For some people, using donor eggs from a woman with a healthy reproductive system may be the best way to achieve pregnancy. Ideal candidates for donor egg assistance include:
- Women of advanced reproductive age (over age 38) whose natural egg production may have slowed or stopped with age
- Women with non-working ovaries due to early menopause, which affects about 1% of women before age 40
- Women with working ovaries but poor egg quality or quantity
- Women with multiple failed IVF attempts as a result of bad egg quality
- Women with a genetic disorder that could be transmitted to a baby
- Men who will use a surrogate in order to grow their family
- People in the LGBTQ community who may not have access to an egg
In 2020, more than 40% of women who used donor eggs had a live birth*
What women can expect
If you’re a female interested in conceiving with a donor egg, testing and physical examinations will be performed to assess your body’s ability to have a successful pregnancy. These may include:
- Uterine procedures to check for infections and other issues that could impact pregnancy
- Practice cycles to ensure your body will react appropriately to hormonal therapy
- Trial transfers to test how easily a catheter carrying an embryo can be passed through your cervix
- Blood tests to ensure there are no compatibility issues between your blood type and that of the egg (or sperm) donor
- Pretreatment counseling to help you understand cycle expectations, risks, and success rates, as well as the mental, emotional, and social aspects of using a donor
What men can expect
If you’ll be fathering the baby, assessments will be done to ensure your health, including:
- Semen analysis to rule out any potential fertility issues
- Blood tests to ensure there are no compatibility issues between your blood type and that of the egg donor or recipient
How do I know the donated egg is healthy?
Typical egg donors are younger than 35 years old, with laboratory results that show normal fertility and good egg quality. Screening of egg donors, whether known or anonymous, is important. Egg donors participate in comprehensive screenings such as:
- Medical history
- Family history of birth defects or genetic diseases
- Psychological testing
- Sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing, including HIV, hepatitis, and herpes
- Physical examination and laboratory testing to assess fertility
How an egg donor cycle works
The egg recipient undergoes testing to ensure she can physically manage pregnancy. A semen analysis will ensure the health of the male’s sperm. (If using donated sperm, this step will already be complete.)
If you’re using an anonymous donor, you’ll use donor profiles, photos, and essays to select your eggs.
The egg recipient starts hormonal therapy to synchronize her reproductive cycle to the donor’s cycle and create the proper uterine environment for the embryo to develop. The egg donor receives medication to stimulate egg production, similar to IVF therapy.
When the cycles of the egg recipient and egg donor are in sync and the eggs have reached the proper size, the eggs are retrieved from the donor. On the same day, a semen sample is provided from the male partner or donor. Using in-vitro fertilization techniques, the egg and sperm are united to create an embryo.
Embryos will be transferred to the recipient 2 to 5 days after the embryos are fertilized. The number of embryos transferred depends on the transfer date and your preferences.
After transfer comes a 9- to 12-day waiting period before a pregnancy test can be taken, known as the “two-week wait.” This can be a difficult time, filled with hope and anxiety. Building a support network can help you during this time.
If you get the joyous news of a positive pregnancy test, hormone therapy is continued for the pregnant woman until around the 10th week of pregnancy.
The age of the egg recipient usually does not affect pregnancy rates, even if she is over 40.
What are the chances of multiple births using donor eggs?
Because egg donors are typically younger, pregnancy rates tend to be higher—leading to a 20% to 25% chance of multiples. Ask your doctor if the number of embryos transferred will be limited to reduce this risk.
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