Donor Egg IVF is a fertility treatment option that uses another woman’s eggs to fertilize and implant into a recipient’s uterus. This method is used when, for medical reasons, it isn’t feasible to complete the treatment with a couple’s own eggs or sperm. Egg donation gives recipients similar odds of success as the donor, especially when using a screened egg donor instead of a family member or friend. Moreover, the success rates for an egg donor are higher than the average IVF success rates for couples not using a donor. Opting for an egg donor IVF means the recipient will not be genetically related to her child.
That said, how does egg donation work? Who can use it? What should you consider before opting for this method? These questions and more will be answered throughout this article, so keep reading.
When Should You Use An Egg Donor?
Egg donor IVF is recommended and necessary in different scenarios:
- Age-related infertility for women older than 40;
- Alternative family structures: a single male or gay male couples need to resort to an egg donor and a gestational carrier;
- Female genetic disease risk: to ensure the baby’s health, in cases of congenital disease risk, egg donors are advised;
- Issues with the female reproductive system: low ovarian reserves, primary ovarian insufficiency, absence of ovaries because of a congenital anomaly can cause the need for egg donors;
- Repeated IVF failures: whether an unexplained repeated failure or repeated cancellation of the treatments due to poor or low ovarian response;
- Cancer survivors: cancer treatments can damage the ovaries or cause them to be removed altogether.
So, if you fall into one or more of these categories, an egg donor may be advised. Remember that this is nothing to be ashamed about, and it isn’t a sign of inadequacy. It’s simply an alternative at your disposal.
Where Can You Find An Egg Donor?
When it comes to finding an egg donor, the mind goes for family, friends, or egg banks. However, there are a number of common sources:
- A friend or family member;
- Another infertile couple willing to share their retrieved eggs;
- Egg bank;
- Egg donor agency;
- Fertility clinic offering you IVF treatment.
Whatever the option you choose, be sure to discuss it with your fertility doctor first, a lawyer familiar with reproductive law, as well as an infertility counselor or psychologist. Having different perspectives on the topic will help you make an informed decision, which is especially important for this child’s future: will you want to meet your egg donor, or do you want your child to get that chance? Do you want your egg donor to be someone that will be involved in your child’s life? Either way, consider your options and pick the one that suits you best.
What’s The Egg Donor IVF Process Like?
Once an infertility issue is spotted and exams are done to understand the origin of the problem, determining the need for an egg donor, the couple is then redirected to a psychologist or counselor. At this stage, the psychological risks and benefits to egg donor IVF are discussed, and the path ahead for that couple is traced.
Due to the high costs of egg donor IVF, the couple will be advised to meet with a financial advisor to plan how to get the funds they need.
After the decision has been made, the next step is finding an egg donor – this is a slow process that takes months and requires careful consideration. First, the couple will have to review tons of donors for their likes and dislikes, skin and eye color, heritage, and so on to find a perfect fit. Then, upon selecting the donor, the couple will need to attend a series of legal and financial matters to assert the donation, followed by whatever fertility testing and screening required for the treatment to begin. The actual egg donor IVF cycle starts only after these steps are carried out.
The donor and the intended mother will need to have their menstrual cycles in sync. The intended mother will use birth control pills and injectable hormones to suppress the reproductive system, while the donor will be taking injectable fertility drugs to stimulate egg production. That way, when the donor’s fertilized eggs are ready for embryo transfer, the intended mother’s uterus is too prepared to accept an embryo.
When the eggs in the donor’s ovaries look ready, the donor will get an hCG injection to start the last stage of egg maturation. At the same time, the intended mother will begin taking progesterone supplementation to help prepare the uterus for the embryo. Afterward, follows egg retrieval, using an ultrasound-guided needle, trailed by egg fertilization with the intended father’s sperm.
After three to five days, the intended mother will undergo embryo transfer: one to two healthy embryos will be transferred into the mother’s uterus, while any extra embryos will be frozen for a future cycle. Finally, the mother will take a pregnancy test around the tenth day after the egg transferal to see if the treatment was successful.
What Are The Risks?
Both egg donors and women going through conventional IVF face risks: from the side effects of fertility drugs that stimulate the ovaries to the psychological issues.
One of the most significant risks for donors is developing OHSS or Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome, which, when untreated, can threaten fertility and, in rare cases, women’s lives. As for the intended mother, there is a considerable risk of multiple pregnancies, leading to twins and triplets.
The psychological factors are also important. For example, a donor may later regret donating her eggs or wonder what happened to the child conceived with her help. Therefore, speaking to a counselor before applying as a donor is the best course of action.
Be mindful of the risks you might face when undergoing egg donor IVF. The success rates for egg donor IVF vary between 55.9% and 40.2% for fresh embryo transfer versus frozen embryo transfer. In the cases of egg sharing with another infertile couple or egg donation from a friend or family member, the success rate may be lower as they may not be the ideal donor candidate. Therefore, consult your fertility doctor and understand the pros and cons of this treatment.
Reminder: There Are Other Options
In case you don’t want to or can’t pursue egg donor IVF, whether because of the costs involved or for medical reasons, there are always other options at your disposal that you should considerate:
- Conventional IVF – though the odds for success may be low
- An embryo donor – less expensive than egg donor IVF
- Opting for a childfree life
Don’t despair in the face of a fertility issue. No matter the challenge you face, the fertility condition you’re experiencing, there are always solutions. Be sure to get as much information as possible on your options with fertility doctors and counselors, and psychologists. A bit of independent research can also help you find the answers you’re looking for.