How to Tell Your Kids They Were Born Using IVF

 In 1978, in England, Louise Brown, the first child made outside the womb, was born. Over the course of the next few years, babies like Louise were labeled as “test tube babies” and shrouded in mystery, and there was a stigma attached to babies born with this new technology. Many parents were reluctant to discuss infertility and kept the particulars of their children’s births a secret, not only from their friends and family, but often from the children themselves. In 1978, even Louise’s parents didn’t want anyone to know her identity and had police line the hospital corridor as her father was led to see her for the first time, for fear of the newspapers finding out. 

Thankfully, over time, the pendulum of public opinion has swung away from secrecy and shame and toward acceptance and celebration. “I always get uncomfortable if I hear patients mention that they’re going to keep it a secret, because I think at the end of the day, children have a right to know of their origins,” Dr. Melissa Cameron, a fertility specialist at Melbourne IVF, told The World News.

Now, more than 40 years later, and with over 8 million people who have been born through IVF, parents are encouraged to tell their children how they were conceived, and terms such as “in vitro fertilization” and “surrogacy” have become “household names” in many parts of the world.

By the time my husband, Tommy, and I began our parenthood journey almost 14 years ago, assisted reproductive technologies such as egg donation, IVF and surrogacy had become largely accepted treatments for infertility and even as a way of allowing same-sex couples or single individuals to realize their dreams of parenthood.

We always knew we would tell our twin boys when the time was right. People often ask how, as gay dads, we explained things. In fact, I think it was easier for us because we are gay dads than it sometimes is for heterosexual parents. There was no question that we created our family the “old-fashioned” way; because we are two dads, it is obvious that we used assisted reproduction or adoption. There was no way of hiding it.

For our boys, that realization seemed to happen naturally. As they began preschool, they noticed that some kids were picked up after school by two dads, other children by a mom and a dad or by two moms. It was a great way to start the process of telling them about how they were made and to remark on the fact that all families are different. As we began to explain to the boys about their birth, we made sure to tailor the conversation to their ages and levels of understanding.

I can imagine those conversation might be harder for heterosexual couples who create families using assisted reproduction. In some communities and cultures, infertility still carries stigma. Unlike same-sex or single parents, heterosexual parents may be able to hide the fact that their baby was born via IVF. But experts encourage all parents to tell their children about their origins, honestly, in terms they can understand, and when the time is right, rather than treating it as a forbidden secret.

What is the best age to tell your child he was born using IVF?

While there is no universally perfect time to tell your children the circumstances of their births, studies show children experience less anxiety, stress and depression when they are told that they are a product of IVF at a young age. Children whose parents are open and honest with them are more likely to accept the facts of their conception and birth as normal parts of their existence. When children receive the information early in life, they incorporate it naturally into their developing self-identities.

And parents are freed from the dread of an expected revelation exposing their secret.

Revelation of the truth later in a child’s life can create distrust and sends the implicit message that the child’s birth was something shameful to be concealed. “People don’t like being lied to, so adults or adolescents who find out belatedly that they were the result of donor sperm or donor eggs think their parents have told lies for 15, 20 or 30 years, and so they think, ‘well, I can’t trust you,’” says Roger Cooke, infertility specialist at Swinborne University told The World News

Telling children about their birth story when they are young also helps avoid the risk they will find out from someone other than their parents. Cooke recalled a distraught teenager who learned he had been born via IVF from his cousin on a school playground. When the information comes from someone other than the parent, the child may feel his whole world has been a lie, putting a strain on the parent-child relationship and inadvertently putting the story of the child’s birth in a negative light.

For all those reasons, my husband and I knew we didn’t want some huge reveal when the boys turned 15. For us, it was important that they view their birth story as part of who they are and to understand how very much we wanted them. I think talking to them about how they came to be was just a little easier for us because we were two dads.

How do you tell your kids they were born using IVF?

 Deciding on what to say to your children can be almost as difficult as deciding when to tell them.  The most important thing is consistency and to tell the story regularly. “When you keep repeating the story, both you and your child will become more comfortable with the issue,” says Dr. Debmita Dutta, parenting consultant and founder of What Parents Ask. 

The story doesn’t need to be long or use a lot of detail, and at a young age, you don’t need to use a lot of technical terms. Keep the story simple and tell it consistently. In the beginning, my husband and I would tell our boys little bits of information at a time. We simply said, “We had a friend help us; her name was Joyce.”

Eventually, as the boys got older, we began to use the word “surrogate.” We told them that Joyce was a surrogate, and she was generous with her time and body, and she gave us a great gift. There seemed to be a natural progression to how much information they wanted or needed, and we added more details to the story as they grew older and began to understand more.

When giving your child information, Cameron recommends using correct terms for body parts and technologies rather than euphemisms, as The World News reported. As a child gets older, introducing more terms and eventually integrating into the story the fact that doctors were involved progresses naturally.

As our sons got older, we eventually began to introduce the term “egg donor” into the conversation, which led them to the understanding that the egg donor was part of their DNA and that they might have some qualities that were inherited from her. Today, when the boys ask about their donor, we are excited to tell them, regularly and with honesty. At each stage of their development, we have wanted to make sure they can handle the complexity of new information, so we wait for them to drive the conversation with their questions and curiosity.

Susan Seenan, chief executive of the non-profit Fertility Network UK, says it’s important that parents not make a big deal about assisted reproduction, explaining that the only thing different about IVF to create a family is the “extra nudge at the start,” as reported by Huffington Post UK. The most important message to convey through all the stories, questions and answers at every stage is how much the children are loved and deeply wanted.

Knowing your child’s genetic history

 Besides reducing anxiety, stress and depression and helping create a healthy self-identity, there is another benefit to telling children about the circumstances of their births: their future health. Hiranandani Hospital Vashi psychologist Niharika Megta told The Indian Express, “After the child has grown up and become an independent adult, it is better for them to know where they have come from so that it is easier to trace their medical history.” With the advancement of genetic technologies, medical professionals can now identify predispositions to certain diseases such as some cancers, heart disease or diabetes. Based on this genetic background, an adult child may benefit from earlier screenings, lifestyle changes and preventive medicines. 

Today, almost 2 percent of babies in the U.S. are born using IVF or other assisted reproduction technologies. As assisted reproductive technologies such as egg donation, IVF and surrogacy continue to improve and become more affordable, we know there will be lots more families like ours. The families at our children’s school are a perfect reflection of all the different ways a family can look. We look forward to the day telling your children about how you got them will feel “normal” for everyone, regardless of the path that took us to parenthood.




Richard Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015, received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension, and obtained her second Master of Science degree in Legal Studies from Loyola Law School. Peiya relocated back to her hometown, Beijing, China in 2019 and works from IFLG’s Beijing office. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University which he received in 2013, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. Luis has worked for IFLG in both Los Angeles as well as San Francisco, and is currently based in Dallas, Texas. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”


Kim has over 30 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

Los Angeles

5757 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 645

Los Angeles, CA 90036

Phone:  +1 323 331 9343

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

New York

501 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1900

New York, NY 10017

Phone:  +1 844 400 2016

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

Molly O'Brien

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.

Phoebe Sadler

Fertility law attorney Phoebe Sadler has a background in family law and has been practicing exclusively in the area of assisted reproduction technology (ART) law since 2018.

Rubina Aslanyan

Rubina has an extensive background in the legal field as a paralegal in Family Law and has worked in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 2012. Her area of focus is in managing and assisting clients with surrogacy, egg donation, and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s domestic and international clients. During her spare time, Rubina enjoys spending time with her family and dog Bella, traveling and cooking.

Alexander Espinoza
Legal Assistant

Alexander joined IFLG as a legal assistant in 2019, where he manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases. Alex is bilingual in English and Spanish and has been in the legal field for 23 years. Alex is excited to join the IFLG team and pursuing his will to help others in the reproductive law process. In his spare time he loves spending time with his family and friends, being outdoors, road trips, loves music and dancing.

Cara Stecker
Senior Paralegal

After receiving her paralegal certificate in 2005, Cara began working in assisted reproductive law. During the fifteen years Cara has worked in this field, she has gained a wide range of experience and knowledge that she uses to help better assist clients and those involved in the assisted reproductive journey. Cara’s primary roles involve managing parental establishment matters and coordination with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorney network, drafting contracts and parental establishment court documents and providing support to other team members. Cara finds great joy in being a small part of a team of caring people who help others achieve their dream of having a family. In her spare time, Cara enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, watching her children play the sports they love, and she enjoys, running, cycling and exploring the outdoors in the sun.

Stephanie Kimble

Stephanie received her BS in History and Political Thought from Concordia University Irvine in 2015 and her Paralegal Certificate from University of San Diego later that same year. She has been working as a Paralegal since 2016 in Family and Reproductive Law. She is excited to be part of International Fertility Law Group working on managing Surrogacy, Egg donation and Parental Establishment Cases.

Trish Pittman
Assistant Financial Coordinator

With more than 20 years of experience in the field of accounting, Trish joined the IFLG team in 2019 as Assistant Financial Coordinator. Her client-facing focus at IFLG is to assist with all client trust accounting. Trish is the mother of two daughters and enjoys spending time teaching and learning new things from them. In her free time, she loves long walks in the park and reading suspense and mystery novels.

Katie Deaquino
Senior Paralegal

Katie is a Senior Paralegal with IFLG and has dedicated over sixteen years to the areas of surrogacy and reproductive law. She received her Paralegal Certificate from Coastline Community College and has worked with some of the top law firms in the assisted reproduction community. Katie is also a commissioned Notary Public. With IFLG, Katie manages Surrogacy, Egg Donation, and Parental Establishment cases and provides support to other IFLG team members. Katie truly enjoys helping others build their families through assisted reproduction and is thankful she has had the rewarding experience of assisting IFLG clients. Katie often spends her free time with her Husband, four young children and her bulldog “Bella”.

Elsa Jimenez
Legal Assistant

Elsa joined IFLG as a Legal Assistant in 2019, bringing more than 35 years of experience working in the legal profession (concentrating in tort and litigation matters). At IFLG she assists surrogates with their surrogacy and parental matters. The oldest of five siblings, born and raised in East Los Angeles to Mexican immigrant parents, Elsa loves “seeing the beauty of families forming” through assisted reproductive technology. She and her husband Carlos have four children and one grandson. Elsa enjoys jazz and ’80s music, being outdoors in nature, collecting teacups and tea pots, and spending time with her close-knit family.