Epigenetics – do babies end up looking like the egg recipient?
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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Answer from: Maria Arquè, MD
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
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
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.