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Thursday, March 26, 2015

When is best time to tell kids of donor?

The age when young adults learn they were conceived using assisted reproductive technology does not influence their wellbeing or parental relationship, a study suggests.

Today almost four per cent of all children in Australia are born as a result of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), which includes IVF, surrogacy and using donor eggs or sperm.

"From the young people that we had in our study, the age that they found out didn't seem to have a long-term impact on their relationships with their family or their wellbeing," says Dr Karin Hammarberg, from the Jean Hailes Research Unit at Monash University.

"This is reassuring for those who wish to share this information with their children but have not done so at a young age."

In the past, clinics advised parents not to tell their offspring they were donor conceived, she says.

But now parents are encouraged to tell children when they are young.

"IVF today is so mainstream so no one would hesitate to say they've had a baby through IVF technology.

"But it's still a bit more difficult for those who have used donor gametes.

"Telling kids about the way they were conceived is always a good thing."

Dr Hammarberg conducted a study on the topic, together with researchers from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

The team interviewed 550 young adults who were born as a result of ART.

They asked the participants at what age they were told and questioned them about their wellbeing and quality of relationship with their parents.

Most (77 per cent) had been told before the age of 12, 18 per cent when they were between 12 and 17 years and five per cent when they were over 18 years.

All through her childhood, Marnie Lester-Smith knew she was not biologically related to her dad.

Unlike some kids who were conceived by donated sperm or egg there was no "big family secret" revealed when she reached adulthood.

Lester-Smith, 21, was around five when she learned her parents had sought help from an anonymous sperm donor after losing three children to a rare genetic disease.

"I don't have any negative emotion when I think back," she says.

"Mum and I have always had great communication and no secrets."

Lester-Smith is thankful that she found out when she was young.

"If you're told later on you might feel betrayed, or like everything you knew is wrong," she says.

"I never had that, it was never anything negative to me, I'm very thankful someone was able to help my parents have a child."

Lester-Smith is determined to find her biological father, despite the obstacles.

"You can't really form your own identity unless you know where you come from.

"I know he was Indian, six foot and studying medicine at a Perth university."

But the doctor that organised the donation has since passed away and his records weren't preserved.

"I've joined the voluntary register in WA and if a half sibling or my donor registers on that there will be a match.

"I'm still holding out hope."


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