Egg donation can be a life-changing, extraordinary gift. But what is the process really like for all the people involved?
To answer this question in-depth, let’s start with the basics and understand what egg donation is.
Quite simply, egg donation is a process that allows women who cannot conceive or carry a pregnancy to term get pregnant using eggs given by an egg donor. The process involves three parties; the Intended Parent/s, the egg donor, and the doctor.
To get the process moving, intended Parents first go through an evaluation process with fertility doctors to help explore all possible options. The second step is to find an egg donor who matches the Intended Parents’ needs and help them achieve their dream of becoming pregnant. This decision is typically based on age, physical characteristics, ethnic background, SAT scores, or similar factors.
How the Egg Donation Process Works
Once a potential egg donor has been identified, she first has to undergo medical screening for eligibility. This stage will include blood tests, physical exams, and a thorough psychological evaluation. Simultaneously, we will also review their history of drug use, high-risk sexual behavior, genetic disorders, and mental health history.
After a donor passes the screening stage, she will begin self-administered injections to stimulate her ovaries. This process typically lasts 7-10 days. Regular, scheduled checkups, ultrasound, and blood tests with a doctor are expected to keep a close eye on the donor’s hormone levels.
Once the egg donor’s ovarian follicles (that produce eggs) have matured, she will receive one more injection, called a “trigger shot” (human chorionic gonadotrophin or Lupron). About 72 hours later, the doctor will extract eggs from her ovaries via the vagina (usually using a syringe-like instrument) while she is under sedation. The average cycle for this process, from the initial injection to the actual retrieval of the eggs, is about 10-14 days depending on the donor’s body’s response.
Once we match an egg donor to a recipient(s), the doctor will give the recipient fertility medications to produce multiple eggs at once and increase the chance of fertilization by a sperm donor. A medical practitioner will then fertilize the eggs in vitro with the sperm from the sperm donor. Once they reach a particular stage in development, the doctor then implants it.
FAQs About Egg Donation
How do your contracts work?
In the U.S., contracts between Intended Parents and Donors are only required for known/open cycles when the donor is not anonymous. However, at Guidance, we require all intended parents to have an attorney-drafted and executed contract with their egg donor. We facilitate communication with all legal parties and ensure all contracts are signed before a donor can be issued a cycle calendar to begin medications.
How many eggs will the doctor extract?
It depends on how the egg donor responds to the stimulation medications. “Good” numbers from healthy, responsive women would range from 12-18 eggs. The lab will then fertilize these eggs to make embryos, and only a percentage of these retrieved eggs will fertilize optimally. From here, a doctor will implant in the woman’s uterus conceiving and carry a pregnancy to full term.
Are there any risks?
As with any medical procedure or the use of medicinal drugs, there are potential risks. This is why egg donors must discuss the process with a licensed medical professional specializing in egg donation so they can explain the possible risks comprehensively. Usually, this dialogue takes place during the initial visit or “screening” day.
Should a donor decide to proceed with the medical procedures for egg donation, they do with full knowledge of the facts and risks associated with the process. Since the agency is not a medical establishment, we can not provide medical advice or outline the risks accurately.
How does payment work?
Donors receive their donor fee upon completion of the retrieval and following the details stipulated in the contract. Payments to donors by Intended Parents cannot depend on the cycle outcome.
What do agencies require of the chosen egg donor?
Egg donor candidates should ideally be between 18-28 years old with a BMI <30. Proven or repeat donors can donate until about 32 years old. Most clinics require donors to be 21, so while we may accept egg donor applications at 18 years old, more opportunities will become available after 21. Egg donors should be in excellent health and have no personal or family history of physical or mental health problems that need chronic treatment. They should be non-smokers, drink rarely, and have a flexible schedule to accommodate a cycle. How many eggs does an individual have?
Every month during ovulation, either the right or left ovary produces a single mature egg for fertilization.
At birth, an individual with ovaries has about 1,000,000 ovarian follicles. Each ovarian follicle contains a hollow ball of cells with an immature egg in the center. During childhood, the body absorbs approximately half of the ovarian follicles. When one reaches puberty and the menstrual cycle begins, about 400,000 ovarian follicles are left to develop into mature eggs.
The Psychological Impact of Being an Egg Donor
Egg donation could potentially have a psychological impact on donors, especially during the screening, donation, and post-donation stage.
In the screening process, distress may arise when individuals are excluded from donation since they do not meet the required criteria. During the donation process, psychological side effects may occur from medications and the egg retrieval process. Finally, the post-donation stage may create worry and regret about the whole donation process and its repercussions.
Given this, it’s important to have a supportive team to help you navigate the egg donation process. At Guidance, we offer a holistic approach to handling the psychological effects of egg donation. We will hold your hand through the entire process and ensure that you don’t feel like going through the egg donation process alone.
If you’re considering donating an egg and want to know more, we encourage you to reach out to us today to help you explore your options.