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Remote Egg Donor Cycles: A Primer
by Melodie Shank, Consultant, Fertility SOURCE Companies, December 8, 2011
When you are in the thick of it, it often seems that nothing is simple when it comes to an egg donor cycle.
Most intended parents arrive at the door to egg donation after a grueling in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle, or two, or three or … more. Somehow, after all of this, the strength, courage and money is found to try again with an egg donor.
After this voyage to the emotionally charged decision to work with an egg donor, then arrives what, for many, can be the most difficult part of the infertility journey: donor selection. The “Match.comminess” begins. Dizzying lists of available donors are perused, for weeks, often months in what many describe as a completely surreal experience. Then, she appears. Perhaps the same smile, the same almond-shaped eyes, the same love of animals, or the perfect combination of many things. Finally, things seem to be turning in your favor. Except for one small catch. You live in San Francisco, and your dream donor lives in Boston. But she is your egg donor, you just know it. Thus begins an added complication and expense to an already complicated and expensive endeavor.
To follow are some insights about the particulars of a remote egg donor cycle — some things to be aware of and some things to avoid.
Not all, but most established donor agencies have egg donors within their pools from multiple geographic locations. When a donor is screened and listed with an agency, she is generally asked if she would be open to a remote donor cycle. One important thing to establish before moving forward or getting your heart set on a remote donor is her willingness and availability to do a remote cycle. Make sure your agency speaks to her about the specifics of the cycle, the timeframe and her current schedule. While travel might have been welcomed six months ago when she was accepted into the program, egg donors are young women, often students, with constantly changing schedules and living arrangements, so it is very important to make certain that the demands (there are many) of a remote cycle are within her ability at the time.
Much of the cycle will take place where the egg donor lives. A local fertility clinic will be selected to conduct your egg donor’s monitoring appointments. It is important that you have a basic understanding of where this clinic is, and what information will be collected through these monitoring appointments. You will likely not have any direct contact with the monitoring center, as the clinical coordinators at your fertility clinic and the coordinators at the monitoring fertility clinic work very hard to ensure that the monitoring information is collected and communicated as planned. Make sure to find out from your fertility clinic how the billing for monitoring will be handled so that there are no surprises.
Travel is obviously a necessary component and expense of a remote egg donor cycle. Most agencies collect a surcharge for the coordination of a remote cycle, as the management of these cycles has many more moving parts than a local cycle. Generally speaking, your agency should have a fair estimate of what the cycle expenses will be. There are generally two trips for the egg donor. The first will involve her initial medical evaluation and screenings by your physician. This is usually just a one- to two-day trip, and expenses typically include airfare, transportation, meals and accommodations, similar to most business trips. The second trip is more extensive. Depending upon the protocol of your clinic, and the specifics of your cycle, the egg donor may spend anywhere from five to 10 days in your city. This is so that your fertility doctor can monitor her for the most critical portion of the cycle — the final phase and the egg retrieval. The donor will usually always require a companion to travel with her, for safety’s sake and also to ensure that she has transportation and is not alone after the retrieval procedure.
In remote egg donor cycles, because of the aforementioned “moving parts,” something unexpected often arises, so prepare yourself for that possibility. Make sure that you have as close as possible to an understanding of what the expenses will be, so that the stress of finances does not consume you during an already stressful and action-packed period of time. Most of all, educate yourself about the process and be honest with yourself and your partner about whether working with a remote egg donor is the right decision for you and your circumstances.
Melodie Shank, Consultant to Fertility SOURCE Companies, has worked in the field of Reproductive Health and Third-Party Reproduction for the past ten years. She has worked extensively with intended parents, ovum donors and gestational carriers and now serves as an independent consultant to Fertility Source Companies. She resides in North Carolina and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in public health.