I’m considering having a child with the assistance of a sperm donor. I recently read an article where a child conceived with a donor said she wished she’d “never been born”. Are all donor-conceived kids angry and resentful of their genetic origins?

Written by our mental health expert, Dr. Emily Koert, Registered Psychologist.

This is a common concern of women and couples who are considering using a donor to build their families. I think this concern indicates that you’re in the right mind frame – you’re considering not only your needs, but also the needs of your future child and the long-term implications of building your family in this manner. What matters most is what you do with this concern. Certainly the choices you make now may well have an influence on how your future child feels about his or her genetic origins.

You’re right that there are adults who were conceived using a donor who are angry and resentful. Most commonly, they’re angry because they only found out when they were older that they were donor conceived, and because they don’t have access to information about their donor. Much like those who didn’t find out they were adopted until they’re adults, donor conceived offspring often feel like their lives until that point were a lie. They wonder what else their parents haven’t told them about, and what other secretes are being kept from them. Certainly, this information raises significant unanswered questions about their identity – causing them to ask “who am I?” and “where did I come from?” It’s understandable they would feel frustrated that there is a piece of their genetic, medical, and personal history that isn’t available to them – particularly if they were conceived when sperm donations were anonymous, and using a donor to conceive wasn’t openly discussed or accepted.

Fortunately, as third party reproduction has become more widespread and we’ve learned from those who have gone through the experience, there has been a move towards openness and sharing of information, and a recognition that it’s normal that a child might have some questions about his or her donor roots. These days, there are many more donors who are agreeing to be “open identity” – that is, they agree to the possibility that any resulting children can contact them after they reach the age of 18 – and many more recipients who are choosing this “open identity” option when they select a donor. Also, there is much less stigma associated with this form of family building. Consequently, many parents can now begin talking to their children at an early age about their donor roots, so this information can slowly be incorporated into their child’s identity as they grow up. While there are a few rare exceptions where secrecy is necessary in order to protect the safety and well-being of a child, there is now general agreement that openness from an early age is in the best interest of the child. The research indicates that children who grow up in families where they have known from a very young age that they were conceived using a donor seem to fare quite well.

So while you cannot guarantee that your child won’t be angry or frustrated about being donor conceived, you can make choices that shows your child that you thought about what it would be like for him or her, and with his or her well-being in mind.

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