Is Using an Egg Donor Right for You?

Egg donation is used in conjunction with in vitro fertilization (IVF), in cases where a woman has no eggs, has very poor quality eggs, or has age-related infertility. Many women of advanced reproductive age find themselves facing the inability to produce children and all of the associated psychological, emotional and social implications. For some, infertility is linked to the decision to delay child bearing for a number of reasons. Quite often, the problem is associated with the dwindling availability of eggs – and the quality of those remaining – in the years leading up to menopause, when the egg supply created before birth is finally depleted. In other cases, women of all ages may have physical anomalies that went unnoticed until they tried to conceive. Although most women who choose oocyte donation as an alternative to adoption are in their mid thirties-to-late forties, the treatment also provides hope for younger women whose infertility is linked to:

  • Disease of the ovaries
  • Severe Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
  • Severe endometriosis
  • Genetic abnormalities that preclude conception or can be transferred to the offspring
  • Absence of ovaries (from birth or a result of surgery)
  • Ovarian failure
  • Inability to produce healthy eggs
  • Numerous failed attempts at IVF with their own eggs
  • Elevated levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)
  • Advanced age of the female partner

In these cases, healthy eggs are retrieved from an oocyte donor and fertilized by the sperm from the male of the recipient couple, or donor sperm. Egg donors can be selected and known by the recipient couple (a directed donor). Unknown, or anonymous donors are chosen through the IVF program or outside egg donor agency.

A donor egg cycle is more complicated than a regular IVF cycle, using the recipient’s own eggs, because it requires synchronization of both females’ systems. Their natural reproductive processes must first be suppressed to preclude production of their egg-producing follicles and their bodies must be put in synch during the cycle. While the egg donor begins controlled ovarian stimulation to promote the production of multiple eggs, the recipient’s body is prepared to accept the fertilized embryo.

Once the oocytes are collected, during a process called egg retrieval, they are taken to the laboratory for fertilization. Sperm is collected from the male of the recipient couple on the day of retrieval and joined with the donor eggs in a special medium, encouraging fertilization and development. Fertilization occurs in just a few hours. If successful, the resulting embryos will continue to develop for several days before transfer to the recipient. In most cases, this will occur on Day 3, when the zygote (which includes the nuclei from the egg and sperm) has developed into a 6 to 8-celled embryo. In other instances, and depending on factors related to embryo quality, the embryos may be allowed to develop until Day 5, when they have reached the blastocyst stage and contain more than 100 cells.