Third Party Reproduction Explained
Third-party reproduction is frequently an individual or couple’s best chances of fertility success. The term “third-party” means that a donor egg, donor sperm, donor embryos, or a gestational carrier are used to get pregnant and give birth to a healthy, full-term baby.
Third-Party Reproduction Basics
This guide is a general overview of third party reproduction basics. Your fertility specialist can provide a more detailed overview and help you to navigate the facts, as well as the social-emotional implications, for each of the options.
As ASRM states, “Third-party reproduction can be socially, ethically, and legally complex.” The more prepared you are and the more you know about each option, the more clear your decision making process will be. We also recommend seeking outside support from a counselor who specializes in infertility to explore the complex emotional implications for you in the present moment, as well as for you and your child(ren) in the future.
Using Donor Sperm
The most common version of third-party reproduction occurs via a sperm donor. This option is used by couples battling male infertility factors, single women who are ready to become a parent without a life partner, and members of the LGBTQ community.
A sperm donor can be someone you know, although this option can be more complicated and should be organized under the guidance of a lawyer familiar with third-party reproduction law. Most often, individuals select a sperm donor from a reputable sperm bank and then conceive their baby via IUI or IVF.
Donor eggs are used by women with low ovarian reserves, who have experienced early menopause, or whose eggs are considered poor quality – usually the result of advanced maternal age or chromosomal/genetic abnormalities. With this option, individuals or couples review egg donor profiles via their fertility center or a reputable egg bank.
As with sperm donors, egg donors are thoroughly vetted by the egg bank in terms of their physical, mental, and emotional health. Recipients can review profiles and select a donor according to the traits they are looking for. IVF is the only fertility treatment option available when using donor eggs. Read First Steps When Choosing an Egg Donor to learn more.
Using Donor Embryos
Using a donor embryo is an exciting option for couples where both individuals are diagnosed with infertility factors. We call this “double” or “dual” infertility. Donor embryos are also used in couples where both partners have a known genetic/chromosomal abnormality, for untreated infertility, or when repeat miscarriages are thought to be the result of embryonic factors.
In addition to helping couples achieve their dream of building a family, embryo donation also supports couples who lovingly created viable embryos but who feel their family is complete. Donating their embryos to the right recipients means all of their embryos have a chance of life, rather than being thawed and discarded or donated to science. Using donor embryos feels like a win-win for all. Most states treat this as an “embryo adoption,” and so legitimate legal steps must be taken before any embryo transfer takes place.
Using a Gestational Carrier
Gestational carriers are used by women who have uterine abnormalities or who have struggled to carry a baby full term, despite having viable embryos. They are also a popular fertility solution for LBGTQ and transgender individuals and couples.
In either of these cases, the sperm/egg/embryos are used via donors or retrieved from the intended parent(s), and the embryos are transferred to a gestational carrier’s uterus. Gestational carriers are thoroughly vetted in terms of health and wellbeing, and must have had at least one successful pregnancy/delivery in the past. Once the baby is born, the gestational carrier has no ties to the baby unless she and/or the couple have decided otherwise.
Are you on the third-party reproduction teeter totter? We understand that, for many couples, embarking on the third-party reproduction means the end of a dream. That said, we know hundreds of individuals and couples for whom closing the door on one dream allowed third-party reproduction options to open the door to their parenting reality.
The Reproductive Resource Center is here to help you navigate every step of your fertility journey. We honor our patients by providing thorough diagnoses and personalized treatment options that are best for their values. Contact us to schedule a consultation and to review whether third-party reproduction is the right next step for your fertility story.
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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.