has to make the decision themselves, deliberately choosing to not continue a link to the past is one that has consequences that should be carefully considered. Not that there aren’t reasons why you might well choose to do it, but it’s important to think about what it might feel like to the child/adult affected by the decision.

  29. Avatar J. says:

    Also want to add that in addition to gamete donations being possible on an open-to-anonymous spectrum, so are embryo donations… so in many cases you might NOT be having the parents say “you’ll never know anything about your biological roots” in this imaginary dialogue.

    Perhaps the gamete or embryo donors are people who are known to the family and available for any and all biological-roots-related questions as they arise. Or perhaps they will be available upon adulthood. Or perhaps not… but then again, the same is true for traditional adoption.

    • J. You’re right that there is a broad spectrum of openness in egg donation, sperm donation, and embryo donation. In fact on the show yesterday, Stephanie Caballero said that the trend is definitely towards intended parents wanting the ability to contact or at least have information on their donor.

  30. Avatar marilynn says:

    J, Dawn
    When gamete donation agreements are compared to court approved adoptions, try not to forget that adoption is a solution to family separation and gamete donation agreements are a cause of it. Adoptive parents are not usually involved with the reason the parents decided not to raise the person that they adopted. That is a good thing because the person they adopted can have misgivings about being separated from their family without it clouding their relationship with their adoptive parents; there is a clear separation. Any feelings of sadness or rejection about not being raised up by their parents within their bio family can be held entirely separate from how they feel about their adoptive parents

    In this way I suppose if I were to totally go out on a limb the donated embryo was not created and abandoned specifically for the people who wind up raising the person once born and in that regard it would put the rearing family in a far more ethical and defensible position than if the rearing family were to actually to have commissioned the persons parents to create and then abandon their parental responsibilities for the child specifically so they could take and raise the child. While I do find it to be more ethical because the rearing family has nothing to do with the relinquishing parties choice to relinquish, there is an industry brewing in creating stock embryos for sale so the rearing family would want to be careful not to be viewed as purchasing ready made embryos. Still the kid has to deal with the fact that they were commissioned and left over and given away

  31. Avatar Greg says:


    Someone who has the option of getting pregnant through natural conception or treatment is going to have a very different perspective than someone who is only left with third party reproduction options and adoption. That doesn’t mean a person who goes through any fertility treatments who conceives a child doesn’t experience emotional pain and the same can be said for secondary infertility. The people who I’ve connected with in the last year vary from people who have had successful fertility treatments and those who haven’t have completely different perspectives on many topics relating to infertility. A lot of our opinions are influenced by circumstances in our lives that develop our perspectives. That’s all I meant.


    That is very fascinating. It brings a whole other dimension to human beings especially in this generation of donor gametes.

  32. Avatar AnonAP says:

    marilynn, you’re right that the genetic material/sequence is all from the genetic/biological parents, but the environment in the uterus does seem to be linked now to gene expression (epigenetics). That’s not the only thing that can effect gene expression – occurs over our lifetimes – but it can even have effects that carry across generations. Anyway, just a nitpick that whoever carries the baby does have a biological influence on them, though primarily through environmental exposures. Epigentics is an active, relatively new area of research, and it’ll be interesting to see how it develops in the future.

  33. Avatar marilynn says:

    Not true Greg. Someone who had thrown in the towel after numerous miscarriages and still births would have faced these options to the same extent that you are now and if the right doctor came along and truly fixed what was wrong with them or managed it as they did in my case, they could wind up having had a child of their own while still knowing what it is like to face these decisions. Also someone who has relinquished custody of offspring this way might understand with a different perspective or offspring might understand with a different perspective.

    Truly as far as putting the rearing family in the most ethical position, where they themselves have not personally instigated the separation of a family in order to obtain children to raise, it would be guardianship/adoption/foster or I am surprised to admit having this revelation today, I reluctantly suppose that a donated embryo would leave the rearing family in a position where they have not taken steps to separate a person from their family to fulfill their desire to raise a child.

    I’m quite surprised at having this new opinion. I don’t like inconsistency in ideas and I think in order to be consistent in my thinking, if a woman just HAD to experience pregnancy then I suppose a donated embryo would not put her in the position of influencing the family separating. But putting her name on the birth record creates a falsified medical record and so I still think the actual biological mother and father’s names should be recorded and that they should actually have to adopt the child otherwise its just black market adoption and pregnancy is just a novelty experience for the adoptive mother. So real court approved adoption to protect the child and complete accurate medical records and the adoptive mother’s pregnancy is optional since any female could gestate and the results would be the same unless she was ill or drinking etc.

  34. Avatar marilynn says:

    Let’s say a woman gestates a donated embryo instead of an embryo that her husband and an anonymous woman made together. If the embryo were really donated and not commercially produced for sale and purchased (this is tough) but if the embryo were truly abandoned then she and her husband will be raising a child that is yes separated from their family but they will not have instigated that separation. If the husband went out and made an embryo with an anonymous woman then he’d actually be wanting the mother of his child to abandon her responsibilities and that is pretty harsh. He’d be actively attempting to keep his child separate from their maternal family.

    Generally speaking if we are going to gamble something for personal gain it should be our own not someone else’s and if our own not something that others are depending upon us to provide – like not gambling rent when you have children to care for. So if your gambling away someone’s legal kinship and personal connections to their biological relatives – make sure they are your own relatives and own legal kinship and make sure that they are not dependent relationships like your own offspring and then your cool – like cut your ties to your Uncle if you want that sort of thing. Cutting other people’s ties to their relatives is not ethical unless you have their permission and you can’t get that from a person til they are 18. Looking to raise an unrelated child I was looking for ways where I could do that without myself causing the separation or cutting any ties.

  35. Avatar Greg says:


    You bring up some great points. Because conceiving and birthing in situations with infertility it’s easy to forget how couples need to prepare for conversations they will have with their children regarding their conception. While actually going through it is likely to be more difficult than practicing it the more prepared you are the better the conversation is likely to go. You hear a lot about this in third party reproduction as well as adoption. I think the best thing couples can do beyond preparing is going into the conversation with an open mind be honest with the child and don’t answer any questions you don’t have the answers to it’s better than lying and creating a distrust with the child.

    I think some of the reasons people who pursue embryo adoption do so because they would like to experience a pregnancy and they do not want to have to go through what comes with straight adoption. Though I’m probably speculating and could be off. Either way I don’t judge anyone for choosing a method of having a child that my wife and I have not choosen. There isn’t a one size fits all model. We’re facing different circumstances and have different personalities and desires. These are not easy decisions to make and I don’t think anyone who was able to conceive a child could ever fully understand.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top ↑

Content created by Creating a Family. And remember, there are no guarantees in adoption or infertility treatment. The information provided or referenced on this website should be used only as part of an overall plan to help educate you about the joys and challenges of adopting a child or dealing with infertility. Although the following seems obvious, our attorney insists that we tell you specifically that the information provided on this site may not be appropriate or applicable to you, and despite our best efforts, it may contain errors or important omissions. You should rely only upon the professionals you employ to assist you directly with your individual circumstances. CREATING A FAMILY DOES NOT WARRANT THE INFORMATION OR MATERIALS contained or referenced on this website. CREATING A FAMILY EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMS LIABILITY FOR ERRORS or omissions in this information and materials and PROVIDES NO WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, implied, express or statutory. IN NO EVENT WILL CREATING A FAMILY BE LIABLE FOR ANY DAMAGES, including without limitation direct or indirect, special, incidental, or consequential damages, losses or expenses arising out of or in connection with the use of the information or materials, EVEN IF CREATING A FAMILY OR ITS AGENTS ARE NEGLIGENT AND/OR ARE ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.