Which Matters More to Donor-Egg Recipients: Looks or IQ?



So you’re going shopping for a donor egg. What traits of the donor would be most important to you?

A new study in the Journal of Women’s Health reveals some fascinating changes in trends among those using donor eggs to become pregnant. The researchers, from the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, studied which donor characteristics more than 400 would-become-moms at the Reproductive Medical Associates of New York fertility clinic said mattered most to them.

Once upon a time—in fact, as recently as when the study began, in 2008—40 percent of women cared about finding a donor who was “from a similar gene pool”—i.e., one whose hair and eye colors resembled their own. In 2012, when the five-year study ended, only 25 percent did. The editor-in-chief of the Journal, Susan Kornstein, believes this change reflects increasing sophistication on the part of the women: As egg donation becomes more common and socially acceptable, they’re no longer as concerned with how to explain babies who don’t look like them to family and friends (and overcurious strangers at the playground, too).

What became more important to prospective mothers over the five years? Intelligence! (Perhaps there is hope for society!) In 2008, only 18 percent of women cared about a donor’s brainpower; in 2012, 55 percent said they did.

In a story on the study on NPR, reporter Robin Marantz Henig noted that sperm banks are showing the same shift in priorities, with preferences trending away from a baby’s looks and toward a baby’s brain. Hard to believe, in the era when Kardashians remain king. The overriding concern for women seeking eggs remained the same over the course of the study: It was the donor’s health, with 75 percent of all prospective moms declaring that a crucial factor in their choice.

Alas, the study results aren’t completely sunny. While the emphasis on looks has decreased, athletic skill has become a much greater concern, jumping from a deciding factor for one percent of the would-be moms to 17 percent in five years. The tyranny of the super-hot may be fading, but that of the gym class seems destined to remain.

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