Many women cannot conceive a child because they produce few or no eggs or embryos that do not develop properly. This is particularly common in women over the age of 40, in whom IVF with their own eggs has limited success. Egg (oocyte) donation has allowed some women, whose ovaries do not produce enough healthy eggs, to become pregnant using donated eggs.
Egg donation involves the use of eggs provided by a donor (egg donor) for use in an IVF cycle, generally using the husband’s sperm. Embryos are then transferred to a matched and synchronized recipient. Once pregnancy is established, the recipient is managed by the use of hormonal treatment throughout the first trimester.
Egg donors may be known or unknown to their recipient. Most egg donors are young women who are paid for their time and inconvenience and donate their eggs anonymously.
To be considered as a potential egg donor, these minimal requirements must be met:
- 21 - 34 years of age
- General good health
- No substance abuse, either alcohol or illegal drugs
- Free of infectious disease
- No tattoos or body piercings in the last 6 months
- No psychological illnesses, past or present
Recipients may choose either a known or anonymous egg donor. The donor will have an IVF consultation which will include a history and physical exam. According to federal guidelines for donor eligibility, all donors must be tested (and retested) for potentially infectious diseases. All egg donors will be tested for HIV, hepatitis, chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea. In addition, a nursing consultation and a psychological evaluation is required. Every potential egg donor must complete a family health history questionnaire involving three generations. A potential donor may be excluded if there is a family history which suggests significant genetic risk to the potential offspring if her eggs are used.
The donor is often, but not always selected by the recipient based upon physical traits and likeness to the recipient. Some physical traits that can be taken into consideration are height, weight, eye and hair coloring, and race. The younger the donor the greater the chances of pregnancy in the recipient. Geographical location of the donor and the recipient may also be taken into consideration.
How many times can a woman donate?
Limits to egg donation relate more to the cumulative risk of repetitive use of fertility medications and egg aspiration. We restrict our donors to 4 procedures in a lifetime in an effort to safeguard them from procedural risks.
Recipients of egg donation
- Premature ovarian failure
- Decreased ovarian reserve
- Repeated IVF failure
- Genetic illness
Evaluation of the recipient
Evaluation of the recipient involves a new IVF consultation, including a history and physical, infectious disease testing, semen analysis, financial counseling, a nursing consultation with the IVF coordinator, and a psychological evaluation.
Prior to the cycle the physical structure of the recipient’s uterus is assessed. This may include a sonography, hysterosalpingogram or hysteroscopy of the uterus. A pap smear is recommended within one year of the procedure.
Most women older than forty years of age are encouraged to use donor eggs. With advanced maternal age, the use of donor eggs will increase the chance of pregnancy. Age-related complications of pregnancy are important to consider prior to conception. Gestational hypertension and diabetes are of increasing concern in this age group.
Short summary of an egg donation cycle
- evaluating the recipient couple
- selecting the donor
- screening donor and recipient for STD's, hepatitis and HIV
- obtaining informed consent from the recipient and the donor
- synchronizing the donor and recipient cycle
- prescribing replacement hormones for the recipient
- stimulating the ovaries of the donor
- IVF to obtain the eggs
- insemination of the eggs
- transfer of the embryos
- maintaining the early pregnancy in the recipient
For further information on egg donation or being an egg donor recipient please contact your physician or the IVF coordinator at (570) 271-5620.