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Egg Donation Overview
by Geoffrey Sher, M.D.
For an ever-increasing number of infertile women, disease and/or the onset of ovarian failure precludes producing fertilizable eggs thereby preventing them from achieving a pregnancy with there own eggs. Since the vast majority of such women are otherwise quite healthy and physically capable of bearing a child, ovum donation (OD) provides them with a realistic opportunity of going from infertility to parenthood.
Ovum donation is associated with definite benefits. Firstly, in many instances, more eggs are retrieved from a young donor than would ordinarily be needed to complete a single attempt at achieving an IVF pregnancy. As a result, there are often supernumerary or left over embryos for cryopreservation and storage. Secondly, since eggs derived from a young woman are less likely than their older counterparts to produce aneuploid (chromosomally abnormal embryos), the risk of miscarriage and birth defects such as Down’s syndrome is considerably reduced.
According to the Center for Disease Control, 400 U.S. IVF programs reported their Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) outcome statistics for the year ending December 31, 1998 to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). These programs were collectively responsible for approximately 90,000 ART cycles, resulting in approximately 20,000 IVF births and 28,000 babies, with OD-related, fresh and frozen embryo transfer cycles accounted for approximately 10%.
A. INDICATIONS FOR OVUM DONATION.
1. Advancing age (beyond 40 years) is by far the commonest reason why American women elect to undergo ovum donation. In fact the vast majority of ovum donation procedures performed in the U.S in 1998 involved embryo recipients over the age of 40 yrs.
2. The second commonest indication for OD and one that usually ties in with advancing age beyond 40 years is declining ovarian function.
3. In a select but nevertheless a significant percentage of cases, the indication for OD is premature ovarian failure in women under 40 years due to genetic cause, aneuploidy (e.g. ovarian dysgenesis or Turner’s syndrome), surgical removal of the ovaries (oophorectomy), or exposure to chemotherapy and/or excessive radiation.
4. Recurrent IVF failure due to “poor quality eggs or embryos” is a relatively common and one of the most rapidly growing indications for OD in the U.S.
5. Another growing reason for American women electing to undergo OD is in cases of same-sex relationships (predominantly female) where both partners wish to share in the parenting experience by one serving as egg provider and the other, as the recipient.
B. SELECTING AN OVUM DONOR: