Egg donation overview
- A woman can donate her healthy eggs to be used in assisted reproduction.
- If a woman trying to get pregnant does not have viable eggs, she may use a donated egg, which will be fertilized with the sperm of the intended father or of a sperm donor.
- The recipient of egg donation will carry the pregnancy and be that child’s legal mother, but she will not be genetically related to the child.
- Egg donors can either be known (a family member or friend) or anonymous (using an egg donation agency).
What is egg donation & who should use an egg donor?
If a woman cannot get pregnant due to a problem with her own eggs, she may try using an egg supplied by an egg donor. A donated egg can be fertilized and transplanted into the recipient’s uterus through the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process. Egg donation gives hope to couples that otherwise could not have biological children of their own.
Problems with a woman’s eggs can be due to:
- Being born without ovaries
- Having a genetic disorder she does not want to pass to her child
- Being unresponsive to previous hormone stimulation
- Having poor egg quality (or embryo quality) as revealed in testing or previous IVF treatment
- Menopause or having premature ovarian failure
A woman may choose egg donation if she risks passing on a harmful genetic trait to her child. Women should talk to their physician about testing to determine if they carry genetic risks. In addition to known traits, low quality eggs are also a risk factor for such chromosomal abnormalities as Down syndrome, which is the presence of an additional 21st chromosome.
If a woman is experiencing infertility due to ovarian function (lack of ovulation or poor quality eggs), fertility testing can determine the woman’s ovarian reserve (the number of healthy eggs left in her ovaries).
More women are waiting to get pregnant for career or social reasons. However, as a woman gets closer to menopause, the function of her ovaries declines and the quality of her eggs declines, which makes achieving pregnancy through intercourse or IVF increasingly difficult.
Women who experience premature ovarian failure experience symptoms similar to menopause.
Who can become an egg donor?
Egg donors are healthy women between the ages of 20 and 32. Egg donors must be non-smokers and non-drug users.
Egg donors can be someone the recipient knows, such as a family member or close friend who has agreed to help a woman achieve pregnancy. Family members are often sought as egg donors because they share similar genetics with the recipient mother.
Egg donors can also remain anonymous, which generally involves obtaining the egg through an egg donation agency.
While egg donors may remain completely anonymous, the woman or couple receiving the donated egg will get extensive information regarding the egg donor’s medical, family and social history, including level of education. They will also have access to photos of the donor throughout her childhood (and sometimes as an adult), which helps the recipient(s) evaluate the donor’s physical attributes that may be passed to their child.
How egg donation works
A potential egg donor undergoes medical screening, genetic testing and psychological evaluation to ensure that she is a good candidate before her donation is approved. The process of egg retrieval, which is detailed on the IVF page, involves ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval.
If all goes well, the donor egg will be fertilized by the male parent’s sperm and the resulting embryo will be implanted in the recipient’s uterus. Please see Becoming an Egg Donor to learn about the complete process involving the egg donor.
An egg recipient will have her uterus synchronized to receive the fertilized embryo transfer, which is generally accomplished with medications and hormones. About 3-5 days after the fertilization through IVF, the embryo is implanted in the recipient’s uterus. Please see Using an Egg Donor for more details about this process.
What are the risks of egg donation?
Giving or receiving donor eggs has lifelong implications that can involve psychological, emotional and legal issues. Egg donation brings up personal values related to paternity and genetics. It can also involve rights of donor acknowledgement and even contact with the child.
It is important to speak with a counselor prior to proceeding with egg donation, and our fertility center can recommend a counselor specializing in donor issues. If a donor is known (a close family member or friend), it is often wise for both the donor and recipient(s) to seek psychological and legal council.