So you have found an embryo adoption program! You have applied, you have done the paperwork, and you might have even spent hours creating the perfect family profile. If your agency of choice operates using a mutual matching system, then you are probably thinking hard about what you might want in a placing family.
If mental health is a concern of yours, you may be considering how common certain mental health issues are in embryo donors.
Studies show that 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. have experienced a mental illness at some point in their lives. It is important to recognize that your own family likely also has mental health conditions somewhere in the family tree. Your donor family will be no different. This does not mean that the embryos will develop the same condition as adults, nor does it mean that it will be unmanageable if they do. Most mental health conditions are easily managed through medication and therapy, or even simple lifestyle changes.
As a helpful guide, below is a list of conditions you may be concerned about, and some facts to help you figure out how open you are willing to be.
Autism Spectrum Disorder:
- Around 2% of children in the United States are diagnosed with some form of autism spectrum disorder. It is four times more common in males than females.
- Autism is genetically linked, although researchers are still unsure of exactly how.
- Signs include avoiding eye contact, speech or understanding delays, flat speech, difficulty with social interactions, and repetitive behaviors.
- The word ‘spectrum’ means that all children diagnosed with autism are at a different level of severity. Some cases are extremely mild with just one symptom present, while some are more severe.
- Treatment for Autism is most successful when it starts at an early age, and it can be diagnosed starting at the age of 2. This might include different types of therapy such as occupational and speech therapy, and occasionally medication.
- An estimated 4.4% of adults in the United States have bipolar disorder.
- Characterized by dramatic shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels.
- Thought to be partially genetic, but there has not been a single gene found that is the cause of this condition.
- Most people with bipolar developed the disorder after going through a significantly traumatic or stressful event during the childhood or teenage years.
- Bipolar disorder is easily managed through consistent mood-stabilizing medications and help from a qualified therapist. In fact, the National Advisory Mental Health Council says that the treatment success rate for bipolar disorder is an impressive 80 percent!
- Only around 1% of the population in the United States have been diagnosed schizophrenia.
- Schizophrenia is more common in males, typically starting to show symptoms in early adulthood.
- The cause is currently unknown, but is thought to be connected to genetics due to the fact that six in 100 individuals who have parents with the condition will develop it themselves. It can also be triggered by the childhood environment.
- Symptoms vary greatly, but include paranoia, hallucinations, and delusional thought patterns.
- Schizophrenia is a highly treatable condition. The National Advisory Mental Health Council states that the success rates for treating schizophrenia are similar to the success rates for treating heart disease! Taking the medication needed to treat this disorder is key to living a normal life with schizophrenia.
Whatever your feelings may be right now, remember: Embryos that have one of these three conditions in their family background are not worth any less than embryos that do not.
Each of these precious lives deserves a chance to grow up, be loved by a family, and become who they were created to be. Yes, there is a miniscule chance they may develop one of these conditions if it is found in their family history, or even if it is not, but so much more goes into a child’s development than genetics. The home they are raised in and the experiences they have are often the strongest influence on their mental health. Even if they do need some extra support, mental health conditions that may at first sound intimidating have proven again and again to be easily and effectively managed.
For more information on embryo adoption and donation, visit EmbryoAdoption.org.