Epigenetics is a branch of science that’s increasingly relevant to pregnancies. Especially, IVF pregnancies, where recipients are using donor eggs or sperm. Epigenetics looks at how lifestyle factors can affect your baby’s genes. The gene sequence itself cannot be changed. But according to research this sequence can alter the way your genes are expressed. This expression (which we will touch on further down) can very well be based on your lifestyle.
So how do Epigenetics affect IVF? Recipients using donated eggs (and or sperm) have more than likely resigned themselves to the fact that that their babies may not take after them. But that’s not necessarily true if you understand Epigenetics. Your uterine environment, stress levels, diet and lifestyle during pregnancy can influence the way your baby’s genes are expressed. If you have a donor-egg child, your baby can take after you, regardless.
The expression of genes begins in the womb. The woman carrying the child and her internal environment are responsible for how the baby’s genes are expressed. Scientific evidence has shown that genes and DNA are not responsible for the ultimate uniqueness of human beings. DNA does not produce life – the womb, despite fertilization, will determine embryos attachment and maturation. How we feel, think and react also causes certain genes to be expressed and others reserved. Epigenetics examines the inheritance of characteristics rather than DNA sequence.
A baby conceived using a donor egg gets his/her genes from the donor; HOWEVER, the baby gets the “teachings” from the expression of those genes, from the mother who carries her baby to term.
This means that a baby conceived using donor egg effectively has three biological parents: a father, a mother, and the egg donor. The birth mother influences what the child is like at a genetic level – it IS her child.
Perhaps the greatest myth surrounding egg donor pregnancies is that the uterus is simply an incubator. We can categorically state that this is not true. The most important aspect of all pregnancies (including egg donation pregnancies) is, that as the fetus grows, every cell in the baby’s developing body is created from the pregnant mother’s body. Tissue from her uterine lining will contribute to the formation of the placenta, the fetus will use the mother’s protein stores. The fetus will use the mother’s sugars calcium, nitrates, and fluids.
Genetics therefore merely provide a basic blueprint. The biological mother takes care of absolutely everything else.
Regardless of nature vs. nurture, debates of IVF or surrogacy options, adoption and delving into Epigenetics and what it truly means for one person to the next, the bottom line is that all a child needs is love. We don’t need DNA to be a family. and we do not need DNA to love unconditionally.
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