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Donor-Conceived Individuals and Mental Health: Understanding the Unique Challenges They May Face

Posted on May 1, 2023

Sperm donation has made it possible for countless individuals and couples to realize their dreams of having a child. However, there is growing concern about how the knowledge of being a donor-conceived person may impact the emotional and mental wellness of these children when they are older. While these donor-conceived children generally seem to lead normal lives, these outcomes may depend on certain factors.

The Impact of Age on the Disclosure of Sperm Donor-Conceived Birth

About 30,000 to 60,000 children conceived with donor sperm are born in the U.S. every year, although this may be an underestimate. Research suggests that when children learn that they were born via donated sperm, they have mixed reactions. Typically, it’s been shown that when children born via ART methods reach the age of 20, they’re psychologically well-adjusted. This contradicts the previous notion that children not biologically connected to their parents have poorer well-being and family relationships.

When parents tell their children before age 7, the children reported better relationships with their mothers, while their mothers had less anxiety and depression. These children were unconcerned about their conception methods, with some actively embracing it, as it made them feel special. Mothers who had donor-sperm-conceived babies reported more positive family relationships than those who used donated eggs. Only 7% of mothers who had told their children of their conception by age 7 reported problems in family relationships, compared with 22% of those who revealed the information after age 7.

However, sperm-conceived young adults reported poorer family communication than those who were egg-conceived. This may be due to these young adults’ fathers not being willing to disclose they’re not the genetic parent. Only 42% of sperm donor parents told their children of their origins by age 20, compared to 88% of egg donation parents and 100% of surrogate parents.

Encourage An Ongoing Discussion Of Donor Conception

Once a child learns of their conception via sperm donation, it’s important for parents to keep the conversation going. This enables the child to feel comfortable about their birth and ask age-appropriate questions. Essentially, these findings show that it doesn’t matter which method is used to have children. Instead, the most important thing is being able to have children.

Explore Your Options for Infertility Care and Treatment

With more children being born via donor sperm, parents should discuss this early on, to encourage emotional and mental well-being and strengthen family bonds. If you have questions or concerns about how or what to tell children, or general fertility, we invite you to speak with a fertility specialist. Please schedule a consultation with the Fertility Center of California today.

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