Exploring Egg Donation: Questions to Ask
If you’re exploring this route to parenthood, your doctor has likely advised you that chances of conception will improve significantly if you use ovum (egg) donation.
To most couples this may seem an unusual therapeutic option, but it’s important to consider this alternative as it may provide a fulfilling and effective path to starting a family. Additionally, it will reduce the risk of miscarriage and congenital anomalies.
Questions to Ask
Exploring these questions with your partner may help:
- Will this approach provide the best chance of having a healthy child?
- How does the genetics of egg donation work?
- Should we adopt instead?
- Can we afford additional infertility treatment?
- If we choose this route, do we want a known or anonymous egg donor?
- Should we also explore a frozen egg bank?
Many couples have faced this decision. Sorting these questions out is part of the decision-making process. It may be helpful to explore your feelings with a therapist trained in third-party reproduction, who can address your questions and raise issues that you may not have thought about already.
Who Uses Egg Donation?
Egg donation is commonly used by:
- Couples in which the woman is in menopause–who have poor quality or no eggs–but who want a biological child using her partner’s sperm
- Women with no ovaries but an intact uterus
- Women with genetic factors that they do not want to pass on to their children
- Same-sex male couples who plan to use gestational surrogacy
The Egg Donation Process
Oocytes (eggs) are retrieved from healthy young women, generally between 21 and 30 years old. Egg donors undergo screening as set forth by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including a thorough medical history, physical exam, psychological screening and ovarian reserve testing to determine if she is likely to be a good donor candidate.
Next, the donor will get hormone injections to induce development of multiple eggs. Once her eggs are mature and ready for retrieval, her fertility doctor will retrieve her eggs while she is under anesthesia, using an ultrasound guided needle that is inserted into each mature follicle in order to collect the oocyte. The lab will fertilize several eggs in the laboratory using either the recipient partner’s sperm, selected donor sperm, or—in the case of same-sex male couples—one or the other partner’s sperm. An embryo (fertilized egg) is then transferred into the recipient (or the couple’s gestational surrogate’s) uterus. If successful, the embryo will implant into the uterine lining and develop into a healthy baby.
Egg Donor Sources
Commercial egg donor agencies recruit, screen, and match healthy donors with couples and individuals. Donors are chosen for their ability to produce multiple eggs. You may choose a fresh egg donation cycle or a frozen egg donation cycle (from a frozen egg bank). Donors are paid anywhere from $7,000 to $15,000 on average. Frozen egg banks are increasing in popularity and offer options to those who do not have a clinic with a donor program nearby. You can purchase a cohort of frozen eggs (usually 6-8) from your chosen egg donor.
Success depends on many factors including the age of the egg donor, retrieval process, quality of sperm, and your overall health.
Egg donor conception is becoming more common each year. An estimated 100,000 children have been born through use of donor eggs in the U.S. since 1984, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The technology is proven but it’s important to make sure that this option is for you. Please have a candid discussion with your health care provider about your concerns and/or hopes regarding donor egg.
Dr. Tanmoy Mukherjee, a board-certified Gynecologist and Reproductive Endocrinologist, is Associate Director of the Mount Sinai Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and co-director of Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York. He completed his residency at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine where he received the Leo M. Davidoff Society Award as well as the Schulman Award, and completed his fellowship at Mount Sinai Hospital. The author of numerous journal articles and textbook chapters, Dr. Mukherjee is also the recipient of the prestigious Society of Reproductive Surgeons Award for his extensive research in ovum donation and medical therapy for the treatment of infertility.