Many couples who have unsuccessfully tried to conceive a child through traditional intercourse find that they need medical intervention in order to achieve a healthy pregnancy. In the United States, 1.5% of all babies are conceived through the use of IVF. People hardly bat an eye about so-called ‘test-tube babies’ anymore, but other unconventional methods like egg donation, may still cause raised brows. It’s unfortunate that the use of donor eggs to conceive is still seen as taboo. But why?
Why Is The Use Of Donor Eggs Still Taboo?
Egg Donor Process
Of those babies conceived through IVF, 15% of couples used egg donors. That’s not insignificant! A couple may be unable to use the female partner’s own eggs because of medical diagnoses like diminished ovarian reserve or premature ovarian failure, or due to genetic conditions in the mother’s genetic line that they don’t wish to pass down. In other cases, treatments for other medical conditions, such as cancer, may have affected the viability of her eggs. For any of these reasons, donor egg IVF might be the best chance at achieving a viable pregnancy.
Once the couple decides to pursue donation, they can start to get in contact with agencies and donor egg banks who can assist them in finding the perfect donor. Depending on the specific criteria the couple wants in a donor, a match may be found within a few days to a few months. After pre-screening and cycle coordination have been completed, the donor undergoes the first half of an IVF cycle to retrieve the eggs, which fertilized using the couples own sperm and transferred back into the intended mother. Egg donor IVF cycles have a 49% success rate and so, with good luck, the couple then becomes pregnant! Which is what all infertile couples want… So why the lingering taboo?
While sperm donation has been widely available since the 60s and is well accepted by society, egg donation is a much newer procedure, being pioneered in the 80s, and has not yet become as ubiquitous in society. But with recent advances in egg freezing technology, more infertile women are using donor eggs than ever before, and perceptions have still been slow to shift.
Some have speculated that the taboo against donor eggs might be due to ageism towards women on the part of society. A larger percentage of women are waiting to start their family building efforts and are building careers first… But then, when they want to start a family, they may find that their own eggs are no longer viable. Society shames them for being “too old” to reproduce and argues that they shouldn’t be allowed to try with a younger woman’s eggs. There are also people who view it as a problem because the mother has no genetic link to her child. This is the same as with adoption, but the idea of the mother being pregnant with a baby she isn’t genetically related to seems to be harder to accept.
Nature vs Nurture
For years, the debate about nature vs nurture has raged. What makes a person who they are, their genetics or their environment? There’s no doubt that a combination of genetic and environmental factors affects humans as they grow and develop, but recently there have been major breakthroughs in understanding how life in the womb affects the characteristics and attachments of babies. Babies, we now know, respond to their mother’s voice not only immediately after birth but also within the womb itself! While the mother is still pregnant, the baby moves more and has a slower, more relaxed heartbeat when hearing their mother’s voice than that of a stranger. This effect can be observed as early as the second trimester! These responses remain true after birth, the mother’s voice is immediately calming. These responses have nothing to do with genetics and everything to do with the bond that has been formed during the pregnancy itself.
When a woman uses donor eggs to conceive, she will have the following 9 months to bond with that child. She is in control of its nutrition and emotional environment and she will give birth. The act of giving birth itself releases oxytocin in both the mother and baby, deepening the bond that had been created throughout the pregnancy itself. This is motherhood. Genetics are not necessary in forming a family. And there should certainly be no taboo around using to the technology available to get there.
*This is a sponsored conversation contributed by Donor Egg Bank USA.