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Over the past five years, Oova has helped countless women take control of their fertility.
Egg donation can be an excellent option for people who are unable to conceive using their own eggs. Here's a breakdown of the screening processes, IVF, and difference between fresh and frozen eggs.
Egg donation can provide the missing link for those trying to conceive, who want to avoid passing down a genetic disease, for single women, or for LGBTQ+ couples who cannot conceive on their own.
>>RELATED: LGBTQ Family Building Options
In this article, we’ll explain in more detail what the egg donation process looks like, how egg donors are screened, the factors to consider in your search for the ideal egg donor, and the differences between fresh and frozen donor eggs.
Through egg donation, a donor chosen by the intended parents provides their eggs to be transferred via in vitro fertilization, or IVF. IVF is a type of assisted reproductive technology when eggs are fertilized with sperm in a lab to create embryos. Then, the embryo is transferred into a uterus — whether that’s your uterus, your partner’s or a carrier’s.
Now we know the final result of egg donation, how does the egg donation process work?
Fertility clinics follow a rigorous screening process when it comes to clearing egg donors. Prior to starting the egg donation process, the egg donor undergoes a thorough medical screening to ensure that they’re fit to receive the stimulation medication required (more on this below).
Professionals assess the potential egg donor’s egg reserve, their medical history, and family and genetic history. They also run blood tests to check for undiagnosed medical conditions or infectious diseases.
Once the egg donor is cleared by the clinic, they’re prescribed hormone medications to stimulate ovulation and the production of multiple eggs. If it’s a fresh cycle, the intended mother will be prescribed estrogen and progesterone to build up the uterine lining and prepare it for implantation.
The next step is the egg retrieval and fertilization with sperm from the intended father or a sperm donor.
The best embryo is transferred to the uterus using a thin catheter, a procedure known as a fresh embryo transfer (FET). The intended mother continues her medication (progesterone). If the transfer is successful, once a heartbeat is confirmed, the pregnancy progresses from there, hopefully making it successfully to term.
Deciding to grow your family via egg donation is not easy, however it may be an ideal solution if conceiving naturally isn’t possible. The first step is to consult a reproductive endocrinologist or your fertility clinic to go over your options. Egg donation may be recommended in the following scenarios:
If a medical issue is keeping you from growing your family, the news that you will need an egg donor can be difficult to take. It’s important that, if necessary, you seek support to come to terms with the news and to discuss the way forward.
It’s also completely understandable that you may feel wary of using an egg donor for some time, but chances are the desire to have a baby will help you overcome your reservations and concerns.
So, give yourself the time you need. Remember that, donor eggs or not, you will still 1,000,000% be your child’s parent.
Once you and your partner feel ready, it’s time to start searching for the ideal egg donor, one that matches all of your preferences.
Choosing your specific egg donor is one of the most personal and important decisions you’ll make. Many intended parents choose to seek the services of an egg donor agency; however, choosing which agency to work with is a big decision in itself and many intended parents go to multiple agencies before they find their perfect donor.
Egg donor profiles include the donor’s physical attributes, education level, medical history, as well as family history, among other elements such as ethnicity and religion. Undeniably, you are presented with a large amount of information, but in this case, the more information the better. To get started, you’ll want to decide what characteristics matter personally to you.
An egg donor must be between the ages of 21 and 30, but if you prefer one on either the younger or older end of that spectrum, that’s a valid and personal decision.
Donors must have a healthy body mass index (BMI) between 18-27, but as far as the donor’s specific weight, that may be a consideration that’s important to you.
Egg donors go through various examinations of their medical history. You can look at:
If applicable, you’ll see information about “proven fertility” in egg donor profiles. This means a previous successful pregnancy shows that the donor has the potential to provide healthy eggs.
You’ll see the donor’s photos (ideally current as well as from childhood) and, when available, videos, natural hair color, eye color, height, and weight.
Many intended parents are interested in donors with similar physical features to themselves, while others are interested in dissimilar features. Again, these are personal decisions and any preference is valid.
This can range across heritage, religion, characteristics, education, career, and even criminal record. For example, if you're ideally looking for a donor with a graduate degree or high test scores, you could, as a starting point, filter your options through the lens of your desired standard of education.
Many intended parents look for egg donors with a similar heritage or religious background as themselves.
The fee for an egg donor can range from $8,000 to $20,000. Donors may charge more when they have proven fertility or a higher level of education, among other factors.
>>MORE: Infertility is Expensive. Here Are 7 Ways To Save Money When Trying to Conceive.
An egg donor close to your IVF clinic can help save you money in covering travel costs. That said, this may not be your most important criterion—in which case it’s totally up to you to prioritize other factors over where the donor lives.
During egg donation, you can choose to either immediately transfer the egg to a uterus—known as a “fresh” embryo—or, to freeze and store the eggs for later use—known as a “frozen” embryo.
Both fresh donor eggs and frozen donor eggs have specific pros and cons which you should consider.
While IVF with fresh and frozen donor eggs has proven successful, a national study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology found that the use of fresh donor eggs in IVF has a small advantage in birth outcomes.
According to the study’s lead author, Jennifer L. Eaton, M.D., “the odds of a good birth outcome were less with frozen than with fresh, but it was a small difference.”
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also shows that, overall, 55.3% of embryo transfers from fresh donor eggs resulted in a live birth versus 46.7% for embryo transfers from frozen donor eggs.
Sometimes, a fresh egg donation will produce more eggs than a frozen cycle. A fresh egg donation cycle will give intended parents anywhere from 10 to 20 eggs. This is ideal if you plan on having more than one child; a fresh donation cycle will likely provide you with a good number of embryos to pursue more than one pregnancy.
With frozen eggs, an extra procedure known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) becomes a must (which also adds to the overall cost). The freezing and thawing process makes the shell surrounding the egg hard for the sperm to penetrate on its own. ICSI bypasses this as a single sperm is injected directly into the egg.
Using fresh donor eggs is typically a much longer process than frozen eggs. It takes time to match a donor to the recipient and then to synchronize schedules and cycles.
Fresh donor egg IVF is typically more expensive than the frozen alternative. At an average of $25,000, fresh donor eggs amount to around twice the cost of frozen eggs.
Donation cycles can on occasion get canceled due to poor medication response or issues, or because of an insufficient amount of eggs obtained. Medical issues more specifically may include uterine cysts or bleeding, which can have a negative impact on implantation, preventing the cycle’s success.
Ultimately, when it comes to choosing between fresh or frozen eggs, it all comes down to your personal situation. There is no easy answer as to which is best. Success rates can depend on each individual’s specific case, as well as the expertise of the clinic you’re working with. A doctor and the clinic can help you assess your options based on your medical history and specific circumstances.
Egg donation is a great way for parent(s) who need eggs for conception to be able to successfully become pregnant. The egg donation process involves screening—which is a very personal process—then egg production and fertilization. It’s completely your choice on who you choose to be your egg donor and what kind of egg donation—fresh eggs or frozen ones—you use. Ultimately, it’s your fertility journey, and choosing what’s best for you will always be the right choice.
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