"NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Parents of children conceived with donor eggs or sperm don't regret disclosing this fact to their child, and almost all of the parents surveyed believed it was important that the child be told, California researchers report.
But parents do wish they had more support with the process, Dr. Robert D. Nachtigall of the University of California, San Francisco and colleagues found. "If there is indeed a shift toward greater openness in parents using third-party reproduction techniques, there will be an increasing need for support services to assist parents in this process not only initially, but also continuing long after the children are born," Nachtigall and his team write in the journal Fertility and Sterility.
The researchers interviewed 141 couples, 62 of whom had conceived using donor sperm and 79 of whom had used donor eggs. Twenty percent of couples who used donor insemination had disclosed this fact to their children, 45 percent planned to disclose, 16 percent didn't plan to disclose, and 7 percent were undecided.
Among those who conceived with donor eggs, 23 percent had disclosed this to their child, 58 percent planned to do so, 10 percent didn't plan to disclose, and 9 percent had not decided.
Overall, 32 percent of parents using donor egg or sperm had disclosed to their children, while 45 percent planned to do so.
Parents who disclosed or planned to do so typically subscribed to one of two strategies for revealing this information, Nachtigall and his colleagues found: the "seed-planting strategy," in which they began talking to the child about being conceived with donor egg or sperm very early on, and the "right-time" approach, in which they waited until they felt the child would fully understand the process.
On average, "seed planters" started talking to their children about their conception when they were 3 to 4 years old. The "right time" group had planned to begin the discussion with their children when they were 10 to 12 years old, but typically told their children when they were 6 or 7.
Parents using the "seed-planting" strategy tended to be more at ease with their decision and less apprehensive, the researchers found. They believed this approach would give children the sense of "always knowing" that they were conceived with donor egg or sperm, making it "no big deal."
Parents using the "right-time" approach typically felt they could build a strong relationship with their children before having to disclose the information, when the child would be mature enough to handle and understand it.
"Most parents expressed frustration with the perceived lack of comfortable language and 'scripts' available to discuss donor conception with their children, especially as they struggled to find unambiguous terminology with which to refer to the donor," the researchers note.
Nevertheless, among parents who had disclosed to their children, none reported regret and many reported relief, the researchers found. Responses from children were, in most cases, positive or neutral.
SOURCE: Fertility and Sterility, March 2007."