If you're thinking about having a baby using donor eggs, you'll probably need to work through the issue, at some point, of whether or not it's important for your child to resemble you, physically. Most fertility clinics disclose an anonymous egg donor's race, ethnicity, eye and hair color as a way to help prospective parents choose the best match for their family.
But what about going one step further and finding a donor who shares your same almond-shaped eyes or full lips? Borrowing technology used by the US Department of Homeland Security to rout out criminals, a handful of fertility clinics in the US are now introducing 3D facial recognition software as a way to connect infertile couples with eggs donors who possess strikingly similar facial features.
How does it work? It's actually pretty simple. "Based on a photo that you provide the clinic, 3D software constructs a virtual topographical map of your features," describes Beverly Hills Egg Donation (BHED), a California clinic that currently offers the service. This map is then compared to all registered donors in the clinic's database using a process of surface texture analysis and other facial measurements. "From there, a list of the best matches for your physical features is produced," adds BHED.
Don't live near a clinic offering this service? As long as you have internet access, you may still be able to have a scan completed. The Beverly Hills center is so confident in this technology, they say the virtual face map can even be created using Skype.
Infertile couples will have to pay a little bit extra to use the service.
But do any plan to?
Anna D., a 41-year-old teacher in Florida who is considering using donor eggs to have her first child, has already reached the conclusion that issues of physical resemblance are truly only skin deep.
"Just show me that [the egg donor] is healthy and all the genetic tests are fine, and I don't care one bit if she doesn't have my same-shaped nose," says Anna, who was diagnosed with an ovulation disorder last year. Besides, what if there are some traits you don't want to pass on to your child? "I actually can't stand my nose, so that's something I wouldn't miss seeing!" she adds.
However, Julie Knowles, a software engineer from Boston, Massachusetts, who is investigating egg donation with her partner, believes this kind of technology is the wave of the future.
"In 10 years, I guarantee everyone will just be scanned and get their ideal egg donor match within seconds, so why not? It would be neat to be among the first to use this."
Does this mean that having a baby that looks like her is topmost on Knowles' mind?
"I guess it does matter to me, since we are going through this process rather than adopting, but I am also thinking, come on! Wouldn't it be cool to have a baby and meet a long-lost twin?"