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Study finds that when children are told they were born via assisted reproductive technology, it can affect outcomes

Study finds that when children are told they were born via assisted reproductive technology, it can affect outcomes



At 14, Helen wasn’t bothered by the fact that she was born through surrogacy.

“My mother is still my mother. Told researchers. Helen is not her real name.

“I was talking to someone at school and they said it was an accident,” 14-year-old Simon (not his real name) told researchers. It makes me feel special.”

Parents were concerned that their children would experience difficulties as a result of learning that they had conceived through assisted reproductive technology.

“When we started this research more than 20 years ago, there was concern that the lack of biological ties between children and their parents could negatively impact their relationship and the well-being of the children.” Lead author Susan said Golombok, emeritus professor of family studies and former director of the Center for Family Studies at the University of Cambridge, England.

However, at age 20, children born through egg or sperm donation and surrogacy were better psychologically adjusted, especially if parents told the child about their birth history before age 7. Research has shown that.

“What this study means is that having children in a different or new way doesn’t really interfere with the functioning of the family. Really wanting children seems to trump everything.”

Clinical psychologist Mary Riddle, an associate professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University, calls the study “important in that it represents research conducted over a long period of time.”

But Riddle, who was not involved in the study, said surrogacy may be practiced differently in the UK in several ways, so the results were not fully applicable to the US. .

Golombok’s 2020 book “We Are Family: The Modern Transformation of Parents and Children.”

“In the UK, the intended parents often know the surrogate mother prior to the surrogate pregnancy, whereas in the US the surrogate mother is often matched through an agency and has a prior relationship with the family to whom the surrogate mother will give birth. No,” said Riddle.

Also, “partial” surrogacy is more common in the UK, where the surrogate mother impregnates the intended father’s sperm and thus becomes the child’s biological mother, Riddle said.

“Here in the United States, pregnancy surrogacy, where the surrogate mother has no genetic relationship with the child being pregnant, is much more common and is believed to have fewer psychological and legal pitfalls,” he said. she added.

The study, published Wednesday in the journal Developmental Psychology, followed 65 children (22 by surrogacy, 17 by egg donation, and 26 by sperm donation) from infancy to age 20. Researchers spoke to families when children were 1, 2, 3, 7, 10 and 14 years old.

Young adults who learned their biological origins before the age of seven reported better relationships with their mothers and lower maternal anxiety and depression levels.

However, children born through surrogacy had relationship problems around the age of seven.

“When the children were 10 years old, I visited the family and these difficulties disappeared,” she said. “Interestingly, we see the same phenomenon with children from international adoptions. It may be related to having to face identity issues at a younger age than other children.

According to clinical psychologist Rebecca Berry, an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, children start noticing pregnancy and asking questions between the ages of 3 and 4.

“To satisfy their curiosity, they start asking questions about babies and where they came from as a way to try to understand why they are here.

7 year old child Lauri Pasch, a professor of psychology at the University of California, San Francisco who specializes in infertility and family formation, already has a basic understanding of genetics and is not genetically related to one or both of her parents. He said he might be surprised to learn that…

Experts say talking to your child about their birth history at a young age can help them adjust.

“Our current thinking is that it’s best for parents to share the donor’s pregnancy story with their children very early on. They’ll say, ‘I always knew.'” , Pasch, who was not involved in the study, said in an email.

“This allows children to grow with information later in life, rather than learning it as surprise or shock, which can undermine their trust in their parents and their identity development,” she added. rice field.

Regarding maternal anxiety and depression, there was no difference between families formed by surrogacy and egg or sperm donation and families with children born without assisted conception. The study also found no difference in relationships with partners.

But mothers Mothers who gave birth to babies via donor eggs reported poorer family relationships than mothers who used sperm donation.

Young adults conceived via sperm donation reported poorer family communication than young adults conceived via egg donation. This is probably because the father is reluctant to reveal that he is not the genetic parent, Golombok said.

Only 42% of parents who became pregnant through sperm donors revealed their child’s birth history by the time the child was 20 years old, compared with 88% of egg donor parents and those who used surrogacy. compared to 100%.

When asked, many children said they weren’t worried about how they got pregnant.

Many children said, “It’s not a big deal.” “There are more interesting things going on in life,” said Golombok, while “actually it’s a little special to me. I like talking about it.” It was really nice to hear that, and I don’t think any other study has done this.”

Once spoken, children need to reflect on their birth history from time to time, so parents need to make sure the conversation is an ongoing one.

“There is this idea that parents pass on to their children and that is it. said.

“Many parents Our study uses children’s books specifically designed for this purpose,” Golombok added. Children can bring their own stories into the story. ”




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