Donor Egg Pregnancy: 101

I discuss egg donor and surrogate pregnancy with Katy Encalade of Egg Donor And Surrogate Solutions! Be sure to watch the entire video at the end!

What are some common reasons why an individual or couple might use an egg donor?

If a couple or individual cannot conceive through procedures such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), they may want to consider using donor eggs from a third party. This is referred to as 'third party reproduction'. Donor eggs can allow an infertile person to carry a child and give birth. Donor eggs can also be used when using a gestational carrier. Donor embryos can be used in these situations, but this blog focuses on donor eggs.

You might be a candidate for donor eggs if you have any of these conditions:

  • Premature ovarian failure--a condition in which menopause has started much earlier than usual, typically before age 40.
  • Diminished ovarian reserve--the eggs that a person has are of low quality. This is often be caused by advancing age.
  • Genetically transmitted diseases that could be passed on to a child.
  • A previous history of failure with IVF, especially when the doctor thinks that the quality of eggs may be the problem.

How are donor eggs obtained?

Donor eggs can be obtained from a fresh donor, i.e. a donor that is chosen specifically for a couple or individual with the eggs dedicated for their use only. Donor eggs can also be obtained from a frozen donor bank where the eggs have already been harvested and then frozen from various candidates. This can get quite confusing, so be sure to research the best option for you both personally and financially, as there is a difference in cost.

How do I find an egg donor?

Most egg donation is anonymous, meaning the individual or intended parents do not know the egg donor. However, some people prefer to know their egg donor and take legal steps to contract for the donation of the eggs from someone known to them. If the egg donor knows the intended parents or individual, the donor may wish to receive updates once the child is born or may even request visits. An egg donor contract that explicitly spells out the terms of any future relationship should always be used, even when the donor is a close friend or relative. Having legal representation for all matters is essential, even if the parties involved know each other.

If anonymous donor eggs are used, the fertility clinic may have available egg donors that they have already screened. It is becoming more and more common for fertility clinics to have egg donor programs. Because some clinics have long waiting lists, finding an egg donor through one of many egg donor agencies is another option. There are many egg donor agencies available that have egg donor registries with profiles of potential egg donors. The profiles of egg donors can be searched and narrowed down by entering preferences such as hair color, eye color, height, education level and more.

Egg donor programs vary in their requirements for egg donor candidates, but most conduct extensive screening and provide you with detailed information about the medical history, background, and education of the donor. Some programs have strict age limits and won’t accept donors older than their mid-20s. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends that egg donors be under the age of 34. Be sure to find out what screening is required from whatever egg donor agency is chosen.

How long does it typically take for the entire process from picking a donor until embryo transfer?

Typically, the process is 3-4 months from the time of egg donor selection until an egg retrieval from the egg donor. Intended parents or individuals can choose to transfer at the time of the egg retrieval of the egg donor or they can freeze the embryos and wait--most donor egg cycles are done in this manner. If genetic testing of the embryos is needed for any reason, a waiting period is necessary to get the test results

How are egg donors vetted?

Most egg donor agencies only accept about 7% of the donors that initially apply to an egg donor program. They go through an application process, interview, and then any medical or previous egg donor records are reviewed. Focusing on the desire and motivation of a potential egg donor to commit to a cycle is essential.

What are the legal considerations between the donor egg recipient and egg donor?

Many egg donor agencies require that an egg donor agreement exists between the intended parents or individual and the egg donor. It should be drafted by an attorney and both the egg donor and intended parents or individual should have legal representation. This agreement outlines the obligations and responsibilities of both parties and also establishes paternity and maternity rights for the intended parents. This agreement should be in-line with the requirements of each individual state where the egg donation is occurring.

What is the typical cost?

There are two factors to consider. One is the medical aspect and the second is the egg donor selection process at an egg donor agency. The fees paid to an agency are approximately $16,000-$22,000 depending on the egg donor selected. Typically, the entire process from egg retrieval from an egg donor to implantation into the intended parent is about $35,000-$40,000. If a gestational carrier is being used, there is additional costs to consider.

Who can be an egg donor? How many times can someone donate their eggs?

Typical egg donors are between 21 and 32 years old. They should be healthy and know their family health history. They should be drug free, have a normal monthly menstrual cycle, and excited to help a family or individual. Being an egg donor is a commitment and so it is never never recommended that someone do it just to earn money. According to ASRM, it is recommended that one individual can donate eggs up to 6 times. These requirements can also vary according to the egg donor agency used.

Can someone find out if other children were born from the same egg donor?

Sometimes. There is a program called ‘’The Donor Sibling Registry.’’ Many clients register here and donors can do so as well. At many egg donor agencies, coordinators work with clients and egg donors to make sure it is set up correctly to make the connecting easy.

Be sure to watch this discussion I did with Katy Encalade of Egg Donor And Surrogate Solutions!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are your qualifications?

I am a double board certified ObGyn and Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist. I have worked at a large academic center in academic medicine as a clinician, educator and researcher since 2004.  I am currently a tenured Professor and actively manage patients with high-risk pregnancies.

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