To tell or not to tell

We can all agree friends don't use the phone much any more. So, much so that if someone does phone me I assume something horrible has happened. In my mind, if my phone rings it is either (1) the hospital calling about a patient (2) someone I don't know managed to get my number and wants to sell me something (3) someone I love has died,.

So, this spring when another mother at my kids school called me I was really worried. Turns out she wanted to talk about disclosuring to her child that he was conceived with a donor egg. She wondered if I had any resources or thoughts on the "when, if and how" of donor egg disclosure. I directed her to a couple of books and mentioned that most of the literature supports early disclosure.

A study published this month from France looked at just how often couples who used donor sperm to conceive their child, actually told them. I think it's a similar conversation whether it is donor egg or donor sperm, though each family has their own values, worries, timing and openness around such issues. In the study a survey was mailed out to couples who has used donor sperm to have one or more children. Just over 100 couples responded to the survey. Interestingly most couples had told the child already or were planning to, but about 20% of couples planned to keep their use of donor sperm a secret forever - no plans to ever tell the child.

There is general consensus in Europe and North America that couples and individuals should disclose their use of donor sperm or eggs to the child, and sooner is better than later. The American Fertility Society states "because of each person's fundamental interest in knowing their genetic heritage and the importance of their ability to make informed health care decisions in the future, the Ethics Committee supports disclosure about the fact of donation to children."

It's deeply personal though. As a clinic we are working on a resource list (books, website, etc.) that can help individuals and couples learn strategies to inform their children, if they wish. I'll keep you posted (not by phone though, that's scary).