For most people, having children is one of the greatest joys in life. Unfortunately, having a child naturally isn’t possible for everyone.
Thankfully, modern-day medicine is helping people overcome fertility issues that would have made parenthood impossible in the past. Egg donation is one of the options available today.
In this article, we’ll explore how egg donation works, what the are costs, the length of the timeline and how egg donor programs help facilitate the process.
What Is Egg Donation?
Egg donation is when a healthy woman undergoes a treatment to extract high-quality eggs from her ovaries that will be used by another individual to have a child.
Oftentimes the donor egg recipient is another woman who is implanted with the donated egg and carries the child herself, but sometimes a surrogate is used.
The Center for Disease Control estimates that in 2016, approximately 24,300 assisted reproductive technology (ART) cycles involved donor eggs.
It’s much more common today, accounting for approximately 12% of in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles. The practice is particularly common in women who are 40 and older due to lower egg quality.
Many people think of egg donation as the step in between IVF and adoption.
Egg donation is also done for human embryonic stem cell research. The donation can be strictly used for research or after fertility treatments if there are excess eggs.
What Is an Egg Donation Program?
Egg donor programs provide a bridge for hopeful parents. The agencies that run the programs recruit healthy women to provide donor eggs and facilitate the donating process.
While egg donor IVF treatments are successful more than half the time, the top egg donor companies see success up to 75% of the time.
Types of Egg Donation
The practice of egg donation has been steadily growing and evolving. As a result, there are more types of egg donation than ever before.
Fresh Egg Donation
With fresh egg donation, the donor and the recipient must use hormone shots to synchronize cycles so that the eggs can be retrieved, fertilized and implanted when the recipient’s uterus is ready to receive an embryo.
Frozen Egg Donation
This is a more simplified type of egg donation. The donor’s eggs are extracted and frozen until a recipient chooses to use them for IVF.
Egg Donor and Surrogate Combination
Egg donor and surrogate services are two separate things. A woman that doesn’t have viable eggs but that is healthy enough to carry a child won’t need a surrogate.
For women that can’t carry a child to full-term due to uterine problems or issues that make pregnancy difficult such as heart disease, egg donor and surrogate services may both be needed.
This is when another woman carries the child that is from an egg donor.
Private Egg Donation
Looking for a private egg donor is also possible. Some people prefer to first see if someone they know is willing to donate an egg.
Spindle Nuclear Transfer
This is the newest type of egg donation that had its first successful birth in 2016. The procedure involves removing the nuclear DNA of a donor egg so that it can be replaced by the mother’s nuclear DNA.
The donor’s mitochondrial DNA remains in place. The resulting child will have DNA from three people. The process is used when the mother will likely pass on genetic diseases that make life incompatible.
How Egg Donation Programs Work
How does egg donation work? It’s a process that has only been around for several decades, but it’s improved significantly since then.
Here’s a quick overview of how egg donation programs work.
- Egg donor agencies attract women that apply to be donors.
- The agency will then put the applicants through a series of background and health screenings. Only those who pass all of the tests will be recruited to be egg donors.
- Couples that are serious about using an egg donor are granted access to the agency’s website where they can read full profiles for the approved donors. The profiles contain information about the donor’s physical appearance, siblings, education level, likes, dislikes and more.
- The couple selects an egg donor based on their own personal criteria. Usually, the future mother will pick a donor based on the traits she shares with the donor, but this isn’t always the case.
- The recipient will then learn if the donor’s eggs are available (frozen), if the donor is available to donate fresh eggs or if there’s a waiting list for the donor’s eggs.
- Most agencies will then require that the recipient meets with a therapist.
- Once the steps above are complete the agency will handle the necessary paperwork and legal requirements between the parties so that treatments can begin.
Donor Egg Success Rates
The odds of a woman conceiving with her own egg after age 44 is less than 1%. However, egg donor IVF is the most successful type of fertility treatment.
Roughly half of women using donor eggs will get pregnant. Using a reputable egg donor agency can lead to an even higher success rate.
Good Candidates for Egg Donation Programs
Egg donation isn’t appropriate for everyone. People must be good candidates to both receive and donate eggs for the process to work.
Here’s a quick overview of who is considered a good candidate to receive and donate eggs.
People who are good egg recipients include:
- Same-sex Couples
- Women with medical complications that prevent egg production
- Older women with no viable eggs
- Women who are at high risk of passing on genetic diseases to their offspring
To become an egg donor with an agency you must meet strict criteria.
Potential donors must pass drug screening tests, physicals, mental evaluations and genetic testing.
Physical characteristics, certain educational attainment, and ethnicity are not requirements, but the more desirable traits an egg donor has the more money they can request for their eggs.
Deciding to Use Egg Donation
Egg donation isn’t always an easy decision. Deciding on donor eggs is usually a consideration after other fertility treatments haven’t worked.
Fresh vs. Frozen Eggs
One of the first decisions that needs to be made is whether you want to use fresh or frozen donor eggs.
Using fresh eggs has a slightly higher success rate and additional eggs can be fertilized and frozen for subsequent pregnancies in which the children are biological siblings.
Using frozen donor eggs is much less expensive and you have more control over the timeline.
Donor Eggs or Adoption
Couples that can’t have their own children are faced with two options: egg donation or adoption. Both choices should be weighed carefully before a decision is made.
It’s worth noting that egg donation is not a sure thing. You can spend tens of thousands of dollars and the process may not result in a live birth.
Finding the Right Match
Few decisions are as important as selecting an egg donor. The donor you choose will provide half of the DNA of your future child.
Everything from how a child looks to their glucose levels to taste preferences will be affected by who you choose.
Finding the right match is usually twofold. You have to find the right egg donor agency and then the donor.
- Search the list of egg donor agencies in your area. Ideally, you’ll want to work with an agency that is convenient to your home and/or work.
- Once you’ve selected an agency, search their egg donor database.
- Some agencies also offer egg matching services.
- It’s important to take your time considering the options. Many couples take months to research donors before narrowing their selection.
- It may be possible to meet the donor in-person before the eggs are retrieved. The majority of recipients waive this option.
Egg Donor Selection Criteria
Each person should decide on their egg donor selection criteria before beginning the process.
Your personal criteria could include a person’s physical appearance, personality traits, educational attainment and a host of other specifications.
Breaking Down the Process of Egg Donation Programs
The egg donation journey can be a very emotional as wells as mentally and physically challenging.
Recipients and donors should know what to expect and how to prepare for egg donation so that the process goes as smoothly as possible.
Donor Egg Process Step by Step
- Fill out an application with an egg donor program.
- Have a phone consultation with the agency to ask questions and get more information on the process.
- Next, there will be a series of psychological, physical and genetic screenings to ensure you are a good egg donor candidate.
- Those that pass the screenings will be invited to create a profile for the agency website.
- Now comes the waiting period. Some donors are selected within a matter of days, but for others, it may take a few months.
- Once you are selected, the agency will draw up legal documents and paperwork that need to be signed by both parties.
- The medical procedures can now begin. For 2-3 weeks the donor must take injections to stimulate the ovaries so that as many eggs can be produced as possible. Doctor visits will also be required to monitor the process and response to the medications.
- Finally, egg retrieval is done once the medications have taken full effect. The procedure only takes about 15-20 minutes at the fertility clinic.
- The last step is a final monitoring appointment 4-7 days after retrieval.
Egg Donor Recipient Process
The egg donor recipient process has its own steps once the legal and contractual matters are settled.
Instead of stimulating eggs, the recipient will take estrogen and progesterone supplementation to thicken the endometrium. In rare cases, additional medication is needed.
After the donated eggs are retrieved and fertilized, the resulting embryos can be transferred to the recipient.
This happens approximately three days after egg retrieval. About two weeks after the transfer, a blood test will be administered and an ultrasound will be performed to verify pregnancy.
Egg Donation Timeline
There isn’t a set timeline for donating an egg. That’s because there’s no guarantee on when a donor will be selected by a recipient.
Once a donor is selected it generally takes around two months for the entire process to be completed.
Egg Donation Process and Risks
Egg donation procedures aren’t without risk. Both the donor and the recipient are at risk for infection and adverse reactions due to the medications and medical procedures.
One risk that some recipients may find to be a benefit is the higher likelihood of giving birth to multiples. Of course, this type of pregnancy comes with added risk, including premature birth.
Legal Implications Involved in Egg Donation
Because egg donation can result in the birth of a child, there are a lot of legal implications.
In the past, there have been legal disputes over who is considered the mother, the donor’s rights to meet the child, compensation for egg donation and more.
The egg donor agency should explain all of the implications and possible risks to potential donors and use a screening process to make sure the donor is of sound mind and judgement.
Agencies are required to provide potential donors with information on the risks of egg donation. They also need to get a signed consent form.
Once a person has selected an egg donor, a contract needs to be drafted that spells out the terms of the agreement.
Most importantly, the contract should specify the payment terms and the egg donor should give up all legal rights to any embryos created using her eggs. Both parties will need to sign the contract.
If disputes arise, the court will use the contract as the basis for their decision.
Costs of Egg Donation Programs
One of the biggest considerations associated with egg donation is cost. Using a donor egg can be a very expensive endeavor.
The American Pregnancy Association estimates that the overall cost of the egg donor process is at least $12,000-$20,000 per cycle, but the cost can go up to $35,000.
Donor Egg Pay
One of the most substantial expenses with egg donation is the payment to the egg donor.
The payment can vary significantly, but you can expect to pay between $5,000 and $10,000 for one cycle of eggs.
Donor Egg IVF Cost
Donor eggs are just part of the process. IVF is also needed to fertilize the egg, which factors into the overall cost.
Another significant cost is the embryo transfer procedure following successful IVF. Transferring a frozen embryo is usually around $3,000-$5,000.
Does Insurance Cover Egg Donation?
While most health insurance plans will cover the cost of fertility diagnosis, generally they do not cover fertility treatments.
However, IVF procedures may be covered, so it’s important to check with your provider before starting the egg donor process.
Fresh vs. Frozen Donor Eggs
Fresh donor eggs typically cost twice as much as frozen donor eggs. There are also additional fees involved with medications, doctor visits, ultrasounds, donor travel and more.
Be wary of any agency that offers free frozen donor eggs. At best you may get a guarantee that offers free replacement eggs if the first cycle of eggs doesn’t meet quality standards.
Other possible expenses related to using an egg donor include:
- Embryo freezing
- Legal fees
- Coordination fees for arranging interaction between the prospective parents and egg donor
- Egg donor attorney fees
- Psychological evaluations
- Insurance coverage for the egg donor
- Travel expenses for the egg donor
- Escrow account management fees
- Egg donor agency fees
Advantages and Disadvantages of Egg Donation
Egg donation is an example of how advanced fertility treatments have become, but it isn’t a perfect solution.
There are advantages and disadvantages that need to be weighed before deciding on egg donation.
Egg Donation Procedure Pros and Cons
The obvious advantage of egg donation is that it makes having a child possible for people who can’t have a baby after trying other fertility treatments.
While the egg may come from a third party donor, the sperm can still be provided by the male in the couple and the woman may be able to carry the child so that both parents are still part of the process.
Another pro is that using donor eggs is a highly effective fertility treatment. More than half of IVF treatments using a donor egg are successful on the first attempt.
As beneficial as it is for some couples, there are egg donation ethical implications and controversy surrounding the practice. These are things couples and single women will face if they choose to use a donor egg.
Some types of egg donation aren’t approved in the U.S. yet. For example, spindle nuclear transfer isn’t yet approved.
There are also potential risks for egg donors. Long-term studies are now looking into the possibility of increased risk for donors developing breast cancer.
The egg retrieval process itself comes with the risk of infection, bleeding and internal damage. Twisting of the ovaries is also possible.
The Top 10 Egg Donation Centers in the US
The agency that’s used will heavily influence a family’s future. A search online for “egg donation near me” will give you a selection of egg donor agencies, but some have better reputations than others.
Unfortunately, there are also unscrupulous individuals that victimize people who are trying to start a family.
The FBI has uncovered egg donation scams that have robbed people of tens of thousands of dollars. A high-profile case from 2016 involved a company named Miracle Egg Donation.
The owner, Allison Layton, promised to orchestrate egg donation and surrogacy services, which she failed to provide despite taking would-be parents’ money.
It’s extremely important to only consider egg donor agencies with a proven track record and a good reputation. The egg donation centers below are among the best in the country.