Egg donation is an effective way to overcome infertility when a donated egg is healthier than eggs from your ovary. Once they have made the decision to move to egg donation, couples want to know more about their potential donors. Donor screening refers to the way IVF centers test potential donors to be sure that their eggs will offer a safe alternative for family building.
The Importance of Egg Donor Screening
Egg are screened to:
- Prevent passing infectious diseases to the recipient
- Minimize the chances of passing genetic disease or defect to the child
- Ensure the psychological and emotional stability of the donor
- Ensure the donor’s dedication and health throughout the donation process.
The donor should undergo a thorough medical and family history along with a genetic screening, to rule out any hereditary diseases (such as having a family history of cancer, heart disease, mental illness, etc.) or genetic abnormalities (such as being a genetic carrier for cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, etc.) that could affect the offspring.
Medical screening typically begins with a fertility evaluation to verify the capacity of the donor’s ovaries to produce eggs. This usually consists of a physical exam, pelvic exam, ultrasound, and blood tests to check for hormone levels.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) governs the donation of tissue, including eggs in the US. The FDA requires certain infectious disease testing and that the donor is screened for lifestyle factors that could present risk to the recipient of the donor eggs.
The FDA does not allow any physician discretion in ordering and interpreting donor eligibility tests. Anonymous donors must pass all of the FDA required tests to be eligible to donate. Directed egg and sperm donors (those that are known to the intended parents prior to the donation process) may still donate, as long as the physician and recipient feel that no risk is posed from the donation.
While in the past, genetic tests were offered for specific genetic disorders for which the couple is at risk, today’s genetic tests are available based on diseases that can be tested and are most prevalent. They are no longer offered based on ethnicity, but their interpretation and accuracy may take ethnicity into account.
Current technology does not allow evaluation of the entire genetic code of a donor. The panels that are available minimize the risk of transmitting a genetic disease, but do not eliminate the risk. For this reason the sperm source is tested when an egg donor is screened. Similarly, the egg source is screened when donor sperm is used. A thorough understanding of the risk of transmission of a genetic disease can be performed by consulting with a genetic counselor.
All prospective donors undergo a complete psychological examination to identify emotional problems, evaluate donor motivations, and verify the donor understands the physical, psychological, and legal risks that could result from donation.
Dr. Lawrence Grunfeld is a board-certified Reproductive Endocrinologist. He is a clinical associate professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and co-director of Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York. Dr. Grunfeld received his medical degree at Mount Sinai and his OB/GYN training at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He also completed fellowships in reproductive medicine at both the Albert Einstein Medical College and Yale-New Haven Hospital. Dr. Grunfeld served as Director of Fellowship Training at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, where he has been performing IVF procedures since 1986.