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Partner Assisted Reproduction (ROPA): Female couples on a journey to motherhood (Part 3)

One of the main polemic points around egg donation is whether a relationship exists or develops between the pregnant mother and an embryo generated from a donated egg. Recent studies have proven that the mother can modify the child’s genetic information, regardless of whether the embryo comes from own or donated eggs.

How is this variation of the embryo’s genes produced through the pregnant mother?

Before the embryo’s implantation on the pregnant mother’s endometrium, a cell transmission between her and the embryo occurs. This happens because the body imitates the usual fertilisation process, where the embryo takes approximately 5 days to travel from the Fallopian tubes to the uterus.

The ROPA technique also tries to emulate the normal fertilisation process; this is why the embryo is developed in a special incubator for 5 days before being transferred. Furthermore the recipient mother is administered specific medication that will increase her endometrial receptivity and facilitate implantation.

Upon reaching the uterus, implantation will take 24 to 36h to occur, and that is the point at which the embryo finally adheres to the endometrium. In this period just previous to implantation, the recipient mother produces an endometrial fluid containing genetic information that will be assimilated by the embryo, therefore modifying its future development.

This information that the embryo assimilates influences whether it will express certain gene functions, such as those involved in diseases but also in physical characteristics and even personality.

How does pregnant mother influence her partner´s embryo? 

It has been an accepted fact for some time now that the pregnant mother has an influence over the genetics of the embryo developing in her uterus. This influence over embryonic genetics is explained through epigenetics.

Epigenetics is the science that studies the impact that external or environmental factors can have on the genetic function without producing DNA sequence alterations.

These environmental factors determine whether certain genes will be expressed or not, and also the way in which cells will interpret the information contained in cellular DNA, therefore generating phenotypical variations. The genes carried by the embryo do not come from the pregnant mother, but she will definitely be able to modify them with her own genetic load.

There are certain periods during the child’s development in which its genetic information is more susceptible to DNA changes, always as a consequence of environmental factors. These periods are: pre-implantation period, pregnancy, breastfeeding, childhood and puberty.

Numerous scientific studies have proven the effects and consequences that the environment can have on the child’s development, namely: alimentary habits, toxic exposure or life style. For this reason the influence of the pregnant mother’s lifestyle and habits over her future child is being more and more highlighted. The huge importance and numerous benefits of breastfeeding over the future baby’s development have also been extensively proven.

All of this shows that pregnant mothers that have undergone an egg or embryo donation treatment will develop biological and certain degree of genetic bonds with their future children, which proves that mothers will share with them much more than just the womb in which they grew.

For all these reasons the ROPA method has become a fantastic option for all those women that wish to become mothers but are somehow reluctant to resort to egg donation to accomplish it.