Donor Conception: The perspective of fathers where donor sperm has assisted conception

Prof Doc Thesis

Schofield, Amy 2013. Donor Conception: The perspective of fathers where donor sperm has assisted conception. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsSchofield, Amy
TypeProf Doc Thesis

This study explored the lived experiences of men, diagnosed as infertile, who had become fathers through the use of donated sperm since the lifting of donor anonymity in 2005. The extant literature suggests that both infertility and parenthood via Donor Conception (DC) are associated with psychological distress. Research however, has strongly biased towards the experiences of women. Few studies have investigated either how men make sense of becoming a recipient father, or the psychological impact of lifting donor anonymity. This qualitative study drew upon information gathered from semi-structured interviews with eight recipient fathers. Interviews were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Three super-ordinate themes were identified. ‘The me that couldn’t be and who I have become’, depicted the complex and recursive nature of the psychological challenges of both infertility and DC. It portrayed the difficult road from infertility to becoming a parent, resulting in a reconstruction of the meaning of ‘fatherhood’. ‘The safety of silence; the triumph of talk’, described how men felt both isolated and silenced regarding infertility and DC. The reparative value of talking to non-judgemental others was highlighted. All the men believed it was important to disclose the children’s DC origins to them, despite the feared repercussions. ‘The strangers in my family’, illustrated the ways in which professionals, the donor, and the child itself, could all be experienced as intruders into the men’s lives and minds. The lifting of donor anonymity seemed to place additional burdens on recipient fathers. Initial bonding seemed particularly difficult with sons, but strengthened over time. These findings are considered in relation to the literature and suggestions for further research offered. Clinical implications are discussed, confirming the importance of including men throughout the DC process and recommending that support groups and psychological therapy be offered independently from the fertility clinic setting.

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Publication dates
PrintMay 2013
Publication process dates
Deposited17 Jan 2014
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