Egg Donation Information for Recipients
Egg donation at a glance
- Egg donation is when one woman donates her eggs in the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process to another woman who cannot become pregnant using her own eggs.
- Using an egg donor may be appropriate for women who suffer from premature ovarian failure, are carriers of a genetic disease or have had a poor response to IVF using their own eggs.
- The recipient of the egg donation will carry the pregnancy and will be the resulting child’s legal mother.
- Egg donors can be known to the recipient, such as a family member or close friend.
- Egg donors can be anonymous, found by the recipient using a donation agency.
- Frozen donated eggs can also be purchased from an egg bank.
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What is egg donation?
If a woman cannot become pregnant using her own eggs, either by sexual intercourse, artificial insemination or IVF, she may choose to use eggs donated by another woman. The donated egg is then fertilized by the sperm of a male partner or sperm donor. The resulting embryo is then placed into the recipient’s uterus.
Egg donation is also an option for women who have a genetic disorder they don’t want to pass along to their offspring. Since it is possible to carry a genetic disorder but not have the associated disease, women who are at risk of carrying a disorder may consider egg donation.
Genetic testing for the presence of a disorder can be conducted at any point during a woman’s fertility journey. Women should discuss testing options with a physician.
Who should consider egg donation?
Egg donation gives hope to women and couples who may have thought they could never achieve pregnancy. There are many reasons why a woman’s eggs are not viable to be fertilized. She may have:
- A genetic disorder that she risks passing to her child.
- Been unresponsive to previous hormone treatments necessary for successful IVF.
- Poor egg quality (revealed in testing or previous IVF treatment).
- Started menopause.
- Been born without ovaries.
- Received chemotherapy and/or radiation and did not cryopreserve eggs prior to cancer treatment.
- Unexplained infertility.
Many women are unresponsive to the hormone treatment necessary to produce multiple eggs. Often, women choose to undergo ovarian reserve testing to determine if their ovaries can handle the hormones needed to induce ovulation. This testing also provides doctors with detailed information about the quality and quantity of a woman’s remaining eggs.
As a woman ages, the quality and quantity of her eggs decrease, making natural conception increasingly difficult. Other factors that influence egg quality are diet, exercise, smoking and drug use.
Health issues such as diabetes or cancer treatments can also affect egg quality. Poor egg quality can equate to a higher risk of chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down syndrome.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of women giving birth to their first child after 35 has more than doubled since 1990. This is due in large part to medical advances in assisted reproduction technology and techniques.
How egg donation works
RSC New Jersey helps women navigate egg donation and consider all options for fertility. An egg donor can either be a close family member or friend of the recipient or a third-party donor found through an egg donation agency or egg bank.
Some women choose to use a known donor, such as a sister or cousin, because the recipient knows her child will share genetic similarities. When choosing a known donor, it is crucial that both the donor and recipient couple obtain psychological evaluation and legal counseling. A known donor is often an important person in the resulting child’s life, and psychological counseling can help both parties navigate the questions that may arise.
Women can also find their egg donor through a donor agency or egg bank. Often, an agency setting allows recipient couples to search for eggs based on preference for specific qualities or traits.
Agencies have strict requirements for their donors such as age (usually between 21-32), a college education and analysis of donor medical records. During the donor selection process, recipients will have access to a donor’s complete medical records and family and social history. Often there will also be photos provided of the prospective donors throughout their childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
An egg donor bank has frozen eggs already cryopreserved and waiting to be matched to a recipient. The donors undergo the same rigorous medical and psychological screening as fresh donors before their cycle, and only approved donors are accepted. This option is often time saving, more cost effective, and can take away some of the uncertainty of screening a brand new donor.
Once a donor is chosen, both she and the recipient mother will begin to take medications to sync their menstrual cycles. This is a similar process to IVF. The cycle coordination is important because once the eggs are retrieved from the donor, the recipient will need to have a receptive uterus that is ready to carry a pregnancy.
After the eggs have been retrieved from the donor, they will be fertilized with sperm in the IVF lab. The resulting embryos will be monitored closely for three to five days. The highest quality embryos (the embryos with the best chance of resulting in a pregnancy) will be implanted in the recipient.
Fresh cycle vs. frozen cycle
Fresh and frozen donor eggs have about the same pregnancy success rate of 55-63 percent. The costs and insurance coverage may differ based on a fresh or frozen cycle. Frozen donor eggs are typically more cost effective.
RSC New Jersey works with multiple agencies for anonymous fresh egg donations, along with MyEggBank and Fairfax Egg Bank for frozen egg donations. Our staff can help put you in touch with these or other egg donation agencies.
What are the risks of egg donation?
The medical risks of egg donation are the same as the risks with IVF. There are rare negative side effects of the fertility medications used to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. The egg donor may feel tender in her lower abdomen after the egg retrieval procedure.
Giving or receiving donor eggs has lifelong implications for all parties involved. Egg donation brings up private feelings related to genetics and paternity and what the intended parents will explain to their child in the future. It is important to speak with a counselor prior to egg donation. RSC New Jersey can recommend a counselor specializing in donor issues.