Using donor eggs can be a life-changing experience for couples struggling with infertility. For many, it is the best way to achieve a successful pregnancy and start a family. However, using donor eggs can sometimes be an overwhelming process, and there are many things that you may not be aware of until you start the process. In this article, I will lay out some things that you should know about using donor eggs.
If you’ve done IVF before, you know the drill
IVF can be broken down into three phases:
- The retrieval phase, where the eggs are matured and extracted
- The embryo phase, where eggs are fertilized and monitored in the lab
- And the transfer phase, where an embryo is transferred to the uterus of the intended mother or gestational carrier
With donor eggs, the egg donor undergoes the retrieval and then her job is done. The eggs are then fertilized with the sperm of the intended father (or a sperm donor) and grown for three to seven days under the careful eye of a trained embryologist. At this point, some families opt to do genetic testing. Once the embryo is ready, the intended mother, or a gestational carrier, takes over to carry the pregnancy to term.
Unless your doctor has determined that it is impossible or dangerous for you to safely carry a pregnancy, you can absolutely undergo IVF and get pregnant with donor eggs.
Choosing an egg donor is a huge decision
Finding an egg donor can be a challenging and time-consuming process, and rightfully so! You want to ensure that you find the right match that you feel good about. When choosing a donor, it's essential to consider factors such as physical traits, medical history, and personality. At Cofertility, we have hundreds of pre-qualified donors ready to be matched. You can create a free account to begin your search.
Medical screening of the donor will help increase your chances of success
Donors are screened for various genetic and infectious diseases before they can donate their eggs. This screening process is designed to ensure that the donor is healthy and that there is minimal risk of passing on any genetic or infectious diseases to the recipient or the baby. Additionally, their ovarian reserve is tested to help ensure that they are likely to produce enough mature eggs. The screening definitely adds time to the process, but is intended to help increase your chances of success.
You’ll need a lawyer who specializes in third-party reproduction
There are state-specific legal considerations to be aware of when using donor eggs. It's essential to have an iron-clad legal agreement in place that outlines the terms of the donation and the rights and responsibilities of all parties involved. No clinic will accept a patient and egg donor without this contract in place. If you work with Cofertility, we will help ensure you and your donor have expert lawyers drafting this contract.
Donor eggs can increase your chances of success
Around 53 percent of all donor egg cycles will result in at least one live birth. This percentage varies depending on the egg donor, recipient body mass index, stage of embryo at transfer, the number of oocytes retrieved, and the quality of the clinic.
At every age, the chances of birth with donor eggs is better, but those who benefit the most from donor eggs are women over 35 and those with low ovarian reserve. In fact, about one-quarter of women over 40 who succeeded with IVF did so through the use of donor eggs.
The chart was made using the SART Patient Predictor for an average woman (5’4”, 150 lbs) with diminished ovarian reserve. As you can see, the chances of live birth after one donor egg cycle is 54% for recipients under 40, and only goes down slightly after this.
At Cofertility, the average number of mature eggs a family receives and fertilizes is 10. Some intended parents want to do two egg retrievals with the donor which is definitely possible. We also ask each of our donors whether they are open to a second cycle as part of the initial application — many report that they are!
You can see how many eggs are retrieved in the first cycle and go from there. If, for any reason, the eggs retrieved in that round do not lead to a live birth, our baby guarantee will kick in and we’ll re-match you at no additional Cofertility coordination fee.
It might get emotional
Using donor eggs can be an emotional journey for intended parents. It can create feelings of loss, sadness, anger, and possibly even shame. You may feel a deep sense of grief over not having a genetically linked child. Give yourself space to express your feelings and time to process this loss. Avoidance and distraction can only be helpful for so long. Allow yourself to sit with your feelings. Give yourself permission to move forward at your own pace.
Remember, DNA is a small part of who we are. All human beings are 99.9 percent identical in their genetic makeup and nurture plays an enormous role in who we become and who we bond with.
It will be expensive
IVF alone is expensive, and then there’s donor eggs. The total cost can end up being tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the clinic, the egg donor, and if your insurance or employer covers any of it.
Know this: our donors aren’t doing it for the money. At Cofertility, our donors freeze their eggs for free in exchange for donating half of the eggs to your family. This saves families tens of thousands of dollars on donor compensation.
You won’t regret it
Ask anyone who has had a child, born with or without some type of assistance, and they will all tell you the same thing: parenting is the greatest - yet hardest - thing they have ever done. It doesn’t matter how the child came into their lives, the role and relationship of parent and child is the same.
When working with parents who had donor conceived children, their only real regret was they wished they had done this sooner. They wished they had let go of their preconceived notions that a baby who looks like them or who shares their genes is the only way to be a parent. That bringing a child into their lives using alternative methods means the child won’t see them as their real parent, or that they will not bond. Read more in Will I Regret Using Donor Eggs?
Using donor eggs can be an excellent option for couples struggling with infertility. It's important to be aware of the various factors involved, including finding a donor, medical screening, legal considerations, success rates, emotional impact, cost, and talking to your child. With the right support and information, using donor eggs can be a positive and fulfilling experience, leading to the creation of a loving and happy family.
Meera Shah, MD, FACOG, is a double board-certified OBGYN and reproductive endocrinology and fertility specialist at NOVA IVF in Mountain View, California. She is a Founding Medical Advisor at Cofertility. Dr. Shah has authored numerous research articles on topics ranging from fertility preservation, pregnancy loss, reproductive genetics, and ethnic differences in IVF outcomes. Her medical practice incorporates the highest level of evidence-based medicine and the most cutting edge technologies to optimize outcomes for her patients. Dr. Shah applies this approach to her work with Cofertility, ensuring that Cofertility remains up-to-date on latest medical advancements and research in third-party reproduction and reproductive endocrinology in general. When Dr. Shah isn’t busy working with her patients at NOVA IVF, she enjoys playing pretty much any sport, learning new piano pieces on YouTube, and spending quality time with her husband and three boys. You can find her on Instagram providing fertility-related advice and education at @dr_meerashah.
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