Class of 1919 Reunion Professor - Wellesley College
The Consequences of Delaying Motherhood: Advanced Maternal Age, Infertility and Health Concerns
My Objectives are to examine the following key themes with comparative data:1. Loss of Genetic Motherhood and the Meaning of Genes
By comparing those who have relied upon donated eggs with those who have relied upon either manufactured embryos (both eggs and sperm) I can examine attitudes toward the experience of motherhood. Included in that are the social meaning of the absence of a genetic tie to children, epigenetics and the biological importance attributed to motherhood narratives. How is the bodily experience of motherhood (including the epigenetic narrative) heightened? Is it a way to counter the lack of a genetic /lineage tie to children and is this tie experienced differently if a partner has a genetic link to the child?
2. Choice of Gamete Donors
The US allows for choice of both sperm and egg donors with the intending parent(s) selecting their own donors. Choice includes both type of donor (anonymous, identity release) and the exact donors. Shifting donors is common (and an empirical finding that is complex). However, in Spain selection of donor(s) is done by the clinic personnel where donor anonymity is strictly regulated. Limited information about the donor(s) is given to recipients in Spain whereas in the U.S. extensive profiles exist. This examination includes how intending parent(s) imagine the donors as contributors to their embryos and also their understanding of the differences between themselves (as egg donor recipients) and the egg donors (as gift givers who are not always from the same social class background, ages or race). My earlier research finds that variables upon which egg and sperm donors are selected differ. How does two different fertility systems affect recipients understanding (and their thoughts about the donors) after the child is born?
3. Disclosure to Children
While disclosure to children is recommended (though has been a present source of controversy among some European Doctors versus social workers) the conditions under which parents disclose one or both donors will be examined. In the U.S. disclosure is likely because of practical considerations. Clients using Spanish clinics are “protected” by rules of confidentiality and they might choose not to disclose or to disclose at different points in their children’s lives. The use of two donors makes disclosure more complicated in both contexts. Disclosure could involve only disclosing one donor and not the other. We don’t know under what conditions (and if recipients feel) there is enough genetic information to disclose especially in the case of egg donor use.
SOCIAL AND BIOGENETIC FACTORS IN THE MAKING OF NEW FAMILIESRosanna Hertz received her doctorate from Northwestern University. She was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She is currently a Professor of Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies at Wellesley College where she has taught since 1983. Rosanna’s current research (with Margaret K. Nelson) explores the social meanings of conception with donor gametes among parents, offspring and the donors themselves. They have collected extensive data in both the United States (online surveys and face-to-face interviews ) and Spain (online survey). One current project analyzes how attitudes toward regulation of the fertility industry by the European Union differ among clients who cross borders to receive treatment and those who receive treatment in their home country. Another strand of their research focuses on how donor-conceived families normalize the use of biogenetic substances and whether (and how) they make bloodlines to others who share the same donor meaningful.