As a woman enters her late 30s and early 40s, her ovaries decline, affecting not only the eggs but also the hormonal balance. Eggs decrease in quality, which makes donor eggs (generally from younger women) an option. In addition, some women choose donor eggs when they risk passing on a genetic disease. Egg donation offers new hope to couples who once thought they could not have biological children of their own. It follows many of the steps of the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process.
Egg donors undergo extensive and thorough medical and genetic screening, the same as sperm donors. It is not currently possible to freeze and quarantine eggs at Servy Massey Fertility Institute like sperm so the egg must be donated very close to the time it will be used by the woman who will carry the embryo after the donated egg is fertilized. The egg donor may be someone known by the woman or the couple—perhaps a relative. An egg donor also may be someone selected by an agency or an assisted reproduction clinic or can be chosen by the infertile couple. In the U.S., egg donors provided by the clinics generally receive monetary compensation for their eggs, and this fee is generally added to the clinic’s overall invoice to the people using its assisted reproduction.
Although it is still difficult to freeze eggs, we can now predict that it will become common practice in the near future, thanks to drastic technological progresses being made recently.
In order to get the cycles of the egg donor and the woman recipient into sync, the egg donor must undergo the same kind of ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval as is done to a woman using her own eggs during IVF. During this time, the recipient (the woman who will receive the eggs after they are fertilized) receives hormone medications to prepare her uterus for implantation. After retrieval, the donor’s eggs are fertilized by sperm from the recipient’s partner and transferred to the recipient’s uterus. The recipient will not be genetically related to the child, but she will carry the pregnancy and give birth and be the mother on record. The male partner will be the biologic father of the child.
Using donor eggs is a complicated issue that has lifelong implications. Talking with a trained counselor who understands donor issues is essential. Many programs have a counselor on staff or may recommend one. If a couple knows the donor, both the couple and the donor should speak with a counselor and an attorney. Some states also require an attorney to file paperwork with the court when donor eggs are used.