Egg Donation Explained For Intended Parents
If your journey to parenthood requires the assistance of an egg donor, you may be wondering where to start.
Whether you are a same-sex or heterosexual couple, you should always start by talking with your reproductive endocrinologist about what is medically possible before deciding how to proceed. This will ensure you are informed when making important decisions about your family building.
Who will contribute the sperm?
Who will gestate the pregnancy?
Who will contribute the egg?
Once you decide a path to family formation based on what is medically possible, you can gather resources about egg donation. These resources can cover anything and everything, including: medical articles, legal advice, emotional support, and a community who understands the world of egg donation you are navigating. Listening to the personal experiences of others is invaluable as it can help you avoid mistakes and address how you and your partner feel about specific details.
A few resources:
Parents Via Egg Donation (PVED) is an international nonprofit that provides information and support for anyone growing their family through egg donation. You can read blog articles free of charge, and contact PVED to help you select a fertility clinic. For a monthly membership fee you can access forums where thousands of parents communicate worldwide on various topics related to egg donation.
RESOLVE / Resolve New England - RESOLVE is a non-profit organization with a national network mandated to promote reproductive health and ensure equal access to family building options for men and women experiencing infertility. RESOLVE provides a community to women and men to assist on their family building journeys without regard to their marital status, gender, sexual orientation, or national origin. RESOLVE New England is a regional organization of the same nature.
Donor Conception Network is a network providing resources, support, and information to would-be and current parents and children journeying through donor conception at every stage of the process.
Selecting an Egg Donor
Finding and selecting an egg donor can seem like an insurmountable process. You should know that you have a number of options to find the individual who will be your egg donor, limited only by your decided criteria. Here are some options:
Choose an egg donor from your fertility clinic's in-house donor pool, if they have one.
Hire an egg donor matching program or agency. Some reputable programs are:
Purchase eggs from an egg bank.
Select someone you know and enter into a known donor arrangement.
IVF egg sharing arrangements.
Each of these options affects the overall cost of your egg donation arrangement. Using a pre-screened egg donor from your fertility clinic's in-house donor pool is the most affordable option for anonymous or identity-release egg donation. However, the donors available to you through this pool are generally limited to a small number of women that may or may not be what you are looking for. Hiring an agency to match you with an egg donor best suited according your requirements will provide you with a larger number of options, but comes at a higher cost. Working with a known donor can save you agency matching fees, but you will still need to pay for the medical and psychological screenings for your chosen donor in order to proceed. You may also consider an IVF egg sharing arrangement - a relatively new concept where the egg donor and her partner going through IVF treatment, without ovarian fertility factors, choose to share eggs retrieved with another couple/individual in exchange for a discount on IVF costs.
A note on egg banks: Egg banks are an attractive option since the eggs are already retrieved and cryopreserved, cutting both cost and time to transfer. However, egg banks are not currently required to share success rates resulting in live pregnancies. There is much debate over the quality of eggs from egg banks as they are generally frozen long before they are thawed for IVF purposes. Research all of your options before moving forward.
What to consider when selecting an egg donor?
There are an endless number of factors to consider when selecting an egg donor. These factors include: heritage, physical appearance, blood type, genetic qualities, intelligence, athleticism, education, geographic location, religious background, personality traits, number of previous egg donations, and so on. Decide what is most important to you and make a list.
Be sure to keep an open mind - someone that may not seem like the perfect fit physically may share a number of personality traits with the Intended Mother and could be the perfect choice to help you grow your family.
When a friend or family member agrees to be your egg donor, keep in mind you will need to enter into a contract detailing the terms of the arrangement. These contracts are complex. Always work with an assisted reproduction attorney with experience handling egg donation arrangements.
Egg Donation to Embryo Creation
Once you have selected an egg donor, the next steps are indicated below. For more information about the medical phase of the egg retrieval process, speak to your reproductive endocrinologist.
Once the eggs are retrieved, fertilized, and tested, you may choose to transfer one or more embryos to the Intended Mother or a gestational carrier, and freeze any remaining embryos for the future. Hopefully the number of eggs retrieved is high, and the resulting embryos are graded well for the best odds going into embryo transfer.
Your pregnancy will be monitored by your reproductive endocrinologist until they release you, or your gestational carrier, to a regular obstetrician - usually somewhere around 10-12 weeks. From this point the pregnancy will be treated the same as a pregnancy resulting from traditional conception.
Epigenetics has been a hot topic recently. Medical professionals often use the phrase "a change in phenotype without a change in genotype." As a non-medical professional, my understanding of this concept is this: epigenetics is the ability to influence the expression of genes without changing DNA. The carrier of your child will influence how your child's genes are expressed, whether or not they contributed genetic material. There are a number of studies showing how a gestating woman's lifestyle and nutrition can influence the child's health and epigenetic marks.
Discussing with your child the origins and circumstances of their conception is advisable by most mental health professionals. As parents, you should control this narrative. There are a number of resources to assist in navigating this conversation with your child or children including Let's Talk About Egg Donation by Maria Gatlin and Carole LieverWilkins, MFT.
If your child or children have questions and are looking for support, check out We are Donor Conceived - a resource center for donor conceived people around the world offering a platform for donor conceived individuals to share their stories and experiences.
"Every child has the same rights under law as any other child without regard to the marital status or gender of the parents or the circumstances of the child’s birth."
Maine Parentage Act, Title 19-A, §1852 (June 2016)