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Epigenetics – do babies end up looking like the egg recipient?

4 fertility expert(s) answered this question

Answer from: Nurit Winkler

Gynaecologist, Co-Onwer and Co-Founder at Los Angeles Reproductive Center

There is always a question when dealing with an egg donor and especially when carrying the pregnancy. It is as if ‘nothing is coming from me, it’s all coming from the egg donor and I am just carrying the pregnancy’ and this is a topic that is hard to accept sometimes as you feel just like an oven. But the reality is that there are so many studies that show that whoever carries the pregnancy has a huge influence on how the baby will turn out, not only health wise, but definitely there is a lot of epigenetic phenomenons, activation or deactivation of certain genes in the baby that has to do with the person that carries the pregnancy. This brings the egg donation on a much more personal level as you feel that ‘I’m not just carrying the pregnancy I will influence this baby form the moment I’m pregnant and after on, in life’ so I think this is very positive and encouraging to women who are struggling in the idea that they have given up their genes and are carrying someone else’s genes.

Answer from: Maria Arquè, MD, PhD

Gynaecologist, Reproductive Specialist

Epigenetics is the study of the changes in gene activity that are not caused by changes in the DNA sequence – it is the study of gene expression. It is already well known that our lifestyle has an important impact on epigenetics.

Researchers based in our fertility clinic in Spain found out that the secretions from the mother’s womb penetrate the pre-implanted embryo. It influences the development of the baby. There are certain conditions and habits from the mother like smoking or obesity, which can modify the woman’s cells, and those cells can be found in the endometrium. These, in turn, can make some changes in the fluid in the womb, which is going to be interacting with the baby and the genetic information secretion.

These findings show us that there is an exchange between the endometrium and the embryo, which is something we already were suspecting as a result of the fact that there are coincidences of certain physical characteristics between mothers and children born through egg donation. Also, due to the incidence of certain diseases in children related to the maternal pathologies in the pregnancy, like obesity or smoking.

Answer from: Renáta Krmíčková, MD, PhD

Gynaecologist, Head of the IVF Laboratory
IVF Zentren Prof. Zech

Firstly, I have to point out that our check log provides for an egg donation to be strictly anonymous. This means that it’s illegally prohibited to disclose any information on the donor’s identity either to the recipient couple or the future child at any time.

Nevertheless, during a donor-recipient matching process, our medical team considers the best possible similarities and matches of both. Major phenological differences between the donor and recipients are avoided from the beginning. As an example, for Central Europeans, a Caucasian phenotype deviates only marginally.

But in the end, the physical appearance of a child is always a mixture of the genes from the mother, the father, and from previous generations. Finally, the phenological appearance is shaped by many mental detectors. Such so-called epigenetical processes induced by the recipient’s mother’s body, her health, the condition during the pregnancy, and many others can strongly affect physical predispositions or appearance.

Answer from: Nataliya Kushniruk, MD

Gynaecologist, Genetician, Fertility Specialist
Ferticare Clinics

The answer is yes – they look like the recipient mother. Why? Firstly, there is a good matching process between the recipient and the egg donor. We match them by height, weight, hair colour, eye colour, main facial features and more. The embryo will also inherit some traits from the patient; not the main 23 chromosomes, but some genetic exchange does occur.

Don’t worry – the baby will end up looking like both parents and will inherit some behavioural patterns from the family environment.

About this question:

Egg donation – will the baby look like me?

While egg donation is one of the most successful fertility treatments currently available, many patients are still wary of the process. The prospect of using somebody else’s oocytes and the anonymity enforced in many European countries gives rise to a very common worry – what exactly guarantees that the baby will look like me? What if it looks like someone else?

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