When the genetic load of the baby you are carrying and nurturing inside you is different from that of your own, it is normal to wonder how much your baby will be like you, look like you and if he or she will take after you in anyway. Thanks to epigenetics, the answer is: more than you probably think!
Epigenetics is the name given to the study of how genes are expressed, and research has shown that your environment and behavior do influence the way the genes are used.
In this article we talk about how epigenetics means that even though in an egg donation treatment, the mother may not have provided the DNA herself, it is her body that carries the pregnancy and builds the baby, so her environment, behavior and choices affect how those genes are used.
GIVING UP PASSING ON YOUR GENES
Using donor eggs to achieve pregnancy is an assisted reproduction technique that has helped many women around the world to become mothers. The egg from the donor is fertilized in an IVF procedure with the either the partner’s sperm or donor sperm to create embryos which are then transferred to the patient’s uterus to produce the desired pregnancy.
This means the mother must come to terms with the fact that her baby will not have her genes, but instead the genetic load of the donor. Psychological counselling can help greatly with this step, and you can read more about this topic in our post on Dealing with the Emotional Side of Egg Donation.
However, the genetic load is not the be all and end all of the story. How the genes are used and interpreted will depend on the biological mother (the recipient woman), and this is where epigenetics becomes important.
WHAT IS EPIGENETICS
Genes are the codes upon which life itself is built, and are the blueprint for building our bodies. The genes we possess are inherited from our genetic mother and father and our genetic code can´t be changed.
However, this DNA code needs to be read, expressed (interpreted) and put into use, and this is where epigenetics comes in. Epigenetics relates to how the code is used; which genes are turned on, which are turned off. This turning on and off is reversible and influenced by factors such as diet, lifestyle and so on. Bearing this in mind, we can see how the biological mother and the environment of the maternal uterus has a great epigenetic influence over her growing child.
NUTURE OR NURTURE
One way to think about how epigenetics connects you to your donor conceived baby is to think of a favorite song that you know more than one version of. Each cover version of that song has the same basic notes and lyrics, but the final version is different depending on how the artist interprets and performs it. In a similar way, as your developing baby grows inside you, your lifestyle will influence how his or her song is played.
This ability of our bodies to turn on and off our genes occurs throughout our lives, meaning that both nature (the genetic load) and nurture (how the mother influences the expression of the genes) work together in harmony to build your future baby.
If you have any questions about using donor eggs, or are interested in our frozen donor egg packages from our egg bank, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our coordinators and they will happy to help you to find your perfect donor. Or, you can visit www.ovobankid.com and register to see our donors and find out more about how we can help you on your journey to parenthood.