Deciding Whether to Tell

The big question in relation to donor conception is whether you tell your child about his or her donor origin. Some people feel strongly that children have the right to know their genetic origins, while others argue that it's best for children to grow up not knowing that they were conceived with the help of a donor. Counsellors and other professionals involved with donor procedures very much advocate for telling a child, because not telling can have devastating consequences, especially if the child finds out about being donor-conceived from someone other than the parents.

People with experience in this area believe that the right time for telling a child about his or her donor origin is sooner rather than later. Children told when they're young tend to accept the fact that they're donor-conceived as readily as they accept anything else they're told about their early life — it becomes part of their life story.

As if it wasn't hard enough to explain the facts of life to children, how do you explain something as complicated as third-party reproduction? You'll find the clinic counsellors full of wisdom about how to tell; they'll also point you to some excellent books that can help you find the right words when the time comes.

Secrets in families can be difficult to keep and secrets that emerge at the wrong time and in the wrong place can be very destructive. Don't feel ashamed about needing to use donor eggs, sperm or embryos to become parents. Most children would like to think that they were wanted that much!

Who to tell

In our research into donors and recipients who had counselling because they were contemplating donor procedures, my colleagues and I asked our study respondents who they thought should be told about using a donor. The recipients responded as follows:

I Child: 77 per cent

I Close family: 65 per cent

I Extended family: 27 per cent I Close friends: 23 per cent I Anyone: 9 per cent

Interestingly, the donors were more in favour of telling others than the recipients. For example, 91 per cent of donors thought that the child should be told about his or her donor origin.

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