How to Tell Your Children They Were Donor-Conceived

Jennifer "Jay" Palumbo

IVF mom of two and infertility advocate

While there are many ways you can build a family, each path has its own unique set of factors to consider. If you need or are considering donor conception, how to handle talking to your children about how they were conceived is one factor.

What Is Donor Conception?

Donor Conception is when sperm or eggs are used to create an embryo(s) or embryos that have been donated. This is an option for older women, whose egg quality may not be ideal, for same-sex male couples, women who have an infertility diagnosis that impacts their eggs, or if the male partner has been diagnosed with a male factor infertility issue.

Lisa Schuman, LCSW, is an expert in family building and founder of Center for Family Building. She frequently writes and lectures on donor conception and family building subjects, including LGBTQ and single-parent families. I spoke to Ms. Schuman about when and how to handle this conversation.

The Earlier, The Better

Research shows that early and often is best. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine supports disclosure, stating in 2013, “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. “– ASRM 2013

While the conversation can be awkward, you need to be comfortable with your story. You don’t want your child to sense there is anything wrong or negative about their birth narrative.

One thing that can help is rehearsing your child’s narrative, so you have the opportunity to put it in a way you feel good about. Ms. Schuman says that when you’re rehearsing it, it will give you time to modify it privately and have your own feelings about it. That way, by the time you speak to your child, you have said it a thousand times, and it rolls easily off your tongue. This also solves another problem: you never have to sit your child down and have that much-dreaded talk again because your child always knows. This is the backdrop of their world. Ms. Schuman recommends three steps.

Start with diversity training. “There are many books that can help with this,” Ms. Schuman said. “The child will learn that some families have two moms, and some have one dad. Some live in an apartment, and some in a house. There are lots of ways to have a family. What is most important is love. Love makes a family.”

Read books about sperm or egg donation or surrogacy. “There are many choices in this area,” Ms. Schuman recommends. “Some explain conception in scientific terms and others in a storybook form. Use the books that best suit your family.”

Chronicle your story. “My Lifebook is a perfect way to record special moments in your journey,” she recommends. “Children love to know their birth stories, and documenting your journey to have your child will provide you with something useful to do while you wait and give your child a book they will cherish forever.”

There are many reasons to be proactive in speaking to your child about their history. It can create an open and honest relationship and be profoundly crucial as they get older to know more about their genetic history, if they have any hereditary risks or medical conditions to be aware of.

Visit GoStork’s egg donor database where we help you sort by your preferences, compare your favorites side by side (including comparing all associated fees), and easily connect with the agencies of the ones you’re interested in. We’re here to support you as you search for your perfect match!