For many years, couples and single people in need of sperm donation to build their families have had a fairly simple, straightforward process of going to a sperm bank and selecting a sperm donor from among the many available files. Once selected, sperm could be shipped to the fertility clinic and inseminations performed on the recipients' time frames.
For those in need of egg donation, the process was not quite so simple. "Fresh egg donation is time consuming and can be worrisome and costly for couples needing donor egg to start their family," says Michael Levy, M.D., a fertility doctor with Shady Grove Fertility Center. "These couples must find a donor, hope the donor will pass rigorous genetic, infectious disease and psychological screening, then wait for the donor's menstrual cycle to align with the cycle of the woman receiving the eggs." The entire process can take anywhere from three to 12 months, and cycles may be canceled for reasons unrelated to the recipient.
Now, however, couples and single parents by choice in need of egg donation have a new option —frozen egg banking. With the ability to select frozen eggs, there is more access to egg donation, the process is simplified, and procedures can be performed on the recipient's timetable.
As couples begin the daunting search for their perfect egg donor, so many questions come to mind! What criteria are the most important to me? Do I want someone who physically resembles me or someone in my family? Does the donor have musical talents like I do or can she swing a tennis racquet the way my partner does? Did she achieve those SAT scores in high school that we are looking for and has she achieved good grades during her college years? Does she have a sense of humor and kind heart? Such a difficult and unique decision to be making. Only you and your partner can know what are the most important criteria for you.
Because of advances in egg freezing technology, donor egg banks, similar to sperm banks, have been developed over the last few years.
In the past, the survival of eggs following the older, slow-freezing technique was very low, as were pregnancy rates, often due to damage to the egg cells caused by ice crystal formation during the freezing process. Today, vitrification of eggs involves a new flash-freezing technique where the delicate egg, once unfreezable without damage, can now be safely preserved for future use. In the process of vitrification, an oocyte is placed in a small volume of the vitrification medium and is then cooled at an extremely rapid rate. This fast freezing eliminates the formation of ice crystals in the eggs. Following this freeze, the egg is stored in liquid nitrogen until such time as it is to be thawed and fertilized by a sperm.
A blog by The Egg Asiancy, June 14, 2016
I’d always wanted a career in research. After getting a master’s degree in health, I landed my first job in a research lab – and was well on the way to achieving my dreams. Then one day, I happened to see an ad for a fertility clinic, looking specifically for Asian egg donors.
The role of preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) in egg donor IVF has been unclear, according to Dr. John Zhang. While success rates using donor egg are generally high because donors are young, a large number of embryos are reported to be aneuploid (abnormal) – as many as 53%. So Zhang and researchers at New Hope Fertility Center looked at 81 egg donation cycles to determine whether PGS would be effective. In the study, 31 patients had PGS and transferred euploid (normal) embryos and 50 did not have PGS on the embryos transferred. The PGS group had a higher implantation rate (72.3% vs. 49.1%) and a higher clinical pregnancy rate (72.5% vs. 46.1%).
Egg freezing is a viable option not just for women who want to preserve their fertility, but also for egg donors and women who are using donor eggs to have a baby. Donors’ eggs are frozen and women/couples purchase a cohort of eggs from a donor chosen from an egg bank’s database.
As compared to fresh egg donation, frozen egg donation is less expensive and provides a greater choice of donors and convenience – the donor and recipient don’t need to be synched for stimulation and retrieval, says Dr. Samuel Pang, a fertility doctor and medical director of IVF New England. A recent study in which IVF New England participated showed there are comparable pregnancy rates with fresh and frozen donor eggs.
Donating eggs can make the difference in a couple’s ability to start a family. Many young women have considered donating their eggs, but are unsure about the process or what is required of them. Knowing the desirable egg donor traits that fertility clinics are looking for can make the decision easier.
Finding an egg donor that has all the characteristics you hope to find can be a challenge. Finding an egg donor that has all the characteristics you hope to find AND who happens to live down the street from your fertility doctor's office, can be nearly impossible! Will egg donors travel? Should I wait to find someone who is local? Should I just choose a doctor located near the donor? How much does travel even cost? All very good questions to think about before embarking on your search for an egg donor.