Phenotype matching and donor eggs – what’s the chance the baby will look like me?
How is the phenotype of egg donors and parents matched?
What are the most significant factors in choosing a donor? What are the chances that the baby will look like my partner and me? Are there any guarantees? These are the most common questions that you may have when egg donation is to be considered.
Answer from: Oksana Babula, MD
Will my baby look like me? Of course – we are working hard to choose the perfect donor based on your phenotype. The phenotype is the collective term for all of your physical characteristics, from your height and weight, skin tone, hair and eye colours, facial features, and others. We have a large pool of donors, allowing us to select donors, which match your phenotype the closest. Here in Latvia, the most common phenotype is Scandinavian, followed by the so-called Nordic phenotype. Due to our past as a Soviet republic, we also have people of other ethnic backgrounds living in our country. It’s very easy for us to find a matching donor for most patients of European origin; due to smaller populations, finding matching donors of African descent may take a little longer.
The phenotype isn’t the only thing we use to match donors – the blood type is another important factor, especially for patients with RH- blood. Patients also have the opportunity to select donors based on characteristics such as education, hobbies, body mass index, and others. All donors are also tested for all possible genetic diseases; they also undergo blood testing, drug testing, psychological evaluations, and others to ensure they are healthy and that the process is safe for all parties involved.
Answer from: Jennifer Rayward, MD
Even when a donor egg is used, the recipient has a major influence on the development of the fetus. Her health and how she takes care of herself during pregnancy will also impact the child, even after it’s born. The extent to which the recipient influences the child’s appearance is never known beforehand. However, another factor to take into account is that the child will imitate its parents – take on their facial expressions, body language, and habits.
I also want to underline that heredity is much more complicated than we thought even five or ten years ago. We used to think about what defined the child was simply where the egg and sperm came from. We have come to understand that the child’s appearance and personality are not only influenced by their genetic material. Currently, a new field called epigenetics is the subject of considerable scientific effort. The field is concerned with studying heritable, observable characteristics that don’t involve alteration in the DNA sequence. In other words, the impact of the environment, lifestyle, and other factors on the child’s appearance and behaviour.
At ProcreaTec, we have an egg donor program called OvoDona. We are responsible for screening and selecting every donor at our clinic. Our staff knows every donor personally. To ensure the best match for the recipient, we first consider physical characteristics such as height, weight, hair and eye colours, et cetera; we also employ facial recognition software called Fenomatch, which maps out the recipient’s biometrics. It uses that information alongside the recipient’s physical characteristics to analyse the donor database and return the best possible match.
We understand the question, “what will the baby look like” is a tremendously emotional one for our patients, which is why we use the latest technology in combination with the human factor – that is, our medical staff – to find the best match for our patients.
Answer from: Carolina Alonso Muriel
Precisely predicting which features the baby inherits is impossible. Most of the characteristics the child is born with are the result of various interactions between genes. Even couples conceiving naturally may end up with a child that only resembles one of the parents or one, which looks nothing like its parents, instead of inheriting traits from previous generations. Because of how complicated genetic processes are, it’s impossible to predict how the baby will actually look.
We are required by law to keep the donors anonymous. However, we still endeavour to make the best match based on the recipient’s blood type and physical characteristics such as weight, height, facial features, skin tone, hair and eye colours, et cetera. These traits are collectively known as the phenotype.
However, due to how genetics work, there is no guarantee the child will look like its mother.