Your Guide to the Egg Donation Process
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot get pregnant. That’s when you might consider other means, such as egg donation. If you are older or don’t have the quality or quantity of eggs necessary for pregnancy, the egg donation process might give you the best chance at having a baby.
Is the donor egg process right for you?
Women who might consider the egg donation process are those who experience one of the following conditions:
- Ovarian failure
- Premature menopause
- Surgical removal of ovaries
- Advanced age
- A genetic condition that she does not want to be passed on
- Multiple IVF failures
- Inadequate response to ovulation induction
If you and your partner are the recipient couple, you will first undergo an evaluation. This typically includes a detailed medical history of both partners as well as infectious disease screening for syphilis, hepatitis B and C, and HIV.
While the male partner will have a semen analysis, the woman’s assessment is much more involved. This assessment helps to make certain that your health would not be jeopardized by pregnancy as well as to optimize the success of the pregnancy.
You may also undergo a mock egg donation cycle or “prep cycle.” This is done to make sure that your endometrium lining thickens well enough and the desired blood levels can be achieved to support pregnancy. For 4 to 6 weeks, you are given the same medications used in the egg donation process and are monitored for hormonal blood levels and endometrial growth.
Counseling is also performed so you and your partner understand the egg donation process, likelihood of success, and the risks, as well as the psychological implications of third party reproduction.
Choosing a donor
Egg donors are usually women between the ages of 21 and 34. They are young enough to have many good quality eggs and to respond well to fertility drugs
Egg donors undergo intensive medical and psychological screening. This is to ensure they are healthy candidates who are likely to respond well to treatment and to understand the psychological implications of their decision. The egg donor will also undergo testing for infectious diseases and genetic screening to make sure nothing could be passed along unknowingly to the child.
Most egg donor programs use anonymous donors. Some programs give you a profile about the donor that includes ethnicity, height, weight, body type, skin type, eye color, hair color and texture. You can then decide whether or not to select the donor.
Other programs may allow you to choose between a few different donor profiles.
How the egg donor process works
When a woman is identified as a donor, she takes fertility medications to stimulate the development of multiple eggs. You will also take hormones (estrogen and progesterone, which are normally produced from the ovaries) to prepare your uterus to accept the embryos.
When the eggs have developed or matured, they are removed from the donor’s ovaries. Usually, around 10 to 20 eggs can be retrieved. Once the eggs are outside the donor’s body, they are fertilized with sperm from any source (such as your male partner or a sperm donor). The fertilized eggs are allowed to mature further in the laboratory.
Finally, the embryos are transferred into your uterus. You will continue to take hormones to support the lining of the uterus after the transfer. If the embryo implants into the lining of your uterus and continues to develop, then a pregnancy has occurred. You will continue the hormone treatment for the first trimester of the pregnancy. The hormones allow your baby's placenta to develop and eventually take over the production of hormones.
Egg donor success rates
The success rates for the egg donation process far exceed those for regular IVF. This is probably due to the fact that the donors who provide the eggs are young and don't have fertility problems themselves. In addition, the risks for miscarriage and babies with chromosomal abnormalities are also reduced since they are dependent on the age of the donor not the recipient.
The good news is that using the egg donation process, more than 55 percent result in a live birth. More importantly, age is not a factor in the success rate.
Whether the egg donation process is for you is a decision that must be made with careful consideration.Sources
- RESOLVE: The Medical Aspects of Egg Donation.
- IntegraMed: Egg Donation 101.
- American Society for Reproductive Medicine: Third Party Reproduction (Sperm, Egg, and embryo donation and surrogacy): A Guide for Patients.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Report: National Summary. 2007.