A quick look at egg donation
Egg donation can help a woman who cannot get pregnant using her own eggs conceive with a donated egg and in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Egg donation can also help women with genetic disease avoid passing it on to children. Additionally, single LGBTQ people and couples sometimes use egg donation for family building.
An egg donor can be a friend, family member or an anonymous person provided by an egg donation program like the one offered at Positive Steps Fertility.
It is common that a woman is compensated for her commitment and time to the egg donation process, which includes using fertility hormones to produce more than one egg and surgical retrieval of her eggs by a fertility specialist.
What is egg donation?
Egg donation is when a woman gives her eggs to another couple or individual with the hope that they achieve pregnancy. This is done during an office procedure where the donor is asleep or sedated through anesthesia. The donated egg will be fertilized by the male partner’s or donor sperm in the IVF process. The resulting embryo will be implanted in the womb of the woman receiving the egg to hopefully establish pregnancy for a successful birth.
Egg donation can be used for women who have had problems getting pregnant and for LGBTQ couples or individuals. Good candidates who may need a donated egg include women who:
- Don’t ovulate, have diminished ovarian reserve or premature ovarian failure (the group most likely to need egg donation)
- Are in menopause (including from removal of the ovaries, chemotherapy and radiation)
- Have medical or genetic issues they would not like to pass on to their child
- Have poor quality eggs or embryos as indicated in previous attempts at IVF.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2015 the average transfer resulting in a live birth for women using donated eggs was 51 percent, with the average age of an egg donor being 26 years old.
Potential egg donors are thoroughly screened to ensure that their eggs will have a good chance of resulting in a pregnancy. Egg recipients will also be evaluated to make certain they are good candidates for a pregnancy with a donated egg.
It’s important that both egg donor and egg recipient completely understand the process and what is required of them. For example, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine estimates that about 56 hours total are required of the egg donor.
The following information describes what both egg donor and egg recipient can expect, as well as information about Positive Steps Fertility’s egg donor program.
Who can become an egg donor?
Positive Steps Fertility is looking for healthy women between the ages of 20 and 32 to include in our egg donor database. Donors must not use drugs, smoke or be a carrier for cystic fibrosis, sickle cell or other major known single-gene diseases.
Egg donors will go through a screening process that includes:
- Physical exam
- Sexual history evaluation
- Review of personal and family medical history
- Alcohol and drug use history
- Psychological history
- Screening for infectious and communicable diseases
- Motivation assessment.
Once the evaluation is complete, a profile is created for each donor listing interests, education and physical traits a recipient may desire in a possible future child.
Positive Steps allows the donor to be known or anonymous. Known donors are familiar with the recipient and by legally established agreement may remain a part of the child’s life, if both parties so agree. With an anonymous donor, both the donor and recipient generally remain unknown to the other party, though this too can be altered by legal arrangement. Of note, while Positive Steps Fertility follows HIPAA regulations for privacy, it is possible that advances in technology through genetic testing may be able to guess donors’ identities.
What an egg donor recipient can expect
The female recipient and her partner (if applicable) should discuss with our fertility specialists options for conception open to them before choosing to receive a donated egg. Once this route is chosen, we will evaluate both the female’s and male’s medical history and test them for sexually transmitted disease. If medical background indicates potential genetic issues, we will recommend genetic screening.
We will perform a pelvic exam of the egg recipient and evaluate her uterus. If the woman is of advanced age, we may evaluate her overall health prospects for pregnancy such as the condition of her heart. Of note, it is standard to only transfer a single embryo starting at the age of 45 for health reasons, though most recipients of donated eggs get single embryo transfer anyway. We will also test her partner’s sperm, or a donor’s sperm if that is being used for fertilization.
We also recommend counseling with a mental health professional experienced in third-party reproduction. Egg recipients face several emotionally charged issues and decisions that must be made, some far into the future.
For example, she may need to decide years later whether or not to tell her child about the egg donation, who that donor was and if she may be contacted by the child. The counselor can also help the recipient with issues involved in selecting the donor.
We will work with the recipient in choosing a donor from our database. Recipients can view information on the potential donor’s family history, background, medical history, interests and education. Our database includes information on a potential donor’s physical traits such as hair color, eye color, age, blood type, known medical conditions, and frequently a childhood photo for each donor. (We do not provide adult photos of donors in order to maximize their privacy.)
These are important things to consider. A recipient may not wish to use an egg from a donor who may appear to present medical issues in an offspring. Also, the recipient may be looking for a donor physically similar to her or her male partner so that the child is more likely to look like them.
Benefits of donating eggs at Positive Steps Fertility
Just as patients feel like family at Positive Steps Fertility, we also want our egg donors to feel the same way throughout the process. Our staff understands the commitment being an egg donor involves and appreciates the sacrifices they make to help others build their family. Knowing how much this can take in terms of time, energy and more, we compensate donors a total of $5,000 once they have completed a cycle in which we have retrieved eggs.
Egg donation process
The egg donation process requires the recipient and donor to participate in multiple aspects of the IVF process. Egg donation is often done as a fresh IVF cycle, meaning the donated egg will not be frozen but needs to be transferred in its “fresh” state to the recipient. This involves synchronizing the egg retrieval from the donor, the lab fertilization process to create an embryo, and the transfer of the embryo into the recipient’s womb at the right time in her cycle when her uterus is most receptive to a successful implantation for pregnancy. These steps are as follows.
- The donor starts on medication that synchronizes the ovaries so that they are ready to generate eggs.
- After a baseline ultrasound, she starts medications to stimulate the ovaries to produce additional eggs rather than the normal one egg per month. Around this same time the egg recipient will begin taking estrogen to develop the uterine lining.
- Egg development of the donor is monitored by measuring hormone levels and with ultrasound imaging.
- When the eggs are ready, a fertility specialist uses transvaginal ultrasound aspiration. Under ultrasound guidance, a needle is placed through the upper vagina into the ovary to retrieve the eggs.
- Around the time of egg retrieval, the recipient will start to take progesterone to prepare her uterine lining to receive the embryo.
- An embryo is created by fertilizing the egg in the lab using the male sperm (IVF).
- The embryo will be transferred to the recipient’s uterus three to five days after fertilization.
- The recipient will continue to take hormones until the pregnancy test two weeks after implantation. If the test is positive, the woman will continue to take them for the early part of the first trimester.
Egg donation risks
The medical risks associated with egg donation are comparable to those linked with IVF and can affect both the recipient and the donor. Both women may have a risk of organ or tissue damage, blood loss, reaction to the medication, risk of infection and emotional concerns.
The donor can also experience ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), which can range from mild to serious cases. Possible symptoms include nausea, bloating, vomiting, abdominal distention and fluid retention.
Prior to donation, our staff will go over possible risks in depth with both the donor and the recipient.
Next steps: Learn more about the Positive Steps egg donation program
Positive Steps Fertility is actively recruiting for its egg donation database to link donors and recipients together. Please reach out to the practice if you are interested in learning more about becoming an egg donor or if you think you may need an egg donor.