It can feel daunting to be told by your infertility specialist that you should consider choosing an egg donor.
If you have decided on the path of egg donation, the next decision is to choose an egg donor. The most wonderful opportunities arise when a potential recipient has a compassionate donor. This category of donors includes family members — sisters, cousins, nieces and even daughters. This is relatively uncommon, but if you have a candidate in the family who is under the age of 30 or early 30’s and is proven fertile, then it can provide an extraordinary chance to keep the genetic alignment as similar to yours as possible. Occasionally, close friends are willing to do this as well.
We have had patients in the past who have tried to recruit their own donors through newspaper/online ads, even offering large sums of money for certain specific characteristics. We do not recommend this. It is important that egg donors are very carefully screened by experts.
We wanted to take a few minutes to explain how egg donors are selected. All donors are screened very carefully for certain characteristics that will immediately rule them out as a donor. For example, a family history of any serious mental disorders, including severe depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, would be cause to filter out a possible donor. Any history of drug abuse, medical or psychological illness easily rules out the donors.
The combination of psychological testing, using objective tools such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2, and the personal interview can help to rule out hidden personality disorders. Sometimes the potential donor will “game the system” and try to beat the test by providing the right answers, and an expert counselor can detect this type of subterfuge.
There is more and more emphasis on screening donors with new measures of ovarian reserve. In the past, women who were prospective egg donors might have a low ovarian reserve and not know it. Accurate testing is now available to screen donor candidates based on their ovarian reserve. It is still possible that donors will have surprisingly low numbers of eggs, but the testing definitely helps in the program selection of donors going through the first time. Our section on fertility testing has more information about these tests, AMH and antral follicle count.
Using a donor who has been successful previously also helps to avoid the unhappy surprise of low responders at a young age. We also need to be wary of previous pregnancy problems such as repeated miscarriages.
A quick tip on choosing your egg donor: The first impulse is to think about height and hair color matches -to- become fixated on a picture. We recommend thinking more about personality and interests which you find appealing.
Sometimes we have patients with premature ovarian failure who want to use their sister as their egg donor. While this seems logical, it is often not a good choice. In 1997, a group in Mt. Sinai, New York found a high incidence of low responses among sisters of patients with premature ovarian failure. Thanks to that research, before we do egg donation and consider a sister as an egg donor, we do an AMH test and an antral follicle count on the prospective sister donor to test for the same hereditary problem.
Egg donation is a great choice for many patients, but there is a lot to understand. Click here to read more information about egg donation.
Click here for an Egg Donation Fact Sheet, from the Patient Education Website of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).
We welcome questions about egg donation. You may contact us here to have someone reach out to you.