How will this affect my future child? 40+ intended parents’ concerns (age, donor conception, single motherhood)

Viki Peeters
Fertility Coach, Viki Peeters – Fertility Coach

Advanced Maternal Age, Donor Eggs, Emotions and Support

From this video you will find out:
  • What specific concerns do intended parents in their 40s face regarding the potential impact of advanced parental age on the well-being of their future children?
  • What does current scientific research indicate about the impact of advanced maternal age, donor conception, and solo motherhood on the well-being of children conceived through assisted reproductive technologies?
  • How can intend parents in their 40s address potential risks and challenges to promote positive outcomes for their offspring?

How will this affect my future child? 40+ intended parents’ concerns (age, donor conception, single motherhood)

During this, thought-provoking webinar Viki Peeters, a Certified Fertility Coach shared some practical tips for anyone considering parenthood later in life, exploring donor conception, or embracing single motherhood.

If you are in your 40s, or you’re 45 plus, you surely feel time pressure and cannot afford to waste more valuable time. Perhaps you’re considering donor conception or single motherhood, you are struggling emotionally with your decision. If that is the case, this webinar is for you. The big, life-defining questions you may ask yourself: How will my decision affect my future child? Will my future child be happy with the decisions I’m making regarding my age, donor conception, or single motherhood? You need to remember that your child’s future or happiness is not 100% predictable or controllable; that’s an illusion. And that uncertainty might make it feel potentially unsafe to make the decision.

Parental reflection: making informed decisions

Does this mean you can just go on blindly without reflection? While the future happiness of your child isn’t 100% predictable, there are certain aspects that you can influence. As a parent, you are the core of everything your child leans on, especially in the younger years. And even as they grow older, you remain important. If you are certain of your decision, then your child will also feel strong.

It’s important to ask yourself: What impact do you have as an intended parent? What questions should you ask yourself about this topic, and what can you do? When deciding on motherhood or parenthood at 40 plus, you need to look at it from different perspectives. There’s your own perspective, but there’s also the perspective of your partner or your relationship. Maybe there are already other children in your family. And, of course, there’s the perspective of your future child.

Navigating emotional struggles

There is several frequently asked questions, including: “Will my child be happy with this decision?” However, it’s crucial to flip the question and consider, “How happy are you with it?” Additionally, you need to ask yourself: “How can you expect your child to be happy with it if you are unhappy with it?”

Imagine this: “If you leave a ball of grief and sadness untouched, your child can pick it up subconsciously for you and carry it out of love and loyalty.”

This is certainly something you don’t want, so pick up this ball. You will look at your grieving process about your ideal picture, and envision your new picture. For instance, envision yourself as a mother or father at an older age than you assumed, perhaps with a donor, or even as a single parent, without a partner.

There is a Surinamese proverb that says:

If you leave a stone on the road, your child or the child(ren) will stumble over it.

Therefore, pick up the stone or the ball, or whatever symbolizes your concerns, and examine it during this stage of your decision-making. It truly impacts the process you’re undergoing and can affect your child.

Balancing risks and benefits of older parenthood

The first concern that you might have about your child is your maternal age. Scientific data specifies that there’s a higher risk of preterm labour, also increased rates of genetic disorders in case you’re using your own gametes. On the other hand, scientific data also shows that older parents have had more time to invest in their own education, develop emotionally and socially, and gain self-confidence, life experience, maturity, parenting knowledge, career stability, and financial stability. This could result in a more enriched and nurturing family environment, higher family income, greater child well-being, more developmentally effective, more time spent with children, and fewer social and emotional difficulties for children.

However, there are potential pitfalls and risk factors associated with family functioning in older parents’ families. These include feelings of stigma associated with being older parents, concerns about mortality, and questioning of parenting skills due to age-related factors such as reduced energy reserves.

Older parents must engage in self-reflection regarding their feelings about being older parents. Questions to consider include:

  • How does being an older parent make you feel?
  • On a scale from 1 to 10, how happy are you with your decision to be an older parent, and what would it take to increase your satisfaction?
  • How do you rate your fitness, energy, and health on a scale from 1 to 10, and do you feel that age impacts your parenting skills?
  • How important is it to you what others think about your decision to have a child at this age, and do you feel stigmatized?

Understanding one’s feelings and concerns about being an older parent is essential for maintaining a positive parent-child relationship and overall well-being.

Exploring donor conception

Donor conception is a topic that raises concerns for parents, particularly regarding the impact on the well-being of your child or your children. What does scientific research say about this? Research suggests that families created through donor conception generally function well. The absence of a genetic connection does not prevent the development of a positive relationship between parents and children. Additionally, there are no differences in emotional or behavioral problems between donor-conceived children and those conceived naturally, indicating positive outcomes.

However, scientific research also highlights challenges with secrecy surrounding donor conception. This can lead to less positive parent-child interactions and poorer family functioning. Early disclosure of donor conception is associated with better emotional and identity development outcomes for children. This should ideally occur during preschool years to facilitate healthy development. You need to be aware that increased openness about donor conception can also lead to children expressing interest in searching for donor relatives in the future.

To understand the complexities of donor conception, it’s essential to ask yourselves several questions:

  • How does it feel for you that your child does not share your genes or those of your partner?
  • On a scale from 1 to 10, how happy and confident do you feel about using donor conception?
  • What do you need to increase your confidence and happiness in this process?
  • How important is others’ perception of donor conception to you, and do you feel stigmatized by it?

The decision-making process surrounding donor conception involves various complex factors, one of which is selecting the donor type. It’s crucial to understand there are 3 types of donors: anonymous – you will never know the identity of your donor, open or ID profile – your child can ask for the identity of the donor at a certain age, e.g., 16 or 18 years old, depending on the law of the country and known donors – you can know who the donor is from the moment of the conception.

The following questions can help you reflect on your feelings and concerns regarding donor conception and its potential impact on your child’s well-being.

  • How important is it to you and your child that the donor’s identity remains undisclosed (anonymous), or that your child has the option to access the donor’s identity in the future (open or ID profile, known donor)?
  • At what age do you feel it’s appropriate for your child to have the option to access the donor’s identity? Consider legal requirements and your child’s emotional readiness.
  • How important is it to you that your child can have contact with the donor? If so, at what age and in what capacity (e.g., exchanging letters, meeting in person)?
  • Do you believe it’s essential for your child to have information about the donor while growing up? How might this information contribute to your child’s sense of identity?
  • If you desire contact with the donor, how important is it that the donor lives within a reasonable distance or shares your language and cultural background?
  • Can you access your desired donor type through the fertility clinic and in the country you’re considering for treatment? Ensure that your chosen clinic and location align with your preferences regarding donor type.

As you reflect on these questions, remember that choosing a donor type is a process that requires careful consideration of your own values, your child’s future needs, and practical feasibility within your chosen treatment setting.

Serial sperm donation on donor-conceived children

Serial donation, particularly in the context of sperm donation, has raised significant media attention and concerns regarding its impact on donor-conceived children. While you may not have full control over this aspect, it’s essential to reflect on its potential implications. Here are some questions to consider:

  • How do you perceive the potential impact of your donor conceiving multiple children on your future child’s well-being? Consider your feelings and those you anticipate your child may have.
  • From which country does your donor originate, and what are the regulations regarding the maximum number of donations or children per donor in that country?
  • Do you believe there should be an international maximum number of donations? Explore your thoughts on the global implications of serial donation.
  • What will be your approach to disclosing the donor conception story to your child, and at what age do you plan to begin this conversation? Consider who else should be involved in this discussion and the timing of these conversations.
  • Reflect on the potential effects of openness about donor conception on your child’s curiosity and desire to search for donor-related information or connections.
  • Stay informed about advancements in DNA databases and their implications for donor anonymity. Consider how evolving technology may influence your child’s ability to access donor-related information in the future.
  • How will you support your child if they express a desire to search for donor relatives? Consider your role as a supportive parent while respecting your child’s autonomy and emotions.
  • What are your expectations regarding potential donor searches? Are you prepared for various outcomes, including simple identity confirmation or more extensive contact with donor relatives?

Scientific insights on single motherhood and child well-being

Scientific research offers valuable insights into the well-being of children raised in a single motherhood structure. The scientific research indicates that children raised in non-traditional family structures, such as single-parent families, generally lead happy lives and receive the love and support they need. However, a study on young adults raised by single mothers by choice revealed that while they reported overall happiness, they acknowledged moments or experiences they missed out on, such as Father’s Day celebrations or certain fatherly activities. It has been concluded that the psychological well-being of a child is not solely determined by family structure but is influenced by various factors, including the quality of the parent-child relationship, parental well-being, social circumstances, and individual characteristics of the child.

Therefore, it depends on a lot of things, it’s important to reflect on the support network available to you and consider the presence of male figures in your child’s life, even if not in the traditional father role.

For single mothers by choice who opt for donor conception, it’s crucial to explore your feelings and considerations regarding the involvement of a sperm donor in your child’s life. Recognize the distinction between families where the mother was single from the start and those where single parenthood resulted from divorce or breakup. Understand that the latter scenario may entail greater emotional and financial stress.

As you contemplate your family structure and parenting journey, remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and seeking support and guidance can be instrumental in making informed decisions.

- Questions and Answers

Is there anything about your IVF journey that you would do differently knowing how it all works? What would you pay more attention to?

I think I would do a lot of things differently. About the impact on my child…  maybe about the aspect of being already happy with my decision-making process. I think at the time when I was in my fertility process, you’re just going on and on.  I was also under time pressure, and you’re just going on and on, and your first aim is this child. If I do it again, I think I would more dive into this process of how happy am I with this.  

How do you overcome the feeling that no one really understands what you are going through even if I try to explain?

I think that your struggle with this is also a symptom of the fact that you’re not completely strong in it yourself, you’re still in your decision process, and this sometimes is difficult and then all things other people say touch you. When I work with clients, I often see the moment they get stronger and stronger in their decision-making process, they say that they don’t mind so much what other people think anymore. There is a quote from Paulo Coelho, I think, that says “The more you love your decisions, the less you need others to love them.” I think that’s true, it’s still a process. It’s hard to switch and be okay with this.

In relation to donor conception, is there research that suggests the benefit of one type over the other, known, open, at a certain age or anonymous donation?

Anonymous donations are getting more and more criticized. The opinions are more and more that the child has a right to know their genetic links. With the rise of DNA databases, the concept of true anonymity in donation is becoming more uncertain. Whether anonymous donation will persist in the next two decades remains unknown. Despite the criticism, many countries, such as Spain and Greece, still facilitate anonymous egg donation. I think there are benefits and disadvantages in every scenario. For example, an open donor, or an ID donor, allows the child to know the identity of the donor, which may seem preferable. However, there are still risks involved, such as unmet expectations or difficulties establishing contact later in life. Conversely, a known donor, often a friend or acquaintance, can contribute to a beautiful narrative. Still, without clear arrangements, complications may arise. Ultimately, the decision between donor types is subjective and requires reflection, taking into account the perspectives of both the parent and the future child. While some may find anonymity reassuring, others may see value in transparency. Our aim in this webinar is to provide insight into the decision-making process from diverse perspectives, recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all answer in this ongoing debate.

You mentioned preschool age is best to tell the child about donor conception. In terms of preschool age, is it a suggestion as early as possible, preschool, so from the very beginning even when they don’t understand at all?

It’s what scientific research says. In general, there are two ways to talk to a child about donor conception. But in general, there are two ways to talk to a child about donor conception. On one hand, you may opt for specific moments, such as deciding to share the information at a certain age, like four years old, for instance. Alternatively, you can view it as an ongoing process rather than a single event. This means starting the conversation very early, even during pregnancy, by speaking to the baby in the womb. While they may not comprehend the discussion at that stage, they may absorb it subconsciously. It’s also essential for you as a parent to start practicing discussing this topic early on. In the scenario where you wait for a special moment, there’s a risk that it becomes overly significant, leading to postponement and heightened emotions. Initiating the conversation early becomes a natural part of communication, and there’s no need for it to be treated as a momentous event. This approach allows you to begin discussing donor conception before the child fully comprehends it, avoiding a distinct before-and-after moment of revelation. From a parental perspective, this method tends to be more comfortable. Ultimately, the decision on how to approach this discussion rests with you, as every family’s dynamics are different. Additionally, there are resources available, such as children’s books on egg donation, which can aid in starting these conversations. Creating personalized books with pictures and stories from your own journey, whether it’s visiting Spain or Portugal for egg donation, can further normalize the experience for your child. It’s about embracing your unique story and integrating it naturally into your family narrative.
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Viki Peeters

Viki Peeters

Viki Peeters is a professional, certified coach. As a child wish coach, she talks to 40+ women through their decision and follow-up process, for example regarding egg donation and sperm donation. Viki is a mom of two beautiful children. She became a mother after a challenging process, much later in life, than planned. Email: coaching@vikipeeters.be Free online match call: https://en.vikipeeters.be/matchcall/ Website: https://en.vikipeeters.be/
Event Moderator
Caroline Kulczycka

Caroline Kulczycka

Caroline Kulczycka is managing MyIVFAnswers.com and has been hosting IVFWEBINARS dedicated to patients struggling with infertility since 2020. She's highly motivated and believes that educating patients so that they can make informed decisions is essential in their IVF journey. In the past, she has been working as an International Patient Coordinator, where she was helping and directing patients on their right path. She also worked in the tourism industry, and dealt with international customers on a daily basis, including working abroad. In her free time, you’ll find her travelling, biking, learning new things, or spending time outdoors.