Mothers may not tell after donor egg, sperm birth

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Older single mothers who became pregnant with both a donated egg and donated sperm say they will likely tell their child about the sperm donation some day, but aren’t sure whether they will reveal the egg donation as well, new research from Israel shows.

In Israel, the identity of sperm and egg donors is kept confidential by law. Fertility treatment is available to all women, no matter their age or marital status. To date, Dr. Ruth Landau of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and her team say, researchers have not looked at single women in their 40s who conceive via in vitro fertilization (IVF) with both egg and sperm donation.

As part of a larger study on the physical and mental health of children born to single mothers and conceived with donor insemination, the researchers looked at 11 women who ranged in age from 36 to 50 when their child (or children, because three had twins) was born. Eight of the children were younger than 2, three were 2 to 4 years old, and three were older than 4 at the time of the study.

Ten of the mothers were single, while one had a female partner. Ten worked, with nine of them working more than 40 hours a week. All of their children were in day care or at school. According to their mothers, all the children were developmentally normal, while three had “minor emotional or behavioral difficulties.”

Three of the women said they would like for their children to have information about his or her sperm donor when they reached age 18, while three other mothers said they would not want this, and five said they didn’t know yet. None of them had yet told their children they were conceived with donor sperm, but all planned to do so when their children were older.

None of the mothers had told their children that they were conceived with donated eggs, and whether or not they would be likely to do so eventually was unclear.

Some concerns about this group of mothers include their age, the fact that they may more likely to become ill, the researchers say. Another study of single mothers of children born with donor insemination found just 22% were working full-time, the researchers add, while almost all of the women in the current study were, meaning that they “depended quite extensively on both their extended families and paid help, in addition to day care, kindergarten or school,” they point out.

Given the youth of the children in the current study, it is difficult to determine if they will experience problems in the future, Landau and her team says. Nevertheless, they add, “our findings suggest that the impact of assisted reproduction on parenting and child development does not give undue cause for concern.”

SOURCE: Fertility and Sterility, September 2008.