Embryo Donation Treatment
Embryo donation is not as widely talked about as other fertility treatments, like IVF. As a result, women going through the process can often feel quite isolated. The reality is, though, that hundreds of women go through this treatment every year.
There are three major concerns that women can have during embryo donation treatment. These include a sense of loss, anxiety over the ability to bond with the future child, and worries over whether to tell that child about how they were conceived.
Here we look at each of these concerns in detail.
A sense of loss associated with not having your own biological child.
Successful embryo donation treatments result in pregnancy, delivery, and nursing. Despite this, women going through the process still feel a sense of loss over the fact that they will not be genetically connected to their child.
Psychologically, you need to mourn the loss of your dream of a having a biological child and the losses of the failed fertility treatment(s) before taking the step to embryo donation. It is important to bear in mind that the sense of loss over a biological child may never go away completely.
There are various ways to mourn the loss and grief; on your own through self-help methods, with the help of family and friends, or with the professional help of a therapist or counsellor.
Anxiety over the ability to bond with the child
Anxiety over the ability to bond and attach to the child conceived through embryo donation is very common amongst mums. ‘Will they love me?’ and ‘Will I love them… enough?’ are two typical questions and worries, which are hard to admit.
Both empirical research and anecdotal evidence suggest that conceiving through embryo donation does not affect the strength of the bond between mothers and their children. Studies show that women who have gone through embryo donation feel the same levels of maternal warmth and maternal sensitivity as women who have conceived naturally.
Research also shows that embryo donation does not have an adverse effect on the child’s wellbeing. Plus, the process of pregnancy, birth, and nursing allows for prenatal bonding, and often strengthens the emotional connection between the baby and mother.
Statistics will not necessarily stop you from worrying, though. If the worry is consuming you, you might find it useful to talk about it – and any other questions and concerns you have – with your partner, in your support group, or with a counsellor or therapist.
Worries over whether to tell your child how they were conceived
The third most common concern around embryo donation is whether or not to tell your child about how they were conceived, and when to tell them. Fear and anxiety over how telling the child might affect his/her wellbeing is common, as is guilt over the thought of not telling him/her.
How you manage this situation is up to you as parents. However, it is important to note that research points to the many benefits of telling your child very early on about how they were conceived.
There are several suggested ways of doing this. Whichever method you choose, it’s important to prepare for it with your partner and to have an open discussion about it with the different people in your family and any friends that know.
One of the adverse effects of not telling children is the impact of carrying a secret, which creates distance and can negatively affect the parent-child relationship. Secrets are hard, and dangerous. Children sense the taboo around certain topics, leaving them feeling uncomfortable. Another risk is that children do hear bits of information when families do not realize it, and then they are left with incomplete knowledge that might cause them anxiety and worry.
It is also generally recommended to tell children during preschool years, as this establishes trust and honesty in the parent-child relationship, compared with telling children later on or under adverse circumstances. Discussing what you will say, and how to say it ahead of time is essential.
Preparing emotionally for embryo donation treatment
Embryo donation is not an easy choice or process, and it stirs up unique dilemmas for the mum compared to other fertility treatment options. In addition to the three concerns discussed above, there are also concerns about telling other people including extended families; and worries about how they will accept the decision and the child, as well as the devastating impact in the case of a failed treatment episode.
Prepare yourself by…
1) Having open, honest, difficult discussions with your partner.
2) Surrounding yourself with a good support network that understands what you are going through and are going through similar experiences themselves.
3) Have a therapist or counsellor help you through some of the difficult moments and offer you the essential support you need. You can arrange sessions as an individual, a couple, or with your whole family, depending on the sort of support you feel you need.
To talk to a counsellor or psychotherapist contact ICL on 0207 467 8548.