The Egg Donation Process: How it Works
The egg donor process allows women who are very fertile to support women who aren’t. Infertility affects roughly 12% of the adult population and the ability to use donor eggs can significantly increase a couple’s fertility rate, particularly women 40-years and over, as well as those who have low egg reserves or who have chromosomal or other abnormalities that compromise the quality of their eggs.
If you have decided to donate your eggs to the cause, we congratulate you. We’ve worked with hundreds of egg donors over the years and we are so grateful for their efforts.
The egg donation process begins with a detailed screening process. Here at RRC, egg donors:
- Must be between the ages 22 and 30 to donate eggs. These are the years when women are most fertile and when you have the largest number of egg stores. After age 30, your egg stores diminish more rapidly and egg quality is compromised.
- Have to pass a physical examination, including a lab tests screening for HIV-1 / HIV-2, Hepatitis B Surface Ag, Hep B Core Ab, Hepatitis C Antibody, RPR and GC / Chlamydia cultures. This prevents the transmission of these diseases to the embryo and/or the mother.
- Go through a psychological examination. It’s important that you are mentally sound and are completely aware of what it is you’re doing. Your eggs carry your DNA, and this DNA may eventually create a human being that will be born to another woman. We want to make sure all egg donors are 100% clear about the process and what it means, and that they are making their decision with complete awareness of potential mental or emotional hang-ups that could arise down the road.
- Fill out legal paperwork for the FDA (egg and embryo donation are governed by the FDA, the same way tissue donation is so the paperwork is identical) as well as a packet of consent forms.
- Have to complete a genetic screening, identical to the one couples can opt to go through during their infertility workups. This ensures you aren’t a carrier of any chromosomal abnormalities or the most common genetic defects that could be passed on to the embryo.
- Receive a baseline ultrasound on Day 3 of your cycle. This takes place on the 3rd day you’re menstruating, and it lets us get a good look at your egg follicles. If they look ample, healthy and cyst-free, it’s a sign you’ll be a good egg donor. We want to make sure you have plenty of healthy egg follicles before we retrieve eggs.
If you sail through this initial, screening phase and are accepted as an egg donor, you’ll be added to the donor bank.
Your donor bank profile does not include any personal contact or identifiable information. However, it does contain a photo of you and a detailed description of who you are, your academic/employment history, interests, talents, etc. In most cases, individuals and couples seek a donor that matches the mother’s looks/interests so the child is similar to one they would have conceived using the mother’s egg.
Donating Eggs Phase 2: Ovarian Stimulation
You will be contacted when you’re chosen as an egg donor match and – if the timing works out – you will begin the retrieval process. If the timing for an IVF cycle using fresh eggs doesn’t work with your schedule, the recipient(s) may opt to use you as a donor anyway and freeze the eggs for their IVF cycle.
Once you’ve been chosen as a donor, you’ll begin the egg donation process, which includes hyper ovarian stimulation and retrieval.
Suppression and ovarian stimulation
The donor will self-administer hormones, typically using Lupron, to suppress her own cycle and sync it with the recipients. These shots are administered daily. When the cycles are synced, the daily injections switch to a gonadotropin, which stimulates the maturity of multiple egg follicles.
You will be monitored closely during the ovarian stimulation phase via blood tests and ultrasound, to ensure things are going well and that you aren’t experiencing hyperstimulation syndrome (one of the risks associated with donating eggs). These appointments are typically held early in the morning to minimize the impact on school, work or your daily schedule. If you’re a long-distance donor, these appointments can take place in a clinic local to you.
Donating Eggs Phase 3: Egg Retrieval
When the eggs are mature enough for retrieval (evident via ultrasound) you will administer what’s called a “trigger shot.” This is another hormone, hCG, which causes the eggs to fully mature. Your retrieval appointment is schedule two days later.
This appointment takes less than 20 to 30 minutes. Donors are put into a gentle, I.V. sedation state so they are in a deep sleep. The doctor will use an ultrasound wand for a clear picture of the egg follicles and a specialized needle that is carefully inserted through the cervix and into the ovaries in order to retrieve the eggs. The eggs are gently aspirated (sucked up) into the needle and verified by the embryologist.
When the procedure is complete and you are fully awake, you can return home to rest. It is important that you take the rest of the day off to recover.
Donating Eggs Phase 4: The Post-Retrieval Checkup
You’ll be scheduled for a post-retrieval checkup so we can make sure you are healing well after the procedure, and to make sure there aren’t any abnormal side-effects. In almost all cases, egg donors are feeling back to normal and able to resume their daily activities within a couple of days. In the rare case that a donor has not completely healed or is experiencing side-effects, she is closely monitored and treated until she gets back to normal.
How many times can an egg donor donate eggs?
Currently, egg donors are restricted to six (6) total egg retrieval cycles, and for two good reasons. First, egg retrievals are still considered relatively new – and we want to make sure that the donors don’t do any necessary harm to their reproductive organs. It also minimizes the donors’ risks of side effects associated with the procedure, including hyperstimulation syndrome and risks related to being under anesthesia.
Secondly, while most parents do choose to let their children know they were conceived using a donor egg, others choose not to tell. We’re also trying to limit the chances of a thing called inadvertent consangutinuity. This could occur if a child from a donor egg happened to procreate with a child born from the donor – without knowing they were half siblings. By setting limits on both sperm and egg donation, ASRM has set an arbitrary limit of no more than 25 pregnancies per (sperm or egg) donor in a population of 800,000 in order to minimize the risks of consanguinity.
Are you interested in becoming a donor? Contact us here at Reproductive Resource Center and we’ll put you in touch with some of the area’s most reputable egg banks.
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RRC has over 200 years of combined experience. As a leading reproductive health, infertility, and in-vitro fertilization (or IVF) center based in Kansas City, we're proud to have the highest level of expertise available to our patients.