Tuesday, 24 March 2015

The age at which young adults conceived with ART learnt about their mode of conception

Dr Karin Hammarberg and Professor Jane Fisher from the Jean Hailes Research Unit have co-authored a paper with researchers from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and Melbourne IVF about the age at which young adults who were conceived with assisted reproductive technology (ART) learnt about their mode of conception. 

In the last 30 years ART treatment has made it possible for millions of infertile couples to have children. Today almost 4% of all Australian children are born as a result of ART. Some people who need ART also need donor eggs or donor sperm. It can be difficult for parents who have used ART, with or without donor eggs or sperm, to explain to their children how they were conceived.

In the past most parents kept this a secret but research shows that secrets can be damaging for family relationships and parents are now encouraged to be open and tell their children about the way they were conceived when they are young so that this becomes part of their life story.

The researchers interviewed 547 young adults who were born in Victoria as a result of ART between 1982 and 1992. Of these, almost 11% were also donor-conceived. The aim was to find out whether age when learning about being ART conceived influences the quality of the relationship with parents and adult well-being. The interview therefore included questions about the recalled age when learning about ART conception and the perceived quality of the parental relationship, and a measure of psychological and social well-being.

Most (77%) of the young adults had been informed about the way they were conceived before the age of 12, 18% when they were between 12 and 17 years, and 5% when they were 18 years or older. There were no differences in wellbeing or quality of the parental relationship between age-groups when learning about mode of conception or between those conceived with ART alone and those where donor gametes (eggs or sperm) had also been used.

The findings of this study suggest that the age when the young adults learned that they were ART-conceived, including those conceived with donor gametes, did not influence their current quality of life or parental relationship. This is reassuring for those who wish to disclose mode of conception to their children but have not done this at an early age.

The article is available here.


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