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Egg Donation 101
Thousands of women each year make the decision to donate eggs so that others may have the opportunity to realize their dreams of becoming parents. It is estimated that over 12% of all IVF cycles in the United States use eggs from donors. If you have considered becoming an egg donor, here is what you need to know:
- Be between the ages of 21 to 32 and in good health
- Have a height and weight within the normal range, with a BMI of under 30
- College educated
- Have a complete knowledge of family health history
- Live in close proximity to the fertility clinic
- Fill out an initial online application
- Interview with a program coordinator
- Lab testing for infectious diseases
- Genetic counseling
- Psychiatric evaluation
Stimulation and Retrieval
A daily injectable medication is given to stimulate oocyte production and suppress the natural ovulation cycle. A doctor will monitor progress with the use of blood testing and ultrasounds. Once the eggs have matured, the donor will be given an injection of hCg to help separate the eggs from the follicles in preparedness for retrieval. While the donor is under light sedation, the doctor will use an ultrasound-guided needle to remove the eggs, a process which normally takes less than 30 minutes. After a couple of days rest, the donor should be able to resume all normal activity.
Fresh or Frozen
Donor eggs can either be frozen for future fertilization/transfer, or fresh for immediate fertilization/transfer depending on the clinics protocol. A frozen transfer means the donor can begin the process right away. If the clinic prefers fresh transfers, the donor’s information will remain in a database until they are chosen by a recipient. Once this happens, both the recipient and the donor’s monthly cycles are synced with the use of injectable medication. Once the oocytes have been retrieved from the donor, they are immediately fertilized to prepare for transfer into the recipient.
Anonymous and Known Donors
Oocyte donations can be either known or anonymous. An anonymous donor never meets the recipient; no personal information is shared beyond health and ethnic history. General physical traits are listed on the donor’s portfolio and a picture of the donor as a toddler is sometimes provided for the recipient couple. A known donor is often a family member, friend, or an acquaintance who offers their oocytes to an intended recipient. A known donor cannot be an immediate family member of the male partner, due to the potential of a genetic relation causing health and physical defects.
While it is illegal to pay a donor for the eggs themselves, donors can be compensated for time and effort. Most clinics will pay a donor between $4,000 to $8,000 per donation cycle. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends that, “total payments to donors in excess of $5,000 require justification and sums above $10,000 are not appropriate.” Some clinics will pay a percentage upfront, increasing the amount as the donor proceeds further into the application process. Others will pay a donor once the retrieval is complete.
Risks Associated with Oocyte Donation
The use of injectable medications to stimulate follicle production can cause ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), which is the fluid retention and swelling of the ovaries. OHSS can range from mild to severe causing blood clots and even death. With careful monitoring, the risk of this happening is less than 1%. There is also concern that women who donate eggs will be depleting their own supply. This however, is simply not accurate. Women are born with more eggs than they will ever use, around 300,000 oocytes are present by the time a female reaches puberty. Doctors will test prospective donors for ovarian reserve to ensure ample supply, should the donor wish to become pregnant on her own sometime in the future.
Legal Rights of the Egg Donor
Before the egg donation process begins, the donor must sign a contract relinquishing all parental rights of any children that are born using her donated eggs. A donor must also agree to contact the recipients and/or the clinic if there is any significant hereditary medical information she becomes aware of in the future.
Becoming an egg donor can be a fulfilling experience for those women who choose to undergo the process. Many couples are desperately hoping to become parents and need the gift of egg donation to complete their dreams. If you are interested in becoming an egg donor, contact our Patient Care Coordinators at 1-855-955-BABY (2229).