Contemplating IVF With Egg Donation? Why You Need to Meet With a Mental Health Professional by Rhonda Levy
Rhonda Levy of Empowered IVF is a regular guest blogger for us.
If you require the help of an egg donor to form your family, you may be surprised when your fertility clinic strongly suggests or even requires that you meet with a mental health professional. If the clinic refers to this meeting as a "psychological evaluation" or a "psychological assessment" your reaction may be more than surprise; you may become angry and defensive since fertile people are not "evaluated" or "assessed" when they decide to bring a child into the world.
The True Purposes of the Meeting
However, regardless of what may be an unfortunate choice of words by your fertility clinic, the true purpose of a meeting with a mental health professional is not to evaluate or assess whether you are fit to become a parent. The actual purpose of the meeting is to help you, educate you, and to advocate for your unborn child.
Helping You Address Trauma & Resolve Grief
If you are considering egg donation, you have likely experienced the trauma of multiple failed IVF cycles or, possibly, a cancer diagnosis. One of the purposes of your meeting with a mental health professional is to help you address this trauma and heal in a safe and private environment.
In addition, when you learned that you would require donated eggs, both you and your husband or partner, if you have one, lost something that you always thought you would have. You learned that you would not have a genetic connection to your child and your husband or partner learned that he would be unable to conceive a baby with the genetics of the woman he loves. Grief is a natural, common and healthy response to these losses. An additional purpose of your meeting with a mental health professional is to help you resolve your grief and move forward in a positive direction.
Educating You About the Feelings of Donor Conceived Children & Advocating For Your Unborn Child
Your meeting with a mental health professional will also have an educational component. Because the first child conceived with donated eggs was born in 1983, much is known about how having a baby through egg donation is different and more complex than having a baby with one's own eggs. The mental health professional will ensure that you consider some of the issues that may arise in this context. He or she will have studied what is known about the feelings of children brought into a family via donor conception, in circumstances when there has and has not been open disclosure to the child. Their knowledge will be shared with you as if they are an advocate for your unborn child. This will increase the likelihood that you will address these issues with your child, your extended family, and your friends in the healthiest possible way.
A Clear Understanding of the Issues & A Roadmap
It is true that some fertility clinics use language that may cause you to feel understandably threatened when asked to meet with a mental health professional. However, the true purpose of this meeting is not to put an adversary in your path but rather to present you with a partner. The mental health professional's goal is to help you proceed with your family building efforts with a clear understanding of the complex issues that may arise when children are conceived with the help of an egg donor, and to give you an effective roadmap for how to deal with them.
Finally, I strongly recommend that you read this article by Carole LieberWilkins, M.A., M.F.T., who is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in West Los Angeles, specializing in the field of reproductive medicine, adoption and family building options. Carole does an excellent job of comprehensively explaining the issues from the perspective of a psychologist.
Rhonda Levy is the Founder & CEO of Empowered IVF™, a consulting service that provides education, advocacy, and guidance to heterosexual and LGBT couples and singles living throughout the world who are interested in building their families with assisted reproductive technology (ART) in the United States and Canada. Rhonda Levy's mission is to help clients of Empowered IVF™ navigate the world of ART in a discerning and informed fashion. She helps her clients "own the process" so that they will make smart choices and decisions, and save time, money and heartache. Services include, among other things, providing assistance with fertility clinic selection, the selection of fertility specialists (physicians), egg donor agencies, surrogacy agencies, embryo donation agencies, egg banks, sperm banks, reproductive lawyers and mental health professionals. Clients also receive information about all of the subtleties and nuances of success rate interpretation, the latest treatment options, and their financing options. Finally, Rhonda helps clients of Empowered IVF™ prepare for consultations and arrange second opinions.