About 10 percent of all babies conceived through IVF are a result of egg donation. This is often not public knowledge, since it is a private matter. Parents rarely tell their friends, and sometimes not even their relatives.
That’s why it can be difficult to get a first-hand perspective from your friends or acquaintances who may have considered donor egg. The issues which arise in this decision are complex. For couples considering this option, the biggest hurdle is the decision to give up on the woman’s own eggs. The natural desire to have one’s own biologic offspring is paramount.
Sometimes this desire runs headlong into the low odds of success with infertility treatment, including IVF. If a woman is in the upper age brackets or has been diagnosed with diminished ovarian reserves, the chances for success are lower and the expense of IVF can go up even further.
Although the costs of donor egg are considerable, the success rates are excellent. Odds of 50 to 60 percent chance of success sound a lot better than 10 percent. With since extra embryos are often created and can be frozen for future usage, the real odds can be around 75 percent. The dollars per baby now are lower than ever thanks to egg freezing.
Making the transition to being an egg recipient can be compared to opening a door which seemed locked. For those couples who are faced with a changing reality and are considering egg donation, “Having Your Baby through Egg Donation” by Ellen Glazer and Evelina Sterling (Perspectives Press) is an excellent book. It confronts the complex personal issues as well as the medical issues faced by potential egg recipients. The following excerpt is condensed and used with permission of the authors.
“You are at a crossroads in your journey toward parenthood. You can either travel down the road of egg donation or you can choose another path. Pause and consider all of the choices.
Assuming you are part of a couple, turn to your companion and to remind yourselves that you must come to decisions that will work for both of you and for your relationship from now and into the future as a family.
Like all travellers, you should plan well for the journey. In struggling with infertility, you have probably already observed that as reality changes, so does your perceptions of the options. How many couple s thought, “I’ll never do IVF?” By now many of you are veterans of IVF cycles. As you travelled down one path, you discovered that options which once seemed daunting or disturbing actually have become attractive.
It is easy to think that you will never do this, or never do that, but as your reality changes, so do your decisions. Remember that “not yet” does not mean “never.” Listen carefully, talk openly about your concerns.
Most couples facing decisions about using donated ova, find that one partner is ready to consider this alternative path before the other. When this happens, the person who wants to move forward is often upset or impatient with the one who says, “I’m not ready” or “We need to try… again.”
This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact we have found that couples have a way of balancing each other. One of you might be eager to explore egg donation in part because you know that your partner will slow you down and help insure that you make wise, careful decisions. Similarly, you who are trailing can afford to take it slowly because you know that your spouse is well prepared to take the lead.
You and your partner have different histories as well as a shared one. Inevitably, decisions about using donated eggs or adoption will be shaped by your past. If your favorite cousins were adopted, you will have one set of associations about adoption. If the worst troublemaker in your school was adopted, you will have different notions about people who joined their family by adoption.
Surely you will feel loss and grief along the way. After all, things are not working out the way you had hoped or expected. However, if you can remember that using eggs from a 25-year-old gives you the best chance to have biological child than you have ever had, you can begin to see a positive side to this process. Nonetheless, you are experiencing loss – loss of the hoped for spontaneous conception, loss of money, loss of emotional and physical energy already invested, loss of time. Be prepared for the continuation of a journey – that involves loss and grief and ever unfolding new realities. You, will discover the rewards that come from being able to accept loss, to grieve, and then to celebrate your new realities.
Remember that you have made the best decisions you could along the way. Regret is a painful, feeling, and infertile people are often the masters of regret. It is tempting to look back and second-guess yourself. “I should have been less focused on my career and we should have tried earlier.” “I should have pushed my husband when he said we had time to wait.” “I should have met him earlier.” “I should have tried to marry a younger woman.”
Sometimes the choices we make turn out to be less than ideal for the prospects for fertility. It is inevitable that you will look back and contemplate how things could have been different if only you had made a different choice. Try to be gentle and considerate remembering that you did the best you could with the information you had at the time. Look forward and try to see things as clearly as possible with hope.
Egg donation can be considered a back-up plan to all the other modalities of treatment. Only you can decide where it fits into your journey.