As millions of people embrace ancestry DNA testing globally, more people are discovering they were donor-conceived. If this has happened to you, you are not alone. VARTA is here to support you.
How does genetic testing link relatives?
When people participate in DNA ancestry tests, companies often provide a choice to connect with genetic relatives around the world. As we all share some of our DNA with our relatives, including our parents, grandparents, siblings, and cousins, our DNA fingerprint partially overlaps with those we are genetically related to. As DNA companies receive more test results, they can increasingly provide links to our relatives who have also undertaken DNA testing. Thus, it can come as a huge shock to receive mail indicating you have close relatives you don’t know about. You can find more detail about what’s involved in DNA testing here.
Common experiences of people who discover they are donor-conceived as an adult
When people discover they are donor-conceived, they commonly report feeling disbelief, shock, betrayal and anger. It is not unusual to think that there must be some mistake, especially if you have no inkling that your parents struggled with fertility. When donor treatment was first practised, it was extremely common for parents not to tell their children that they were donor-conceived. You can read more information about people’s experiences of finding out they were donor-conceived here.
What can you do next?
Discovering you are donor-conceived can affect many aspects of your life, so it’s important to get support. There are various options available to you. Here are some suggestions:
VARTA has professional and supportive staff who can talk with you about your experience and feelings. VARTA staff can also connect you with support groups and help you decide whether there is anything you might like to do with this new information, either immediately or in future. You can find our contact details here.
Take things slowly
Many people who contact us are feeling shocked, so give yourself adequate time to adjust to the information you’ve received. The time for this will vary between individuals. Don’t rush into any decisions or responses that you may regret in future or that you don’t have the energy to deal with at present. It can be tempting to immediately contact unknown genetic relatives, but these people are strangers. Ensuring you are emotionally ready for the contact is likely to create a better outcome in the long term. It is also possible that if the relative is a sibling, they may, like you, not know they are donor-conceived. If the connection is to the donor, you may not be able to predict how he will initially feel about your approach, particularly if he has not informed his own family he was a donor many years ago. Moving slowly is VARTA’s recommendation even when people have known all their lives that they are donor-conceived. You can read more about what’s involved in donor-linking here.
Speak to your parents
If you have a close and loving relationship with your parents, you may feel able to talk to them about it. Speaking with your parents, who have kept this a secret, can be overwhelming, so it is best to speak to them when you feel calm. Raising the issue in anger can be counter-productive when everybody will have heightened emotions. Writing and or practising what you would like to say to your parents can help prepare you for the conversation. Sometimes when parents are confronted with this information by their child, they panic and deny the information. Parents often experience fear and guilt when this secret is revealed. So having some awareness of how your parents might respond in this situation and being prepared for that can be helpful. Some parents may feel relieved once the truth has been revealed, and over time, this can bring family members closer together.
Apply to VARTA to have the information confirmed
If you were born in Victoria, you can make a Central Register (CR) Application for non-identifying information, which may confirm that you are donor-conceived. It can also alert you to the number of donor siblings you may have. If you want to, you can also apply for information about your donor, including non-identifying information such as hair and eye colour, and identifying information such as your donor’s name, date of birth, and contact details. There is also a Voluntary Register (VR) which can match you to any donor-siblings who have also lodged their details and who may wish to connect with you.