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Nature vs. Nurture? Choosing the Perfect Donor

I am often asked as a reproductive endocrinologist (and therefore a supposed expert on heredity) how much of a child’s development and ultimate personality is a result of nature or genetics and how much of it is nurture or environment. This question typically arises when dealing with patients contemplating using donor gametes whether they are sperm or egg.

Let me start by admitting that I do not have the answer to this question that I myself have spent much time considering. I am one of five children. I have four children of my own and so far three grandchildren. Now, the environment, as well as the genetics of my siblings and I, and that of my children, does not appear to be so different. Yet each of us has developed unique characters and personalities. Some are significantly different.

I think it’s like a Jackson Pollack painting. When you raise a child, different colors of nature and nurture are tossed randomly up in the air and what we call life is how it dresses the canvas below. Art is a reflection of life. Sometimes the picture it creates is breathtakingly beautiful and other times you wish you could start with a new canvas. Now if you are a conscientious parent then you are most careful about how and what colors of nurture you toss. With Nature however, even that which comes from you, there is no control.

So, I tell my patients who are so concerned that their donor has a particular color hair, eyes, or even personality type that they are putting too much faith in just one can of paint that they get to choose to toss up in the air. People with blue eyes and blonde hair have other colors from ancestors past that randomly did not appear on their body. But their gametes contain them and these cans of paint will potentially have more impact on the canvas than the blue eyes and blonde hair that the recipient is hoping for.

For me, I prefer healthy with good odds for successful conception and a generally appropriate mix of physical and behavioral characteristics to match the recipient.

Then I pray for God’s blessing.

This article was written by Dr. David Kreiner, Fertility Specialist, Founder, and Medical Director of East Coast Fertility in NYC.

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