The importance of genetic parenthood for infertile men and women.Hum Reprod 2017; 32(10):2076-2087HR
Do men and women beginning to attend a fertility clinic prefer genetic over non-genetic parenthood?
Nearly, all infertile men and women prefer genetic parenthood.
WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY
Clinicians assume that all infertile couples prefer genetic parenthood over non-genetic parenthood and, therefore, consider treatments with donor gametes an option of last resort. Previous studies of the desire for parenthood identified 30 motivations for genetic parenthood, and 51 motivations for which having a genetically related child is not strictly necessary but might be deemed required. The exact strength of the preference of infertile men and women for genetic parenthood remains unclear, as does the importance of the various motivations.
STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION
A questionnaire was developed based on a literature review. It was assessed by professionals and pilot tested among patients. The coded paper-pencil questionnaire was disseminated among both partners of 201 heterosexual infertile couples after their first consultation at one of two Belgian fertility clinics between October 2015 and May 2016.
PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS
The survey addressed: (i) the preference for genetic parenthood for themselves and for their partner, (ii) the importance of 30 motivations for genetic parenthood and (iii) the importance of 51 other motivations for parenthood and whether these motivations require being the genetic parent of their child to be fulfilled. To simplify presentation of the results, all 81 motivations were grouped into reliable categories of motivations using psychometric analyses.
MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE
The survey was completed by 104 women and 91 men (response rate: 49%). Almost all respondents (98%) favored genetic over non-genetic parenthood for both their partner and themselves. One-third of the respondents stated they only wanted to parent their own genetically related child. Achieving genetic parenthood for their partner was considered significantly more important than achieving genetic parenthood for themselves. Within couples, men had a stronger preference for genetic parenthood (P = 0.004), but this was not significant after correction for educational level, which was significantly associated with the preference of both men and women. The 30 motivations for becoming a genetic parent clustered into 11 categories of which 'to experience a natural process' was deemed most important. The 51 motivations for becoming a parent for which having a genetically related child is not strictly necessary clustered into 14 categories of which 'to contribute to a child's well-being' and 'to experience the love of a child' were most important. Respondents deemed they would need to be the genetic parent of their child to fulfill nearly all their motivations for parenthood.
LIMITATIONS REASONS FOR CAUTION
We included couples that visited the fertility clinic for the first time, and the preference for genetic parenthood might change throughout a fertility treatment trajectory. Moreover, what prospective parents expect to be important for their future well-being might not really define parents' well-being.
WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS
The presumed preference of couples for genetic parenthood was confirmed. Resistance against using donor gametes is more likely among lower educated individuals. Researching whether non-genetic parents actually feel they cannot fulfill the 51 motivations for parenthood, could be a basis for developing patient information.
STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S)
Funded by the Parkes Foundation, the University of Amsterdam and the Leuven University Hospital. No conflict of interest.