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Anonymity and Openness in the Egg Donor/Recipient Relationship

When working with a private egg donation agency, as long as there is mutual consent between egg donor and recipient, the relationship can be as closed or as open as both parties desire.  The idea that the donor and potential offspring would knowingly meet one day instills anxiety in some donors and recipients, and comfort in others. It is a completely personal attitude.

Egg donation has not had the chance to evolve the way adoption has regarding openness and public acceptance. In the past adoption was shrouded in secrecy and anonymity, but now it is commonplace for domestic adopting parents to meet birth parents (typically before the birth), and adoption is celebrated for what it is. There still may be, for some, a stigma attached to egg donation, which creates the desire to keep it private or even secret. After all, you chose an egg donor who resembles you so your child could “pass” as your own. You don’t want your child and other family members to feel he or she is only “related” to the paternal side. On the other hand, secretiveness is unfair to the child and creates an unhealthful atmosphere. Egg donation will never lose its stigma until it is pushed out in the open by brave parents. Not everyone is willing to be a hero, however.

Still, it remains a basic right to know how you are brought into the world. Some prospective parents even go so far as to request donors with A-positive blood types, for instance, under the assumption that the child would be unable to figure out his or her mother was not genetically related.  We don’t encourage this kind of deception, but we do believe that anonymity between egg donor and recipient is fair.

We have had success, however, with non-anonymous relationships, too. But ground rules must be established. Once the seal of anonymity is broken, donor and recipient must determine to what extent they should be involved in each other’s lives, and in the lives of any potential offspring. Everyone must agree where to draw that line. Do you want to meet the egg donor? In person?  Through a phone conversation? Will it be a one-time meeting or a series of meetings? Will you exchange full names and contact information? Will the child have any contact with the donor? If so, when and how?

Typically, recipients request a one-time meeting. If you really want the egg donor to be part of the child’s life, the fact that she is genetically related to the child may raise some unchartered legal issues. However, these same issues have been overcome for adoption, and a similar evolution may occur in egg donation. We are just not there yet.

When both egg donor and recipient are open to a non-anonymous relationship, qualified counselors, obtained through your agency or other source, should negotiate the points of contact, whether it is a phone conversation, exchange of letters, or an in-person meeting. You can state your intentions for future contact in the egg donor contract, but they are not necessarily legally enforceable.  Some parents just want to know if the donor, in theory, would be open to meeting any potential offspring at some point in the future. Some egg donors have a relaxed attitude, and others reject it outright. Their feelings have the same wide range as the recipients.

Keep in mind that you will always have photos and a full description of your donor for your reference, and to show your child when you choose. As more babies are born through egg donation, there will be more support and guidance for parents and children on how and when to confront the issue. As it now stands, your IVF clinic will keep records on file in case any medical emergency arises which would justify revealing the identity of the egg donor. If you work with a private agency, expect them to do the same.