The Experience and Wellbeing of Donor-Conceived Adults
Gamete donation and conception has become increasingly more common both internationally and locally. Although New Zealand’s current policy and practice support openness, donor- conception has historically been shrouded in secrecy. The experience and wellbeing of those who are donor-conceived has received relatively little research attention, partly because of secrecy and the fact that many donor-conceived individuals remain unaware of the nature of their conception. Therefore in this exploratory, in-depth qualitative study, ten donor-conceived offspring -eight women and two men- were interviewed to explore their experience of being donor-conceived and the impact that had on their wellbeing. All participants were born prior to the introduction of the HART Act 2004, meaning that they did not automatically have the right to access identifying information upon reaching the age of eighteen. The overarching theme identified was of a need to prioritise the long-term wellbeing of those who are donor-conceived, with participants expressing the belief that their needs and wishes had often come second to those of parents, donors and the fertility industry. While the experiences of participants differed particularly in regards to disclosure, searching and linking, all participants recalled a lack of: access to identifying information, openness, and ongoing conversations regarding the nature of their conception and their interest in it. Further, participants expressed a lack of support in navigating their identity and processing what it means to be donor-conceived, and stressed the amount of time and effort they invested trying to track down information about themselves through their donor and donor-conceived communities. While this research project was based on a small sample size, it adds a relevant and much-needed perspective that few studies have explored. It underscores the value of current legislation and practices which support openness and disclosure. It is hoped that the findings from this study may be used to inform prospective parents and donors, as well as the fertility industry, as regards ways in which to maximise the wellbeing of donor-conceived individuals.