Helping women touched by cancer become mothers.
Egg Donation

Infertile couples may acquire eggs through egg donation when the female partner’s own eggs can’t generate a viable pregnancy. An egg donor, usually a woman in her early twenties while her eggs are most fertile, provides one or several (usually 10-15) eggs (oocytes) for purposes of assisted reproduction. Both the donor and the recipient go through an In Vitro Fertilization treatment to retrieve (egg donor) and then use the eggs (recipient). According to SART, the live birth rate of egg donation is 60%.

There are three types of egg donors:

  1. Donors unrelated to the recipients who do it for altruistic or monetary reasons. They are often anonymous donors typically recruited by egg donor agencies or, sometimes, IVF programs and are compensated by the recipient.
  2. Designated donors, e.g., a friend or relative brought by the patients to serve as a donor specifically to help them. Donor compensation is typically less than for an anonymous donor.
  3. Patients taking part in shared oocyte programs. Women who go through in vitro fertilization may be willing to donate unused eggs to such a program, where the egg recipients help pay the cost of the IVF procedure. There is typically no additional compensation to the egg donor.

Prospective parents also have the ability to choose an egg donor that best matches their specifications regarding traits like eye and hair color, height, weight, racial background, etc. Egg donors are required to undergo thorough medical and psychological testing to ensure they are acceptable candidates, both mentally and physically, to donate their eggs. Additionally, donors should be screened for a family history of birth defects and hereditary diseases. They will also be tested for any STDs. In some cases, prospective parents can even interview potential egg donors.

Both the FDA and ASRM (American Society of Reproductive Medicine) have issued guidelines for egg donation, but the infertility field is largely unregulated, like most medicine in the United States. There are, however, many reputable egg donor agencies that follow these guidelines: http://fertileaction.org/infertility-after-cancer/egg-donation/. Many of these agencies have online sites that enable you to review profiles for their egg donors, free of charge and at your convenience. Many IVF clinics have their own egg donor program as well, though you must be a patient to participate and they typically have far fewer donors available than the agencies.

Egg donation is prohibited in many countries, but the United States has well-established laws establishing parental rights. Generally legal documents are signed renouncing rights of ownership and custody on the part of the donor, so that there can be no donor claims concerning the offspring. Most IVF doctors will not proceed with administering medication to any donor until these documents are in place and a legal “clearance letter” confirming this understanding is provided to the doctor. For this, a specialist attorney experienced in the area of Assisted Reproduction is needed. The contract will cover such items as:

  • Each party’s responsibilities and rights
  • Compensation
  • Medical procedures and testing
  • Conduct of the parties
  • Parental rights
  • Insurance

The cost of using an egg donor can be high. The costs include:

  1. IVF procedures for the egg donor and the recipient (national average of $12,000 per cycle)
  2. Egg donor compensation (varies greatly from $4,000 – $30,000)
  3. Agency fees (varies from $5,000 – $10,000)
  4. Attorney fees of $1,000 – $5,000

Fresh Eggs vs. Frozen Eggs

Using frozen egg donors, though still considered experimental, is becoming increasingly more popular due to the affordability and flexibility of this option. Using a fresh egg donor requires impeccable timing between the egg donor and recipient as once an egg is retrieved, it’s then fertilized and transferred into the recipient’s uterus. Leftover embryos are then frozen for later use. Many cultures and religions discourage embryos from being destroyed, however, and may prefer to only fertilize a few eggs at a time and freeze the leftover eggs instead. Some agencies and IVF clinics are now making frozen egg donors available. Recipients can plan their families according to their own timeline and can attempt a transfer within just a couple of weeks of selecting an egg donor whereas fresh egg donation usually takes a minimum of three months for each step in the process.

www.eggfreezing.com, http://myeggbank.com/donor-eggs/index and www.theworldeggbank.com are three available resources for frozen egg donors. Although this is a much more affordable option, it’s important to recognize that egg freezing is still considered experimental, even though over 1,000 healthy babies have been born worldwide with frozen eggs.

One very well reviewed book on the subject, “Having Your Baby Through Egg Donation,” was listed as one of Library Journal’s best consumer health books in 2005. You may also consider joining the Yahoo Forum Group for mothers considering or going through the egg donation process.

In addition to egg donor agencies, there are consulting services that can help you locate the right donor for you. One such service is The Donor Concierge, a unique service that does the search for you with at least 60 agencies and presents you with 8-28 donor options within days. For many couples, this eliminates the overwhelming task of looking for donors themselves.

For further information, please click through Fertile Action’s resources and register for our financial aid program.