How IVF With Donor Eggs Can Make Dreams Come True
More and more couples are using donor eggs with IVF to conceive a child and become parents. In a recent study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers examined data from the majority of the fertility centers in the U.S. from 2000 to 2010 and tracked outcomes.
The number of donor egg IVF cycles increased from nearly 11,000 in the year 2000 to 18,000 in 2010. On a national basis, the success rate with fresh embryos from donor eggs was over 54 percent in 2011, regardless of the age of the mother, according to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART.)
For comparison, in women who if you don’t have any fertility issues, the chance of getting pregnant during any given ovulatory cycle is about 15 to 25 percent.
Why are more people turning to IVF with donor eggs to get pregnant?
Egg donation can resolve a number of different fertility issues.
Age of the mother’s eggs: Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), the single most important factor in predicting the success of IVF with her own eggs is the age of the female partner. Many women delay starting a family, not realizing they may have difficulty getting pregnant as they get older. As women get older their eggs are aging, too, and after age 40 their eggs become much less likely to be successfully fertilized and produce a healthy embryo. Using IVF with donor eggs from a younger woman has a high rate of success with women over 40, allowing many to get pregnant and have a healthy baby.
Cancer treatment, premature menopause, or other health issues: Women whose ovaries have been removed, or who have had radiation or chemotherapy for cancer treatment, or have otherwise unexplained premature menopause, may not be able to produce eggs, a condition called ovarian failure. If the uterus is still intact they may be able to get pregnant with donor eggs. If a woman knows she is carrying a serious genetic disease she may choose to use donated eggs to avoid passing on the disease to a child.
Male same-sex couples: Male partners who want to have a child who is genetically related to one of them may use a gestational carrier, a woman who will carry the baby, and IVF with donated eggs and sperm from one or both of the partners. Laws about gestational carriers vary from state to state. You may want to consult an attorney experienced in reproductive law if you’re considering this.
How Does IVF With Donor Eggs Work?
IVF with donor eggs involves many of the same procedures as IVF with a female partner’s own eggs. The egg donor’s ovaries are stimulated with fertility drugs to produce a number of mature eggs which are retrieved. The eggs are then fertilized in the laboratory with the male partner’s sperm. At the same time, the woman who will carry the baby is treated with estrogen and progesterone to get her cycle in line with the donor’s. When the embryos are ready, one or two (or whatever number has been agreed on with the fertility doctor) are transferred to the carrier or birth mother. If all goes well the embryo implants in her uterus and grows over time into a baby.
In recent years, frozen egg banks have become available. If frozen eggs are used the egg recipient doesn’t have to have her cycle synchronized with the donor’s cycle because the eggs have already been retrieved. This may reduce the cost of the cycle since fewer fertility drugs are needed (although the donor egg cost is additional), it may shorten the time required for the cycle and will require less medical management by the reproductive endocrinologist. The success rate with frozen donor eggs is still being evaluated, but seems to be similar to success rates with fresh donor eggs. This is a new procedure but usage of frozen donor eggs seems to be growing.
Are Donor Eggs Right For You?
There are many things to investigate and think about before you become a parent with donated eggs. For a woman, there may be feelings of sadness at the thought of having a child who is not genetically related to her, but there may also be a deep desire to be pregnant and carry her partner’s child. There are also costs associated with donor eggs in addition to the cost of IVF. Read our article on Considering Donor Eggs and IVF for Single Parenthood.