“With my age and three failed IVF attempts under our belt, our insurance would pay for one more shot. As hard as it was to move toward egg donation, I knew it was the best choice for us. My husband spotted our donor’s profile before I did. I initially passed on her because she and I don’t favor each other physically at all. However, I loved what she had to say in her profile. She seemed like a person we would have wanted to be friends with under different circumstances. We went through all of the prescreening, signed contracts and proceeded with the donation. I gave birth to twin boys 35 weeks after her egg retrieval. Although my twin sons are not my children genetically, I could not love them more.” –Clara
About 15% of all IVF procedures are done with donated eggs. Whether mom no longer has viable eggs, has premature ovarian failure or has had a number of failed IVF attempts with her own eggs, donor eggs may be the right choice to building a family. First time success rates for donor egg IVF exceed 60% by the time all embryos formed from an average full donor egg IVF cycle are transferred to the recipient’s uterus.
In general, any woman with a medical or genetic indication for using an egg donor can be a recipient, if there are no medical contraindications to pregnancy. Most clinics have their own age limit for who can receive donated eggs – with many at 55 years.
Finding an Egg Donor
Depending on where you live, you have three options.
- IVF Clinic
- Many IVF clinics now have their own pools of egg donors. In most of these cases, the IVF clinic will provide you with a list of their donors and you may select one of the donors. Some clinics may, however, select a donor for you.
- Egg donor agency:
- You can work with an egg donor agency which maintains a pool of qualified donors. You might find an egg donor agency on your own through referrals, ads on online sites or your IVF clinic might refer you to an external egg donor agency. ASRM offers a list of egg donor programs which have signed an agreement with the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) that states that they will abide by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) Ethics Committee Guidelines governing the payment of egg donors.
- Known donor which you find yourself:
- You may find and select an egg donor on your own. This might be a friend or relative, or you might advertise for an egg donor.
Choosing an egg donor
Any potential egg donor should be screened for:
- History of birth defects or hereditary diseases
- Medical and social history
- Physical examination
- Psychological screening
- Testing for sexually transmitted diseases
Once donors have passed screening, intended parents may choose a donor based on:
- Physical appearance (most like intended mother)
- Intelligence (SAT scores, college)
- Previous babies born from eggs
- Certain interests and talents (athletics or musical ability, for example)
- Reason for donating
Paying for an egg donor
Unless it is a known donor, the egg donor receives some type of monetary compensation for her time, inconvenience, and going through the treatment. Compensation usually varies from $4,000 to $5,000 plus the cost of her treatment and medications.
Preparing for a Donor Egg Cycle
After weeks of medication to stimulate egg production, the retrieval of donor eggs is performed using an ultrasound-guided needle. “Donors are offered general anesthesia, while the needle probes its way up the vaginal canal to the ovaries. Doctors view the progress of the needle on a video monitor. Once the needle reaches the ovarian follicles, a gentle suction is used to remove the eggs. This is the final step for donors,” explains the egg donor coordinator for the University of Maryland Medical Center Egg Donation Center.
What Happens Next?
The eggs are then taken to a laboratory, and incubated in a chamber maintained at body temperature. The eggs are inseminated and allowed to develop for three days. A limited number of the best embryos are transferred into the recipient’s uterus.