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Mothers who use donor eggs interact differently with their offspring, new study suggests

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 10/10/2018 Victoria Fletcher

(Representative image) © Provided by Shutterstock (Representative image) Mothers who give birth using donor eggs do not have the same connection with their babies as women who use their own eggs, a new study suggests.

Scientists at Cambridge University found that women who do not have a genetic connection with their offspring show “subtle yet meaningful” differences in how they interact.

Their observations showed that donor mothers made slightly less eye contact with their babies and responded less to their games.

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The researchers believe the differences may be explained by an awareness on the part of the mother that they are not genetically linked to their child, or because they typically arrive at parenthood later in life.

However, they said that all parents in the study had a strong and loving bond with their children.

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The research comes as an increasing number of British women are using donor eggs to become mothers, often later in life.

Around 1,400 babies born in 2016 were from donor eggs, triple the number born in 1996.

Dr Susan Imrie, from the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge who co-authored the study said: “A small number of egg donation mothers in our sample did talk about struggling with the idea of not having a genetic relationship with their baby.

“We do know from other research that genetic relationships hold different significance to different people.

“At the same time, some of these mums also spoke about how difficult it was to work out whether they were having a difficult time because of egg donation or because of the other common challenges of being a new parent.”

The new study, to be presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in Denver, Colorado, involved 85 families who used donor eggs during IVF and 65 who used their own.

Around 1,400 babies born in 2016 were from donor eggs, triple the number born in 1996. (Representative image) © Provided by Shutterstock Around 1,400 babies born in 2016 were from donor eggs, triple the number born in 1996. (Representative image) Both the mothers and babies and fathers and babies were asked to carry out a 10 minute play task and parents were scored on a 29 point scale.

The four areas the researchers assessed were how sensitive parents were to their children’s needs, how well they helped their children to play, if they helping their child to play without being too overbearing and finally if there was any hostility toward the child.

They also looked at how the 11 month-old babies interacted with the parents including how much they looked, smiled and babbled with them.

All of the parents scored highly, showing they were emotionally connected to their infants.

However, donor mothers were slightly less sensitive and less  ‘structuring’ in how they played with their babies.

Babies also involved their mothers slightly less in their play.

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Fathers in both groups interacted in the same way with their children.

The researchers concluded that: “Egg donation families function well in infancy overall, but there may be subtle yet meaningful difference in mother-infant interaction.”

Stuart Lavery, a fertility expert at Imperial College, London, said: 'This is an important study that suggests there may be some differences in the quality of the parent-child relationships between egg donation families and conventional IVF families.


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