The recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade has sent shock waves of worry and panic to millions of Americans who never believed that the right to make decisions about their bodies would be curtailed by the government. This decision also calls into question whether fertility treatment, same sex marriage and other personal rights we now enjoy will also be abolished. While some politicians claim that the Dobbs Decision will not affect these other rights, many legal experts have expressed concern that this ruling will open the door to other restrictions connected to liberty and freedom.
For those planning to build families using donor conception, these developments are causing fear and trepidation about the future. Anxiety may initially help you feel more alert, stay informed and remember to vote. But then what? Prolonged anxiety can cause a buildup of cortisol which can lead to weight gain, fatigue, irritability and increasing depression or anxiety. Not feeling like there are any solid answers or ways to combat these issues can leave you feeling helpless and further increase depressive feelings. Although that is understandable, it is more helpful to consider what you can do, rather than what you can’t do. Some people are stockpiling pregnancy tests, “plan B” pills and erasing their menstrual cycle apps on their phones. Is this necessary? Only time will tell, and if these actions provide a sense of control and are not harmful to you or anyone else, then why not? But if you are using donor conception to have a child, or already have children created through third party reproduction, here are some proactive self-protective actions you might want to consider (large and small):
If you are considering fertility treatment:
- Where you store your embryos may matter. If you do not intend to use all of your embryos, you may want to freeze excess embryos in a state where you will be more likely to be able to access them, donate them to science, or discard them if you do not want to donate them to another couple.
- If you decide to donate your embryos, understand the difference between embryo donation and embryo adoption. According to science, an embryo is not yet a person, but to many, life begins at conception. As a result, some “embryo adoption” programs have traditionally required families to undergo an adoption process to place their embryos with another family. This includes a background check and home study and will typically require the embryos to be “adopted” by a Christian, heterosexual couple.
- Consider freezing eggs and sperm separately. Deciding what to do with excess embryos can be a difficult decision, and as a result, there are hundreds of thousands of embryos frozen in this country. Many of these embryos have been frozen for decades. To avoid this, another option may be to freeze eggs and sperm separately and only create embryos that you can use. Unfortunately, this is an expensive option and may be cost prohibitive for many.
- Compassionate transfers. For those who have created excess embryos and live in a restrictive state, you may wish to consider a compassionate transfer. Unfortunately, same sex male couples and male single male parents will not have this option. In this procedure, an embryo is transferred into a woman’s body at a time when she is unlikely to become pregnant. Therefore, no embryo is destroyed.
What about people who are concerned about having a child with chromosomal difficulties or passing a genetically linked trait to their offspring? At the moment, embryos are routinely screened for many difficulties, thereby minimizing the chance for miscarriage or delivering a child with problems such as Downs Syndrome. Embryos can also be screened for specific difficulties that could be passed down from the intended parents to future generations. In the future, if screening embryos is restricted, patients may opt to use donor sperm or a donor eggs to conceive. These donors are typically young, and therefore are less likely to produce eggs or sperm with age-related difficulties. These donors can also undergo a genetic workup to determine if they are carriers for a certain difficulty. This is not a perfect solution but it can help minimize difficulties. However, because of their young age, egg donors often create many eggs. While this is positive for many families, in a post-Roe world, the family and their doctor may consider attempting to create fewer embryos than they desire to try to avoid creating excess embryos. Unfortunately, attempting to create fewer eggs can result in a lower chance of success for a successful pregnancy.
These are small and large considerations to consider as you are planning to, or have already used fertility treatment to have your children. None of these options are ideal, and some may feel extreme, but even knowing that there are things you “can do” or “think about” may give you a greater sense of calm in an ever changing and stressful world where so much can feel outside of your control.
If you would like to discuss your options, receive counseling to manage stress or get education on donor conception we are here to help. We provide indivudal and group counseling and a wide range of video programs and resources on our website.
We are here for you.