The use of donor eggs in fertility treatments has been increasing in recent years. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 12% of all IVF cycles in the U.S., approximately 16,000 cycles a year, involve donor eggs. IVF using donor eggs also have a high national rate of live births (about 50%).
Who Needs Donor Eggs?
- Older women due to age-related fertility decline
- Women, young and old, with early ovarian failure or diminished ovarian reserve
- Same sex male couples or single males
- Women with certain rare genetic conditions, such as Turner’s syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities
Making the Decision to Use an Egg Donor
For some women, deciding to pursue IVF using a donor egg is a difficult decision to make, as it evokes feelings of sadness, anger, anxiety, and even shame. You may grieve the loss of having a genetic connection to your child or feel shocked and angry. Using a donor egg was most likely not in your plans or how you dreamed of starting a family, and these feelings are very normal and common among women faced with this decision. Please be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself to feel these emotions and accept them as a normal part of the process.
Some women fear that by using a donor egg they will not have a biological connection with their child. However, this is not true. Much more than just DNA carried by our chromosomes goes into making us who we are. The child will be carried in your womb and will be nourished by your body. You will be supplying the fetus with nutrients and oxygen carried by your blood. Your baby will be hearing and comforted by your voice, as you are the only mother he/she knows.
A recent study published by Dr. Carlos Simon and his colleagues in 2015 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26395145) shows that mothers who use donor eggs may actually pass some of their genetic material to the fetus through the endometrium fluid (also in the case of gestational surrogates.) MicroRNA molecules are secreted in the mother’s womb and act as a communication system between the mother and the growing fetus. This comes to show that even if you conceive using a donor egg, you would still influence your child’s gene expression.
Choosing an Egg Donor
Each agency has a list of donors. If using frozen eggs, the selection can be made from a larger pool. Some clients using fresh eggs may have a donor in mind (such as a family member) or will need to get matched with a local donor.
“Choosing a donor can be an overwhelming experience”, states Jaclyn Byrd, IVF Coordinator at Aspire Fertility – Atlanta, who has an extensive background in third party reproduction. “To make the process easier I recommend each partner sit down with an open mind, and write a wish list of what they are looking for in a donor. What race, religion, education, background, and physical attributes are important to each of them. Treat it as what it is, a wish list. Remind them they may not get all the things they are looking for, and might have to compromise.”
Fresh Eggs or Frozen Eggs?
There are several egg donation agencies to choose from, your clinic’s IVF coordinator can help guide and connect you with the right agency depending on your needs. Each agency screens their donors thoroughly, both psychologically and medically.
You can either use fresh eggs or frozen eggs. Using a fresh donor egg involves getting matched with a donor. It can take longer to find a match and involves coordination between you and the donor to line up your schedules so that transfer can occur as soon as the eggs are retrieved. Using a frozen egg allows for much more flexibility and a shorter wait time. You will not have to align your schedule with the donor, and will have a larger selection of donors to choose from. Using a frozen egg can also be much less expensive. However, you may get more eggs retrieved from a fresh cycle than the number of eggs you get from a frozen cycle. With a fresh cycle, you will be able to get all the eggs that can be harvested at the retrieval, with a frozen cycle you will purchase “lots” that typically have 5-9 eggs per lot.
If you are a single male or in a same sex male relationship, using a donor egg and a gestational surrogate may be the only way for you to have a biological child. It is recommended, to prevent emotional complications, to use different egg donors and a gestational surrogate. You may use fresh or frozen eggs; however, using fresh eggs will require many more steps and will be costlier, as the donor and surrogate would have to coordinate to match their schedules.
Learn More About Donor Eggs
Pursuing donor-egg IVF can be an emotional journey involving many different decisions. Your IVF coordinators and counselors at Aspire are here to help you with every step of the way, whether it be information that you need, help with decision making, or to provide emotional support. Additionally, the counselors at Aspire Fertility are specifically trained and experienced in providing psychological assessment and screening of potential donors and/or surrogates. This service is offered free of charge to you as our client.