Invisible dads

"Invisible dads" Continued...

Issue: "On the rails," Oct. 9, 2010

But despite that invisible half, he still considers himself a complete person. Kramer was surprised by the revelation that donor-conceived children have higher rates of depression. She said parents should inform their donor-conceived children about their conception early: If a child learns about his donor conception later rather than earlier, it can create feelings of distrust and shame about his origins.

"My Daddy's Name is Donor" seems to confirm this: Forty-four percent of donor-conceived children said that donor conception is fine for children as long as parents tell children the truth early; 36 percent said that learning about donor conception can be hard, but telling the truth early makes it easier. Only 11 percent said that it's hard for children even when parents tell the truth. Kramer said the donor community should listen to those who struggle with their origins, even if they're a minority: "These are voices to be heard, but I don't think they're the only voices."

Stewart, like 61 percent of the donor-conceived children in Marquardt's study, doesn't oppose sperm donation; she just opposes unregulated donation that leaves children with no knowledge of half of their heritage. Donation should be an altruistic act instead of a lucrative one, she says, and parents and donors should develop relationships with each other.

Stewart used to tell people her dad was dead because if she told the truth they made jokes or turned awkward and silent. Now, to help them understand, she is writing a screenplay about her story. She fantasizes that her donor dad will see it, recognize himself in her, find her, and finally tell her his name.

Charting solutions

NaPro technology can help some couples who balk at in vitro fertilization

When Karen Gaul turned 30, she finally had the house and the steady job she wanted before she pursued the next dream-a baby. For the next three years, Gaul visited a fertility clinic, sought out a reproductive endocrinologist, tried an ovulation drug, and injected hormones into her stomach twice a day for a week every month. When doctors said that in vitro fertilization (IVF) was the only option left, Gaul and her husband said they opposed the procedure and left.

One in seven couples seek medical intervention to help them conceive and thousands turn to invasive options like IVF, a treatment that costs on average $12,400 per four-week cycle. IVF doctors create embryos only to destroy the imperfect ones and freeze the leftovers. Gaul said the doctors became offended when she expressed objections: "They honestly believe that they're just working with things, like working with skin or working with bread."

Gaul, a Roman Catholic, was searching her diocese's website for an alternative when another parishioner directed her to the Gianna Center for Women, a New York City--based, Catholic clinic that uses a natural approach to diagnose the cause of infertility-something Gaul said her other doctors never did.

Dr. Anne Mielnik, founder of the Gianna Center, uses NaPro Technology. She shows a chart where women note their body's signs of fertility each day. They use red dots during their period, green dots on other days, and baby stickers on the days when they're fertile. After four months of charting, Mielnik searches the charts for abnormalities, makes a diagnosis, and decides on a treatment plan. A woman with a progesterone or estrogen deficiency might take hormones and another woman might simply take more Vitamin B6. After Gaul's investigation phase, she discovered that she suffered from endometriosis, a sometimes symptomless condition that can cause infertility, and she had surgery.

In 2008, the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine published a peer-reviewed study that found NaPro Technology produced 52.8 live births per 100 couples, a rate comparable to more invasive treatments like IVF. But treatment can take up to two years, a drawback for women of an age when they are becoming less likely to conceive. Over half of the study's 1,200 couples withdrew after less than two years of treatment.

Gaul, who has been at Gianna since November, said her charts show that her health has improved. It gives her hope that she won't have to choose between following her convictions or having a child. In the rest of the fertility industry, she said, "Women don't feel like they have a choice."


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