If your fertility specialist recommends using donor eggs, you may be wondering what to do. Can donor eggs help you have the baby you want? How do you feel about taking this step?
If you and your partner decide to use donor eggs, what happens next? Here are some answers and things to think about.
Why Donor Eggs
Your reproductive endocrinologist will explain why donor eggs are appropriate for your fertility treatment. The major reason donor eggs are recommended is diminished ovarian reserve. As women age, their eggs age, too. Both the quality and the quantity of eggs decline over time. Women over 40 years old have greatly diminished fertility due to the age of their eggs. They are less likely to have success with IVF than younger women. But it’s the age of the egg that matters. A woman who receives eggs from a young donor is likely to have the same success with IVF as a young woman. This is how many celebrities have children well after 40, even as old as 50, though most of them will not admit they used donor eggs.
Donor eggs may be suggested for younger women who have diminished ovarian reserve, which is revealed by their fertility evaluation, or a rare condition known as premature ovarian failure (POF), menopause occurring before age 40. A fertility specialist also may recommend donor eggs for women who have had multiple failed IVF cycles, according to RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association.
Your Emotions and Using Donor Eggs
You may feel devastated when your doctor suggests donor eggs. It’s normal to feel distress and even to grieve because your child will not carry your genes. Don’t be angry or blame yourself. Many women want to carry and bear a child with their male partner, and that feeling is strong enough to make them consider donor eggs. Your fertility center may have a counselor or support groups you can talk to about your decision.
Finding an Egg Donor
If you decide to use donor eggs, you may have a family member who has healthy eggs and is willing to donate, which is called using a known donor. Most people get their egg donor through their fertility clinic. Your clinic may have an egg donation program or a relationship with a donor agency. Many clinics will work with known donors, their own donation program and donor agencies to help you find a donor.
Egg donation programs and donors to agencies are anonymous. You will be able to find out donors’ height and weight, hair color and eye color, race, blood type, age and duration of formal education. The donor agency or program will also tell you as much as they know about the donors’ family medical history. Every donor is screened for any health issues before she is accepted as a donor. Most agencies have a wide range of races and ethnicities in their donor databases. Some have photos and will allow you to view them.
In recent years frozen egg banks have become an option. The donors’ eggs have already been harvested and are frozen, so they are available for immediate use. This can be convenient because the donor’s part of the IVF cycle is already finished, so you don’t have to sync your cycle with her. Because there is less administration and coordination for the fertility practice, the procedure is considerably less expensive than a traditional Donor and Recipient cycle and typically, the Donor harvested several eggs, so the cost is ‘shared’ among the recipients who use those frozen eggs. Although preliminary findings suggest that the success rate of IVF with frozen eggs is nearly as high as with fresh eggs, it is still being studied. It shows tremendous promise and use of frozen donor eggs is likely to become the norm.
IVF with Donor Eggs
If you decide to go ahead with IVF with donor eggs, your cycle will be aligned with the donor’s cycle. Her ovaries will be stimulated with fertility medications to produce multiple eggs. At the same time, you will be prepared with hormones to prepare you for embryo transfer. When the donor ovulates, her eggs will be extracted and fertilized in the lab with the male partner’s sperm. The embryos develop for three to five days and then are transferred to your uterus. If you use frozen eggs from an egg bank, you will usually start hormonal preparation early in your menstrual cycle since there is no synchronization needed.
IVF Costs with Donor Eggs
The woman who is receiving the donor eggs pay for the cost of the egg donor and her treatment. The cost of the donor and her treatment are additional to the cost of IVF for the couple undergoing treatment. The cost will vary from clinic to clinic and from state to state. In general, egg donation costs $5,000 – $10,000 plus the cost of fertility drugs and treatment for the egg donor, and fertility medications and IVF for the recipient. Some fertility clinics offer shared donor programs, where two or more recipients share the costs of egg donation as well as a donor’s eggs.