If you are single with fertility issues or in a relationship where both of you are experiencing fertility issues, you have an option of conceiving using both donor egg and donor sperm. Below I will answer commonly asked questions about the selection process, how treatment works, and on odds of success.
Why would someone need both egg and sperm donation?
Why would someone need both donor egg and donor sperm? It may be that a woman has reached an age where conception using her own eggs is no longer an option. Or perhaps she has medical reasons that prohibit the use of her own eggs. A sperm donor may be needed because she may not have a male partner or if she does, perhaps the male partner is experiencing fertility problems where the sperm is not viable.
For some single women, they may decide to use a sperm donor because they do not have a partner and are ready to start a family. So their journey to parenthood begins with coming to terms with the idea of raising a child alone. But once on that journey, she may discover a fertility problem (age or otherwise) and now also has to accept the idea of not having a genetic connection to her child as well. But when the longing to be a parent outweighs the desire to reproduce, that is where double donation comes in.
Some other scenarios include lesbian couples where both women have fertility issues and cannot use their own eggs, single males who cannot use their own sperm, or a gay male couples where both have fertility issues and neither can use their own sperm.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) with double gamete donation consists of a fertility treatment in which the eggs of a donor are fertilized with the sperm of a donor. The donors can be identified (meaning the donor is known to the parents in some capacity) or non-identified (the donor is not known at all). Donors need to be over the age of 21, and pass both medical and psychological evaluations. Currently, there is no cap on how much a donor can be paid.
Let’s begin with the egg donation process. Once an egg donor has been selected and has completed and passed all the required medical and psychological testing, she will begin the medical protocol to retrieve her eggs. She will begin by injecting herself with hormones for approximately two weeks. These hormones stimulate the ovaries to produce more follicles than she would otherwise produce. Depending on the protocol, she will be regularly monitored by a clinic close to home so doctors can monitor the stimulation. A final, trigger shot is taken on a specific day and time and within a certain amount of hours, the eggs are extracted under sedation. The other option is to use frozen eggs from an egg bank.
Donor sperm can also be either fresh or frozen. However, regardless of how it is donated, it will remain frozen in quarantine for six months before it can be used. Some states and clinics will offer a waiver to release the sperm after three months. The reason for quarantine is that some diseases, such as HIV or Hepatitis B can take up to six months to show positive.
Once the donated eggs are matured and ready to be fertilized, the donor sperm is thawed and tested. Once approved and ready, the mature eggs are fertilized with the donor sperm. Embryos are given three to five days to grow and are then transferred to the intended mother or gestational carrier. Remaining embryos can be frozen for possible future use, donated to another person or couple or disposed of.
Double-donor embryo IVF
Because a double donor embryo is created using two donors, treatment can be costly. It can also be the treatment path that takes the longest since you are needing to find both an egg and sperm donor and you need to ensure everyone’s calendars are in sync. A planned trip, holiday lab closures, and medical and legal professionals scheduling calendars can create time lags in the process. So be prepared to spend months or even a year before treatment (embryo transfer) can actually occur.
However, medically, double donation is safe and can have very high success rates. For example, the 2020 CDC IVF success rates looked at 449 clinics across the United States. A frozen embryo transfer cycle using donor eggs resulted in a 44.5% singleton live birth rate. Whereas a fresh embryo transfer cycle using frozen donor eggs had a 44.1% singleton live birth rate and a fresh transfer from fresh donor eggs resulted in a 49.5% singleton live birth rate.
Although double donation can be costly and time consuming, chances of a successful transfer and birth can exponentially increase when gametes used to create the embryo come from young, healthy donors.
Dr. Saira Jhutty is a licensed clinical and industrial organizational psychologist in private practice specializing in fertility. She is also a Founding Medical Advisor for Cofertility, and has spent the last 11 years focusing on assisting people build their families using third-party reproduction. Dr. Jhutty’s expertise lies in the evaluation of and consulting with potential surrogates and egg donors, and meeting with intended parents to discuss their decision to use alternative methods to build their family. In the past, Dr. Jhutty worked as Director of Surrogacy and Egg Donation at Conceptual Options, previously leading all gestational carrier and egg donor assessments there. Through her work with Cofertility, Dr. Jhutty provides guidance to ensure Cofertility remains at the forefront of ethical standards, including egg donor screening, intended parent counseling, and support for donor conceived children and families. For all members of Cofertility’s Freeze by Co egg freezing programs, she also makes herself available for office hours, through which members may ask questions directly within our private community.
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