What Matters Most to You
Making the decision to use donor eggs in IVF is often not easy. If you’ve had failed IVF cycles using your own eggs or been told you have insufficient ovarian reserve for IVF, you and your partner may need time to grieve before moving on to donor eggs. Once you are ready, however, donor eggs are a kind of miracle. Eggs from young, healthy donors make it possible for women even of advanced maternal age to get pregnant and have a healthy baby at about the same IVF success rates as younger women, as high as 50 percent or more. Those celebrities having babies well after age 40 are most likely using donor eggs. When you and your partner are ready, these six factors can help you select an egg donor who’s right for you.
- Known Donor vs. Anonymous Egg Donor
Your first decision is whether to ask someone you know, like a sister, other relative or close friend, to donate eggs to you, or to choose an egg donor through an egg donor agency, fertility center or frozen egg bank. Most egg donors through agencies and databases prefer to be anonymous, but some will allow contact from the child conceived with their eggs. If you want your child to have a relationship with a known donor, it’s important to define that relationship in advance and to get legal advice from an attorney experienced in reproductive law. An anonymous donor does not reveal her identity to the parents. The egg donor agency, fertility center or frozen egg bank is the intermediary and manages the donation process. The anonymous egg donor should sign a contract stating that she waives all parental rights and that any children born from the donated eggs are the legitimate children of the prospective parents.
- Medical History and Mental Health
A donor from an agency, egg donor database, fertility center or frozen egg bank will be screened for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV, and genetic disorders, and will submit her and her family’s medical history. A donor also undergoes psychological testing and evaluation. Take a careful look to see how the donor’s medical history would affect the child, in combination with your partner’s. You may want to consider a donor’s blood type, as well. If it is the same type as you or your partner, that means one of you can donate for your child if needed. This also affords more privacy if you are not sure you want to tell your child about using an egg donor. If the child’s blood type is not a possible combination of the prospective parents’ types the child may discover they are not completely biologically related. If you are using a known donor, she will need to be tested for STIs and HIV, and you may want genetic testing as well.
- Ethnicity, Hair and Eye Color
One of the advantages of using an anonymous donor from a large egg donor database or agency is that a wider variety of ethnicities may be represented in their donor pool. Many people like to choose a donor whose characteristics mean the child will appear to be the genetic child of both prospective parents. If it’s important to you to select a donor who bears some resemblance to you or has the same ethnicity, hair color and/or eye color, a large pool gives you more choices. Religious background is another factor that may influence your decision, if you’re looking for common ground with the donor.
- Has She Donated Successfully Before?
Some people prefer to use an experienced donor because she has been through the process, knows what to expect, and responds well to fertility medications. Legally, there is no set limit to the number of times a woman can donate, but many fertility centers or agencies recommend donating only a few times. No long term studies have been done on the effects of repeatedly stimulating the ovaries to produce eggs for donation.
- Other Physical Attributes
Is the donor similar to you or your partner in height and body type? Is she athletic, and does that matter to you? Remember you’re trying to choose someone whose genes will become a part of your family. If you’re couch potatoes, do you really want a star soccer player? Or it may be all you really care about is that she’s healthy and has a healthy lifestyle. Decide what fits with your family-to-be.
- Intelligence and Personality
These are factors that are somewhat controversial but undoubtedly important. You may have heard about people paying higher donor fees for young women from Ivy League universities or who are talented musicians, science students, etc. Think about what really matters to you and what kind of child will “fit in” with your family. Most egg donor agencies screen for a pleasant personality. Reading the donor’s profile will give you an idea of what she’s like. Do you have similar interests? Does she sound interesting? Would you want her for a friend? Listen to your gut feel, and you’ll find the donor who feels right for you.