By- Heidi Hayes
In today’s world, people are talking openly about their struggles to have a baby more so than they ever did in the past. In fact, treatments like IVF have become so common that no one bats an eye when they are used. But utilizing donor eggs as a treatment option for infertility is a different story, and one that is still cloaked in stigma.
If a couple is thinking about using eggs from a donor as a means of becoming pregnant, it is a path that’s often taken in secrecy and, sometimes, humiliation. After all, adoption has become a mainstream option that’s primarily encouraged, so why then is there such a stigma when it comes to the use of a donor egg?
First of all, people tend to associate the need for donor eggs with older age. Though women of all ages can have fertility problems and use donor eggs to get pregnant, it is often older women who need to use a donor. People can be incredibly judgmental: “shame on you for not getting pregnant at an appropriate age,” is a common criticism.
There is also the religious connotation that says fertilizing another woman’s egg to conceive an embryo destroys the sanctity of marriage. There can be a lot of guilt from couples practicing certain religions as they venture into third-party reproduction.
Finally, donor eggs can be taboo because we as a society tend to think of eggs as future children more than we do with sperm. When we think of sperm donors, we think of them as just that, donors. However, talk with a mother who has used donor eggs to conceive a child and ask her how many times people have referred to her egg donor as “the real mom.”
But these points all have the same underlying theme and perhaps can give one overarching reason why there is such a stigma about egg donation: because society doesn’t understand it.
It’s devastating for a woman to learn she is unable to get pregnant with her own eggs. It’s even worse when she is made to feel that her choice in how she brings a baby into the world is unnatural. So how can couples overcome these complex issues and emotions that come up when the decision is made to use donor eggs?
The first thing couples should understand and embrace is that both of them play an important role in their child’s creation. The father provides his DNA and the mother does the rest, growing and nourishing the baby for the next nine months. It cannot be stressed enough that a woman using donor eggs is one hundred percent the mother. Just saying that sentence out loud can be the initial step toward erasing those feelings of judgment.
The best way to normalize something is to talk about it. It’s understandable in today’s society for a couple to limit the number of people they trust to tell about their infertility struggles. Especially since they wouldn’t want to risk a well-meaning family member or friend spilling the truth about a child’s origin before the parents are able to. But through couples sharing their story with people, and having those conversations, the public can start to move toward the same acceptance in donor eggs as they do with adoptions and surrogacies. Instead of thinking the use of donor eggs is “weird” or “unusual,” people can eventually see it for what it is: giving a couple an excellent opportunity of having the baby they always wanted.