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Egg Donation: Could It Work for You?

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Find out more about this family building option.

Many women who’ve not been able to conceive but want to experience pregnancy and childbirth turn to egg donation. Poor egg quality due to a woman’s advanced age is the most common reason why single women and couples choose to go this route. A woman’s egg quality drops when she’s over age 35 and significantly declines after age 39.

Egg donation is commonly used by:

  • Couples in which the woman has poor quality or no eggs, but who want a biological child using the male’s sperm
  • Women with no ovaries but an intact uterus
  • Women with genetic factors that they don’t want to pass on to their children
  • Women over the age of 39

The first known pregnancy achieved with a donated egg occurred in 1984. Today, an estimated 10,000 babies a year are born worldwide from donated eggs.

The Process

Eggs, called oocytes, are surgically retrieved from healthy young women, generally between 21 to 30 years old - at their reproductive prime and old enough to give informed consent. Egg or oocyte donors undergo psychological and medical screening, which includes a thorough medical history and workup. (Donors are paid from about $7,000 to $20,000 on average.) Next, donors receive hormone injections to induce a superovulation (five or so eggs versus one, which women naturally release each month). A doctor then surgically removes eggs from the donor’s ovaries. The lab will attempt to fertilize several eggs in vitro (in a laboratory) using the recipient’s partner’s sperm or donated sperm. Fertilized eggs (embryos) are then inserted into the recipient’s uterus. If successful, the embryo will attach to the uterine lining and develop into a healthy baby.

Egg Donor Sources

Commercial egg donor agencies recruit, screen and match healthy donors with couples and individuals. Infertility clinics also offer donated eggs from couples who have produced excess eggs. In some cases, the recipient may ask a close friend or relative to donate her eggs.

Success Rates

Success depends on many factors including the age of the egg donor, retrieval process, quality of semen, and the recipient’s overall health. A major risk factor is multiple births - twins, triplets, and more - since more than one embryo is generally inserted into the recipient’s uterus to increase pregnancy odds.

As with all third-party reproduction processes, recipients should seek counseling to explore emotional concerns and an experienced attorney to protect their and their potential children’s rights.