What is egg donation?
Egg donation is the process by which a woman (an egg donor) donates her ova, or eggs, to another individual or couple for the purpose of conceiving a child, as part of IVF (in-vitro fertilization). There are two type of donation: anonymous and directed donors. The majority of cases are anonymous. Eggs are extracted vaginally from the ovaries of the donor during a simple, ultrasound-guided, outpatient procedure. The process has been done for over 25 years, and has a very high rate of success.
Who can donate eggs?
The ASRM (American Society of Reproductive Medicine) is the medical association that, among other things, sets the standards for egg donation. Most reputable physicians follow their guidelines, and, in some cases, egg donor agencies and clinics must abide by these guidelines in order to be licensed. In addition, the FDA has a number of requirements for egg donors.
There is a long list of requirements for a woman to become an egg donor. First, the donor must be in good health and between 21 and 34 years of age. Egg donors should also have a “clean” family medical history with no significant health and/or genetic disorders, and the donor should lead a healthy lifestyle. Donors are thoroughly screened by the clinic for infectious diseases, drug/alcohol/nicotine use, genetic mutations, and many other things – typically detected via bloodwork and/or ultrasound. A psychological evaluation is also conducted prior to the clearance of the donor.
In addition, the donor will be screened to determine if she is likely to be able to produce enough viable eggs for a successful cycle (one that, ideally, results in a pregnancy.) Beyond the FDA and ASRM requirements, fertility clinics and agencies might have additional criteria for acceptance as an egg donor.
What does the egg donation process involve?
To begin the process, prospective recipients use an egg donor database to choose their anonymous donor. This database will include pictures of the donor, family history, medical history, baby pictures, and a variety of other information on the donors. The process of choosing a donor can take days or years, depending on the person’s personal choice. This decision is very important for prospective parents and a careful evaluation of donors is needed. Many couples choose egg donors that have similar characteristics to the woman in need of donor eggs.
Once “matched” with a recipient (sometimes before), prospective egg donors will be notified and screened by a psychologist and, usually, a genetic counselor. They will also have an introductory appointment with the physician and nurses associated with the recipient’s clinic. Assuming she passes the initial testing, a contract will be signed between the donor and her recipients and a calendar will be created that will map out the medication portion of the cycle. An egg donor is not approved to begin treatment before her medical, psychosocial, and legal documents are approved.
The donor will initially be put on birth control pills, and then, for approximately 20 days (depending on the protocol) the donor will inject herself with medication intended to increase her egg production. The donor will be closely monitored by the physician and at the appropriate time the eggs will be removed during an outpatient procedure in the doctor’s office. The donor will be lightly sedated and the procedure should take about 30 minutes. The donor will not be able to drive herself home following the procedure, as she will have been sedated for the procedure. In most cases, if the donor follows doctor’s orders, she should be able to resume most activities within 1-2 days. Some donors report mild cramping following the procedure. Each doctor/clinic will explain the various medical risks and side-effects in detail at their meeting.
What is the compensation for being an egg donor?
Donors will be compensated for their time, effort, and travel based on a scale that is set at each individual clinic or agency. Typically donors receive between $5,000 and $10,000 for each donation. Donors are often given medical insurance to cover 90 days from the beginning of the medication cycle to cover any unforeseen medical complications that could occur. The ASRM standards require that donors receive no more than $10,000 for any single donation and that they donate their eggs no more than six times in their lifetime.
Who can use donor eggs?
- Candidates for donor eggs include women with:
- Ovarian failure
- Cancer therapy that has damaged ovaries
- Genetic diseases not wanting to be passed to their offspring
- Multiple rounds of IVF failure
- Advanced age for optimal reproduction
- The desire to use of a gestational surrogate without use of the female partner’s egg
In addition to testing of the egg donor, there are health evaluations completed for the recipients. The evaluation is similar to those undergoing IVF. Recipients are given a complete physical, gynecological exam, and STD test. Recipients older than 45 require further screening for cardiac issues, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and diabetes as well. If a couple is to use their male partner’s sperm in fertilization of a donor egg, a semen analysis is usually conducted as well. Each fertility clinic or agency will have specific guidelines for the recipients.
What are the costs for using donor eggs?
For recipients interested in using donor eggs the costs will include the medical treatment for the donor and intended parents (also a surrogate if that is required), the donor’s compensation and the donor agency fee, insurance for the donor, the cost of preparing and securing the legal contract with the donor and any travel costs for the donor if she does not live near the doctor’s office. The total cost of an egg donor cycle will range from approximately $25,000 - $40,000.