Consumer DNA Testing

September 2007 the direct-to-consumer DNA test became available. A 23 and Me privacy policy warns, “You may discover things about yourself and/or your family members that may be upsetting or cause anxiety and that you may not have the ability to control or change.” And thus, Pandora’s box can be opened. There are few studies on the ramifications of discovering misattributed parentage in such a way. We hope to change this!

26 million people have taken a consumer DNA test (the four largest companies are Ancestry, 23 and Me, My Heritage, and Family Tree, plus some tinier companies)

Pew study in 2019 found that 1 in 7 Americans had taken an over-the-counter DNA test and about a quarter discovered new close relatives.

There are no rigorous studies on the topic of MPEs and the data tends to be biased. But here is what we can find on statistics regarding people with MPEs.
  • 2.5% of the population are adopted
  • 2.1% are conceived through ART – Assisted Reproductive Technologies (fertility treatments where eggs or embryos are handled for the purpose of establishing a pregnancy) in 2019
  • 1.6% are conceived through donor insemination (using 60,000 births out of 3.746 million births in 2019) though this is likely much higher since data are not required to be collected. According to a Pew Study, 33% of American adults have used some type of fertility treatment or know someone who has. 
  • 3% have a non-paternal event (NPE) – people who have misattributed parentage from an affair, tryst, or assault – this is a conservative estimate.  One article in Discover Magazine shows people who think there’s a question of paternity have 29% chance of having an MPE while those who have a high confidence in their parentage have around a 2% chance. Based on the data provided, a median estimate is 3.5% of the population have misattributed paternity (according to this 2017 article, Bellis, et al., the median from all of the studies on paternity is 3.7%). We will use 3% as a conservative estimate.

When you add these numbers up, that’s 9% of babies born each year who could have a misattributed parentage experience if their parents don’t tell them about their unique conception. Most conceived through assisted reproduction do not tell their children while many who are adopted do. Some children who are the product of an affair, tryst, or assault are told who their genetic father is. So, we estimate about 5% of the babies born each year will grow up to have a misattributed parentage experience. According to the US Census, the U.S. population is estimated at 332.6 million on 1 April 2020.

This means roughly 16.6 million Americans could have an MPEs. This means that 1 in 20 people likely have an MPE.

Misattributed parentage discovery in a clinical setting raises ethical questions. Is the clinician obligated to tell you when they discover through medical tests misattributed parentage? Some this should be discussed before any tests are done to determine if you want to know.

ADOPTION

95% of adoptions in the U.S. involve some level of openness.

135,000 children are adopted in the U.S. each year (59% from foster care, 26% from other countries, 15% from voluntarily relinquished American babies). 60-70% of domestic adoptions are open.

Openness in adoption aids identity formation and leads to higher self-esteem, fewer behavioral problems and less feelings of alienation for adoptees. Adoptive parents tend to experience less fear and better relationship with their adopted children with open adoption. Birth parents also experience better outcomes with open adoption.

Assisted concePTION

There's no such things as a "donor," people are paid for their sperm and eggs.

Artificial insemination has been practiced in the US since 1884. To date there is no requirement to report statistics. The stigma of male infertility prompted the perceived need for absolute secrecy. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends limiting live births to 25 in population areas of 850,000 there are no laws limiting the number of live births a donor may have. The only requirement by the FDA is to preform STD testing on gamete providers.

3,745,540 million births in 2019 in the US and 2.1% were from ART, that’s 78,656 babies or 1 in 48 babies and 1.6% are from sperm donors or 1 in 62 births. That 3.7% births from assisted conception techniques per year; this is likely grossly underestimated since there are no reporting requirements regarding births from sperm donors.

At least 1 in 27 Births Per Year in the U.S. from Assisted Reproduction

  • 55% of DC people identified their donor through consumer DNA test (3% through a registry, 18% through other means)
  • 60% of DC people identified siblings through DNA tests (60% have found 1-5 siblings, 13% have more than 20)
  • 64% believe my donor is half of who I am (81% wonder about personality and physical traits and 77% worry they don’t have a complete medical history).
  • 75% of DC children state their sperm donor is half of who they are
  • 50% of DC children are disturbed that money was involved in their conception
  • 75% of DC children believe it is their right to know who their donor is
  • DC children 2X likely to have trouble with law enforcement before age 25 and struggle with substances abuse and 1.5X likely to have depression
  • 17% doctors used the same donor for repeated treatments for patients
  • 32% used multiple donors in one treatment
  • 37% kept records on the children born from treatment
  • 30% kept records on donors
gross estimate that 30,000-60,000 children conceived each year in US via artificial insimination (no entity is required to report their statistics) out of 4 million births. (Study by Cahn 2009 affirms 60,000 estimate).
  • 82% of DC children hoped to make contact with their donor.
  • The number one reported reason: to see what they look like followed by learning their ancestry and then medical history. Only about 40% wanted a relationship with their donor.
  • Only 9% were in contact with their donor
  • 78% of DC children surveyed were seeking their donor and/or donor siblings
  • 8% were not searching for siblings or donors

Outside the U.S.

Anonymity is NOT permitted in Assisted Reproduction
  • Austria (live births limited to 3 families)
  • Australia (live birth limitations vary by territory from no limit to 1- families)
  • Finland
  • Germany (live births limited to 15 children)
  • Netherlands (live births limited to 25 children)
  • New Zealand (live births limited to 10 children)
  • Norway (live births limited to 8 children)
  • Sweden (live births limited to 12 children in 6 families)
  • Switzerland (live births limited to 8 children)
  • United Kingdom (live births limited to 10 families in UK)
Anonymity Permitted in Assisted Reproduction
  • Belgium (live births limited to 6 children)
  • Canada (live births limited to 25 per 800,000)
  • Denmark (live births limited to 12 children)
  • France (live births limited to 10 children)
  • Japan
  • Spain (live births limited to 6 children)