Introduction to Egg Donation
Egg donation was started in 1984 as an alternative to using a woman’s own eggs. Out of respect for a couple’s/individual’s privacy, egg donation has not received the attention it deserves as the most effective way to overcome age-related infertility. Over the last ten years, FSMG and our egg donors have helped hundreds of couples achieve their dreams.
Women who proceed with egg donation are no longer able to use their own eggs due to:
- loss of ovaries or ovarian function due to illness or injury
- carriers of a genetic abnormality
In the egg donation process, eggs are retrieved from a donor’s ovaries, fertilized in the laboratory with the sperm of the recipient’s partner or donor sperm, and then the resulting embryo(s) are transferred into the recipient’s prepared uterus. Any embryos remaining after transfer can be cryopreserved for use in the future.
The Egg Donation Process
While the process may seem overwhelming, the Third Party team at FSMG will walk you through each step. We start by performing a complete review of your medical records and a careful assessment to individualize your treatment. While all tests performed are thorough and efficient, we also make sure not to repeat any tests previously done by other physicians, as long as they have been done appropriately and within a certain time frame. The other components include:
- Identifying a donor candidate for a fresh donor cycle or frozen donor cohort (2 to 12 weeks). FSMG has partnered with Growing Generations, a national egg donation agency, to bring you a large number of donor candidates.
- Additional donor testing (1-4 weeks), if indicated
- Donor stimulation cycle (2 weeks)
We offer both known and anonymous egg donation.
A known egg donor is usually a close friend or family member who is willing to donate their eggs. If you elect to use a known donor, our physicians will screen your donor to ensure that they are a good candidate for egg donation.
If you choose to use an anonymous egg donor, you may select a donor through Growing Generations, a national egg donor agency. Donor candidates are typically between 19 and 28 years old. Once selected, donors undergo extensive physical, genetic and psychological screening before they are accepted into the program. The screening process carefully follows guidelines that have been set by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
If you choose an anonymous donor, you will be provided with a detailed medical history of both the donor and her family, along with a thorough description of her physical characteristics. You will also have access to her genetic counseling information. Throughout the process, confidentiality and anonymity will be maintained—donors and recipients will not meet.
The following is a brief outline of the donor egg process:
- Hormones are administered to the donor to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple follicles (fluid-filled sacs that contain the eggs).
- Your donor will have multiple ultrasounds and estrogen levels tested to monitor the growth of the follicles. Monitoring aids in adjusting medication doses and determining the timing of the egg retrieval.
- Egg(s) are obtained from the ovary just prior to the expected time of ovulation. A small needle is passed through the vagina into the ovary under ultrasound guidance. This technique is performed on an outpatient basis while the donor is under intravenous sedation and analgesia. The eggs are aspirated from the ovaries and passed off the embryology team.
- Your partner will provide a sperm specimen (or you may use donor sperm) the day of your egg donor’s retrieval. It is prepared by the laboratory for the fertilization process.
- Fertilization of the egg by the sperm through Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), a procedure in which a single sperm is injected directly into an egg for fertilization.
- Embryos are typically cultured in the lab until the 5th or 6th day of development. On Day 5/6, embryos can be transferred into your (or your gestational carrier’s) uterus, frozen or biopsied and frozen to allow for genetic testing and later transfer. Any additional good quality embryos that are not transferred can be frozen for future use.
If immediate transfer is planned, while the donor is completing her stimulation cycle, you or your gestational carrier will begin the process of preparing the uterus for the embryo transfer. If the embryos are to be biopsied and genetically tested, the transfer will be delayed by a few weeks.
A combination of estrogen and progesterone will be prescribed to ensure that the uterus is ready for implantation of the embryo. Estrogen is administered by mouth or by injection. At the time your egg donor is to undergo egg retrieval, you will start a treatment of progesterone to begin preparing the lining of your uterus for implantation of the embryo. This is usually given as a combination of intramuscular injection and a vaginal suppository/gel. These medications are continued until the 10th week of pregnancy, at which time the placenta has taken over production of all necessary hormones.
The staff of FSMG are very proud of our Third Party Reproduction program. Since 2003, with the advances in blastocyst culture and pre-implantation genetic screening, Dr. Arlene Morales, Dr. Wendy Shelly and Dr. Kristi Maas have delivered outcomes that are some of the best in the country.
Types of Egg Donor Cycles
Fresh AED Cycle: Intended parent(s) choose an anonymous egg donor from and egg donor agency. All of the eggs retrieved from that donor’s cycle go to the intended parent(s). The eggs are fertilized with the partner’s (or donor) sperm to create embryos.
Frozen Egg Cohort: Intended parent(s) may also purchase a cohort of frozen donor eggs (typically 6-8 eggs in each cohort). These eggs are thawed and inseminated with the partner’s (or donor) sperm to create embryos.
The use of IVF with donor eggs overcomes most of the natural barriers to conception and live birth—barriers such as problems with ovulation, fertilization and egg quality (including chromosomal abnormalities). See our website Fertility In Your 30s for more information.