Egg donation is a fertility treatment in which a woman's eggs are extracted and donated to another woman who is unable to produce healthy eggs. Egg donation is a method often used in cases of female infertility and typically involves the process of in vitro fertilization, or IVF, in which the eggs are fertilized in a laboratory. Unfertilized eggs are sometimes frozen and stored for later use by the intended parents. Egg donation is a form of assisted reproductive technology and is often performed to enable infertile couples to conceive a child. Egg donation results in pregnancy almost half of the time, the highest rate for any assisted reproductive methods.
Egg donation is a fertility treatment option often used by women who do not produce enough normal eggs but are otherwise able to be pregnant. In addition, women who may consider egg donation as a means for conceiving may include those who:
- Are experiencing early menopause
- Have had past issues with ovulation induction
- Are older than 40
- Have a genetic condition that may be passed on to the children
- Produce poor quality eggs
Egg donation is an option that allows couples with infertility issues to possibly conceive a child.
Candidates for Egg Donation
Egg donors may be anonymous or someone known by the recipient. In some cases, a relative or friend may donate eggs to a couple. All egg donors must be between the ages of 21 and 34. Before extracting and donating eggs, donors must go through a physical and gynecological exam, a medical and family history, blood and urine tests, and a psychological evaluation. Donors are screened and tested for hormone levels, genetic abnormalities, cystic fibrosis, and infectious diseases such as gonorrhea, chlamydia. hepatitis B and C, and HIV.
The Egg Donation Process
To prepare the donor for egg donation, a combination of hormonal medications are given to to stimulate the production of multiple eggs within the ovary. This treatment is called ovulation induction and it is performed so that multiple eggs can be retrieved from the donor's ovaries. Once the donor is ovulating, the eggs are retrieved from the ovary through a process called transvaginal ultrasound aspiration. A transvaginal ultrasound probe is used to guide a needle, as they both are inserted through the vaginal wall, and into the ovary. The eggs are obtained and evaluated for maturity. The eggs are then frozen for use at a later date or immediately inseminated with the male partner's sperm (donor sperm also may be used) and processed in the laboratory.
Side effects of the hormonal medication used for ovulation induction may include hot flashes, nausea, bloating, headache and blurred vision. After the egg retrieval process, individuals may experience mild cramping light bleeding. Complications may also include infection, heavy bleeding, and injury to the bladder or abdominal organs.
The Egg Implantation Process
After fertilization has occurred, the fertilized eggs will remain in the laboratory for a period of 3 to 5 days. Successful embryos will be will be implanted directly into the uterus of the recipient through the use of a catheter. Some women may take progesterone supplements prior to the procedure to make the lining of the uterus more receptive to implantation.
Results of Egg Donation
Egg donation is considered a safe and effective procedure for those wishing to conceive, however the egg donation process can be costly, and is typically not covered by insurance. Both the egg donation and implantation processes can be physically, financially and emotionally stressful. Ethical and legal concerns may also accompany these procedures. Patients and couples should discuss all family planning options, as well as the success rates and risks with their physician.